The LowDown on What Really causes aging
THE LOWDOWN ON WHAT REALLY CAUSES AGING
Everything you wanted to know about why you age
Aging is something that happens gradually, day after day, whether you like it or not. You likely associate it with the appearance of a new fine line, muscle soreness, or a new grey hair, but the fact is since the day you were born, you have been growing a little bit older. And that’s actually something worth celebrating; if you’re not aging, you’re not living.
But that doesn’t stop the fact that aging can become worrisome when those first signs that you might be passing your “prime” start appearing. This brings up an important question; if aging is inevitable, is there anything about it that is within your control?
The short answer is yes. Our genetics do factor into how well we age, but not as much as you might think. We will get into that in detail in this article, while also outlining the main causes behind aging. Once you know what’s behind aging, you will be able to redefine what your “prime” actually means, and start regaining control over living the long, healthy, happy and beautiful life you deserve.
What causes aging?
We all know the effects of aging, but how much do we understand about why those effects happen? Why can’t our bodies continue to look and feel like they did when we were 20 for eternity?
For a long time, the causes behind aging were more intuitive than scientific. And as we will find out in Part 2, for some cultures this intuition is actually the best way to age amazingly well and live a long, healthy life.
Intuition aside, aging is a pretty interesting science, and is something that is just starting to be understood. Aging can be broken down into two main categories: Physical aging and mental aging. We have separated them for clarity, but it is important to understand that they have a major impact on each other, and both contribute to the aging process.
Let’s start with physical aging. Here are the three main causes:
Three Causes of Physical Aging:
Cells are the smallest unit of life and you are made up of trillions of them. It only makes sense that aging cells would be a huge contributor to overall aging.
Cells replicate to replenish themselves – a process where your DNA is copied to a new cell. This is a great system, however the cell can only copy its DNA so many times before that copy starts to deteriorate.This is referred to as cell aging – and the age of a cell can be measured by the length of little protective strands on the ends of your chromosomes called telomeres.
Telomeres are protective strands on the ends of chromosomes that protect your DNA during cell replication, but in doing so, take a bit of a beating. A common way to visualize telomeres is to think of them like the plastic caps on the ends of your shoelaces. Without the plastic cap, the shoe lace becomes frayed and eventually breaks. Your telomeres become a little bit shorter after each cell replication, and like the missing cap on your shoe laces, when telomeres become too short your DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job – which leads to cell death.
In this way, telomeres mark the age of the cell. It has been shown that most human cells can only replicate 50-70 times before the genetic material can no longer be replicated due to shortened telomeres, so the goal is to keep the telomeres long, and reduce unnecessary cell replications.
But is any of this actually within your control?
Cellular aging is a natural part of life and it is going to happen no matter what. But there are some factors in your control that impact the speed in which your cells replicate, and thus affect the length of your telomeres; excess free radicals, smoking, obesity, stress, poor diet, and lack of exercise are some of the primary culprits.
You have probably felt your hormones at work. They affect everything from your mood, to sleep, to cravings and are essential to ensuring the healthy function of your organs, among other things. Hormones are excreted by the endocrine system, which becomes less efficient over time – meaning the hormones that control bodily functions become less optimized with age. An aging endocrine system is what’s behind puberty, and later on, menopause.
Though this is a completely natural and important process, there are some aspects of the hormonal system more in your control than others. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, controls your fight or flight response and is responsible for many other critical processes. This essential hormone serves an important role in keeping us healthy, but very quickly becomes detrimental to our health. This occurs when too much is produced for long periods of time, which is exactly what happens when you are constantly under stress. Anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain and trouble sleeping are just some of the effects of producing too much cortisol.
The good news is, there are many ways to combat stress. Your cortisol production is largely within your control, if you focus on it and don’t let your stress get the best of you.
Similar to cell aging, hormonal aging is a natural process, but you do have some control over your hormones through the foods you consume, your movement, and the emotions you feel. Your intuition serves as the best guide on what to do and what not to do, but generally speaking, less stress, a healthy (largely plant-based) diet, and daily movement and exercise are a good place to start.
Mitochondrial theory of aging:
Mitochondria are the true powerhouses of the cells. They use oxygen to convert food to energy through a process known as cellular respiration. Along with creating essential, life-giving energy, this process also causes natural oxidative stress that may mutate the DNA of mitochondria, with increased mutations being correlated with age. Additionally it has been observed that mitochondrial function also declines with age.
Mitochondrial aging may cause chronic inflammation and cell senescence (death), which are two strong contributors to overall aging. Though it is still in its early stages of research the mitochondrial aging theory shows that slowing mitochondrial aging may be a major contributor to longevity.
Mitochondrial aging is a natural process, however there is some research that shows that caloric restriction may slow the process. The important takeaway with this is to remember that your body is a temple and moderation is key. Many of the longest living cultures practice intuitive eating, or only eat until they are 80% full.
So far we have looked at the causes of aging from a physical standpoint, but there is another side to aging that deserves a bit of attention – your mindset. Your thoughts and emotions impact your hormones, cells, and metabolism, and mental aging is a serious contributor to overall aging.
Three contributing factors to mental aging:
Not only is loneliness a terrible feeling, it is a significant contributor to some major diseases and conditions such as cancer, diabetes, heart problems, and obesity. In fact, it has been shown that having strong social bonds (friends, family, and community) throughout youth and into old age is one of the most important factors in longevity.
Stress was developed as a method to protect us from danger by elevating our senses, triggering hormone releases, and making us more alert. Evolutionarily, stress was a short term condition to cope with danger (such as being chased by a lion), and when the danger passed, our stress levels returned back to normal.
The problem is now we seem to get stressed about almost everything – and that stress lasts much longer than our bodies can handle. Societally, we are under more consistent stress than ever before, and that stress is taking a toll on us in the form of chronic conditions, disease, and premature aging.
Meditation, dedicated family time, reading, and napping are some great places to start to reduce your stress and promote relaxation. Finding stress reduction methods and focusing on rest and relaxation are some longevity techniques within your control, so make them a priority.
Lack of Purpose:Having a purpose, community, sense of belonging, and desire to get out of bed in the morning is perhaps one of the most understated yet important factors to aging well. Our ability to age incredibly well is linked to our will to live – much of which is derived from our perceived place and purpose in society. It has been shown that the cultures and regions of the world with statistically high longevity all have important societal roles for people at every age.
Aging is natural, but you do have the ability to control how well you age. As we have seen, free radicals and cortisol are two major accelerators of aging, which we luckily have the ability to mitigate. To help, AM Youth Boost and PM Cell Reset use some of the best plant-based and clinically proven ingredients to fight free radicals and lower cortisol levels, while ensuring your skin is healthy and radiant, no matter your age.
There are many tools you can use to combat aging and promote longevity, and perhaps the most important is to realize you are absolutely beautiful and worthy, no matter your age!
In the Part 2 of this series, we will look at some commonalities that the oldest cultures share, and dig into how we can implement them in our own lives.