The Science of Aging

Billions of years ago life started from a single cell. In fact, all anti-aging tips ultimately start from the cells. We are simply millions upon millions of cells (37.2 trillion according to the Smithsonian Magazine) that are held together by electromagnetic energy.

Our cells multiply, divide, and die at a dizzying rate every second we exist from the moment of conception until we die. Aging is simply the process where our body’s cells start to change or no longer renew. To ward against the effect of aging, we therefore have to focus on the body at a cellular level.

Telomeres

When we are under stress we fail to perform optimally. This can go all the way down to the cells. Cellular stress can include things like toxins or improper nutrition and these stresses damage the DNA in your cells.

Aging is the accumulation of damaged cells that are not being properly replaced with healthy new cells. Most cellular stress responses are linked to mutations in cell reproduction and genes.

Our aging is a response to the pathways in the body becoming degraded so that the messages to reproduce and renew between the cells are not getting through properly. Imagine only getting half of the instructions to build a bookcase. Cell reproduction is
similar – the cell must receive the right instructions and stimuli or it cannot divide, replicate, or function properly.

Within all our cells we hold DNA – the blueprint of our individual selves. This DNA holds information about who we are – what genetic traits we have, what diseases and allergies we are at risk for and even eye color. It’s basically responsible for all physical traits we are born with. When a cell divides, the DNA inside of it is replicated into the new cell.

At the end of each chromosome of DNA is something called a telomere. These are like little tips on the chromosones inside a cell. If the message copying the DNA to the new cell isn’t complete these telomeres can get cut off, causing them to shorten and they lose part of the original information.

Telomere shortening is THE chief cause of aging. Every single time that new cell divides, the telomeres get shorter and the new cell will also be missing part of the original message you were made with in your DNA. It’s all about reducing the shortening for as long as possible.

Your cells are constantly in a state of division; healing, renewing, and replicating DNA to keep you alive. If your skin didn’t constantly renew you would have none left to replace it once the original cells you were born with died.

In fact it wouldn’t even be possible to be born since you originated as a single tiny cell at conception. So, your telomeres are constantly getting shorter and shorter by this division and those not fully transmitted instructions.

When the telomeres become too short our cells lose the ability to reproduce at all which means that tissue will eventually die off, since new cells are no longer being made. There is no way to stop telomere shortening and therefore no way to stop aging. We can, however, slow telomere shortening, and thereby slow the aging process.

The number of telomeres we have in life fluctuates. At conception we have as many as 15000 base pairs of telomeres. By the time we are born this number is already at 10000. At 5000 base pairs, this is when the body begins to die of old age.

The number of telomere base pairs inside the body is the best biological indicator of age discovered. It was originally thought that through division and replication, cells were essentially immortal; however, through research Leonard Hayflick discovered that human cells can only divide 60 or so times before the telomeres become too short to survive depending on the genes from both parents. This is known as the Hayflick Limit.

As recently as 200, two scientists called Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szotak, discovered an enzyme called Telomerase. Telomerase lengthens telomeres by adding nucleotides to the end of the chromosome; and it exists in every cell. Theoretically, if you injected every cell in your body with enough Telomerase, you would REVERSE the aging process. Blackburn and Szotak won the Nobel prize in the ‘Physiology or Medicine’ category for their discovery.

The only problem with this theory is that the amount and quantity of Telomerase and how it affects each cell type differs wildly. In certain cells, Telomerase exists more potently than others. For example, in the testes and ovary cells there is no shortening of telomeres – your reproductive cells don’t age!

The reason for this is that these cells don’t need to replicate. They are already in their half form which needs to combine with the same cells from the other sex for reproduction and division to begin.

A study at Harvard in 2010 studied mice which were genetically modified with Telomerase. This enzyme maintained the tips of the telomeres and shielded the end section of their chromosomes from deterioration. The mice reverse aged!

You can read up on this rather fascinating achievement in the Harvard Gazette online. Exposing human cells to the very same enzyme slows cell aging and will even allow the cell to begin replication once more.

This concept alone is revolutionary in the aging world. We’ve identified the one enzyme that can stop aging in its tracks and in the right circumstances even force it to reverse. If you are interested in anti-aging and maintaining your youth for as long as possible then your main goal should be stopping telomere shortening. It’s all about slowing telomere deterioration and encouraging maintenance of telomere length.

Conveniently this scientific breakthrough has already been made into supplements. Most of these are plant based creations that help to maintain and rebuild telomeres. They activate the telomerase already in the body to help slow the aging process. Though they are not free, they should still be considered as one of your lines of defense against aging.

Toxins and cell health

Doctor Edward group, a specialist on anti-aging, believes that key contributors to DNA changes involving telomeres were stress, toxins and simply, time. When it comes to keeping your cells young they not only need to divide and regenerate properly but they also need to do so quickly and efficiently enough to outpace aging.

Mitochondria is a type of small organelle found inside most cells and its reproduction is important for cell youth. The mitochondria in cells are always producing energy – chemical and physical. They process nutrient chemicals into fuel for our cells to function. Without them we would not be able to do anything. If it involves energy use in our bodies, it involves mitochondria.

Part of the aging process is that mitochondrial efficiency declines sometime when we are in our 50s. Over our lifespan our cells are exposed to a variety of chemicals, toxins and stressors that can affect these cells. Toxins are absorbed into the cells throughout life, and because they are inside the cell they can interact with the mitochondria in our cells.

Over time, this interaction slowly damages the mitochondria and the cells ability to process energy. Toxins come in many forms. Just a few examples – they are found in junk food. alcohol, and pollution. We constantly damage the DNA and mitochondria in this manner by taking pollutants into our bodies.

Unfortunately unless you’re living in a jungle somewhere with perfectly clean air, water, organic food, and no stress, it’s inevitable that we will pollute the body to some extent. The important thing is that many of these toxins are avoidable and you can reduce toxin intake from food, air and water.

Go for organic as often as possible, eat whole foods, take routes with less pollution, switch to bottled water – these are some of things you can do to reduce toxins. By doing this you help to lower the risk of damage to your mitochondria and therefore to your cell’s efficiency. Over time this will slow the rate at which your mitochondrial efficiency declines.

We’ve covered physical stress but that isn’t the only stressor that affects our bodies.

The Other Type of Stress

Did you know that mental stress also plays a role in shortening telomeres? In today’s high paced society, stress is a particular factor which causes aging. However, stress is actually multifaceted when it comes to aging.

It can cause you to age prematurely through worry, but it can also keep you motivated and less likely to simply “give up” to age. It is how you deal with stress that is the key to staying young, not how much stress is in your life. Stress affects telomeres by increasing oxidative stress which can shorten the length – but only if you deal with it wrongly.

Don’t worry if you have lots of stress! We all have stress in our lives. Furiously avoiding stress actually conditions you to fear it so that when it does happen, you feel the stress more acutely.

The people who are less stressed are actually the ones who embrace it and don’t overly worry about it. The key term here is “perceived stress”. It’s not a question of whether or not you are stressed that affects your telomeres and your aging rate but whether you handle it well or not.

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