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CJ Replay: Aging Voices

       Certain aspects of the aging process are relatively easy to control medically. For example, as female singers reach menopause, estrogen deprivation causes substantial changes in the mucous membranes that line the vocal tract, the muscles, and elsewhere throughout the woman's body. These and other hormonal effects are frequently reflected in the voice but can be forestalled for many years through hormone replacement therapy. Dosage is best determined by checking estrogen levels prior to menopause. Preparations containing androgens should be avoided whenever possible because they can cause masculinization of the voice. However, treating physicians must also be aware of contraindications to hormone replacement, especially if there is a history of other health problems such as breast cancer. Expert advice is always essential when weighing the risks and benefits of any treatment, including hormone replacement.
       Systematically attacking the aging process in other areas of the body is more novel and controversial. The bodily changes characteristic of aging are not unique. In many ways, they are identical to those seen in disease and in disuse such as prolonged bed rest or immobilization of a leg. In particular, muscle disuse causes loss of muscle fibers indistinguishable from that seen with advanced age. Exercise prevents or reverses many of these changes in the young, and it appears to have the same effect when the changes are caused by aging. Appropriate exercise will help maintain muscle function and coordination and also helps functioning of the cardiovascular system, nervous system, and especially the respiratory system.