Knowing the Basics of Aging
If you wish to live to 100 and beyond, you need to know the basics of mortality: aging, premature aging, and longevity.
The passage of time is inevitable and eternal. Aging begins as early as from young adulthood (around age 20 to 40) to middle adulthood (around age 40 to 65), and continues to old age (beginning at the age of retirement, approximately at age 65). Aging occurs throughout most of one’s lifespan. The aging process is an accumulation of changes, which may be subtle or sudden, and even drastic, that progressively lead to disease, degeneration, and ultimately death. Truly, you cannot die merely of old age; your ultimate demise is caused by advancing age itself, as well as by the diseases and degenerative conditions that accompany it.
Aging is difficult to define, but you will know it when you see it, or experience it firsthand yourself. In brief, aging is a steady decline in health and wellness, instrumental in shortening lifespan; and the aging process is the duration during which such changes occur.
The hard facts of aging
Whether you like it or not, your biological clock is ticking, and this will happen to various systems in your body:
Your heart will pump less blood, and your arteries will become stiffer and less flexible, resulting in high blood pressure—a common health problem that often increases with age.
With less oxygen and nutrients from the heart, your lungs will also become less efficient in getting and distributing oxygen to different organs and membranes of your body.
Your brain size will slowly and gradually reduce by approximately 10 percent between the age of 30 and 70. Loss of short-term memory will become increasingly more acute and evident.
Your bone mass will reduce, making it more brittle and fragile. Your body size will shrink as you lose your muscle mass.
Your biological clock is continuously ticking, whether you are conscious of it or not. Your mortality has been pre-programmed into your biological organisms and your body cells. Theoretically, you may have an indefinite lifespan through the division, the rejuvenation, and the regeneration of your body cells and organisms—if they are still healthy and fully functional. Although your genes may have pre-determined the speed of your biological clock, you can still slow down the speed of aging—if you still have good health.
So, what is good health? Is being healthy synonymous with the absence of disease?
According to the United States Public Health Service, good health is “preventing premature death, and preventing disability, preserving a physical environment that supports human life, cultivating family and community support, enhancing each individual’s inherent abilities to respond and to act, and assuring that all Americans achieve and maintain a maximum level of functioning.” This statement probably sums up what you need to do in order to be younger and healthier for longer; it says everything about aging.
The truth of the matter is that you age, just like everyone else does. The point in question is how you can delay that aging process in order to make you not only feel but also look younger and healthier for longer—or, at least, not making you age more quickly than you are supposed to.
Unfortunately, many of us have fallen victims to the accelerated aging syndrome, or premature aging.
Accelerated aging syndrome
According to Steven Masley, M.D., the former medical director of the
Pritikin Longevity Center
in , you may have the potentials for
accelerated aging, if you have just any three of the following: St. Petersburg, Florida
A fast blood sugar level of more than 100 mg/dl
A blood pressure higher than 130/85
A waist larger than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men
Good cholesterol level (HDL) less than 40 mg/dl for men, and 50 mg/dl for women
Triglyceride (a certain type of fat in your blood) levels greater than 150 mg/dl
Factors contributing to premature aging
There are several factors that increase the predisposition to accelerated aging:
Your diet: you are what you eat, and you become what you eat.
Your lifestyle: life on the fast lane often leads to faster aging.
Your physical inactivity: immobility brings about stagnation and degeneration.
Your stress level: stress kills your brain cells, predisposing you to premature aging.
Your disease and physical pain: disease and pain have a devastating impact on both the body and the mind
Damaging free radicals
Your body is composed of many different types of cells, made up of many different types of molecules.
Free radicals are molecules that contain unpaired electrons. Since electrons have a very strong tendency to co-exist in a paired rather than in an unpaired state, free radicals indiscriminately pick up electrons from other healthy molecules close by. This chemical reaction converts those otherwise “healthy” molecules into free radicals, and thus setting up a chain reaction that can cause substantial biological damage to cells. Free radicals are highly reactive, damaging not only cells but also chemicals in your body, such as enzymes (for digestion), making them less effective and efficient.
Aging causes oxidation, which literally means “rusting.” Free radicals cause oxidative damage to cells and tissues. Free radicals do not make you younger and healthier for longer; quite the contrary, they age you prematurely and contribute to many diseases, including cancer and heart disease, among others.
Free radicals occur naturally as byproducts of oxidation, such as during respiration and other chemical processes. For example, during your breathing, life-giving oxygen is produced while harmful carbon dioxide is released; digestion is another oxidation process, in which your body obtains its energy from food through oxidation, during which free radicals are also generated in the form of waste buildup. Ironically, what gives life may also take away life indirectly.
Free radicals are normally present in your body in small numbers, without causing too much harm. However, over the long haul, the accumulation of these free radicals may cause irreparable damage to your body cells and tissues, if such accumulation is unchecked.
In addition, free radicals can also be caused by external factors, such as alcohol, nicotine, chemicals from foods and toxic pharmaceutical drugs, heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, from the environment, radiation from the sun and other sources.
The word “longevity” has its origin from the Latin word “longaevitas”, which comes from the word “longus” or long, and “aevu” or age.
Genes do not cause aging but they do indirectly affect longevity in that they may pre-determine the rate of division, rejuvenation, and regeneration of body cells and organisms.
Consciousness of longevity involves your awareness of preventative intervention and detection of early signs of medical conditions that could potentially affect longevity.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau