A Glimpse into the Aging Process
There are several proposed theories of aging, all with significant scientific grounding. Our overall heath as we age is not simply a reflection of only one of these processes, but rather a combination of all four changes taking place simultaneously.
As we age, the production certain hormones change. Poor lifestyle choices will also adversely alter the production of these hormones This has a great impact on our health and the potential development of diseases.
Insulin – our sugar-controlling and fat storing hormone, naturally increases in production as we age. Not only does this hormone store our food as fat, but directly contributes to increased cholesterol at a rate of 82%. In addition it increases blood pressure, and water retention. If left uncontrolled, prolonged high insulin secretion leads to hypercholesterolemia, heart disease and eventually exhaustion of the pancreas which gives rise to diabetes.
Cortisol – is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is secreted each time our body is stressed, physically or emotionally. As we age, the body naturally increases the production of this hormone. Physiologically, cortisol constricts the blood vessels around the heart, increasing chest pain and heart disease. It also increases the production insulin, leading once again to hypercholesterolemia, obesity and diabetes.
Growth Hormone – is the body’s major anti-aging hormone. It plays a role in the regulation of sleep, libido, weight, energy, cholesterol, hair growth and much more. The production of this hormone decreases as we age, leading to many of the symptoms and diseases associated with aging.
Free radicals are active molecules that enter the body through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and other environmental factors. Our own body even creates them during the production of energy from food, by the immune system when killing bacteria and viruses, during inflammation and many other important metabolic functions.
Once inside the body, free radicals bind to the DNA of every cell they contact. At this point, one of two things occurs. If we are lucky, the DNA is destroyed by the free radical, the cell dies, and the body ages more rapidly. If we are not so lucky, the free radical mutates the DNA so that when the cell replicates, it becomes carcinogenic.
Wear and Tear
Living simply makes us older. The more times we move a joint or work a muscle, the more damage is done in that area. There is an increase in stress placed on each body part with use over time. This can produce wear and subsequently inflammation leading to free radicals and further damage. This process occurs in all joints, blood vessels, organs and other tissues in the body.
As we age, the strength of our immune system greatly decreases. The rate of production of immune factors greatly decreases as well. Thus, once our immune system does recognize a foreign body, it does not have the same strength with which to attack it. The body becomes less able to recognize foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses, allowing them to replicate more frequently and with greater intensity. This results in more aggressive and prolonged infection, which decrease the overall strength and health of the body. Infection is also proving important in the development of many age-related diseases such as stomach ulceration, heart disease and arthritis, indicating a wider role for impaired immunity.
When looking to slow the aging process down, it is not simply about striving to live for 10, 20 or 40 extra years. It is more important to increase the quality of the years lived. By doing this the body will remain in better condition, increase resistance to disease and will therefore look and live longer. However, the goal is not simply to add those extra years. If that were the case, one would just sit quietly and eat very little food. But that is not living well, nor is it aging well.