Most people just shrug and accept aging as something that cannot be avoided – like death and taxes. (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”) We have not figured out how to cheat death yet, but recent scientific discoveries have shown that common conceptions of aging are mistaken.
For most species on the planet (as well as humans until only very recently), it was unlikely for anyone to survive long enough to die of simple “old age.” Events such as starvation, accident, being eaten by a predator, disease, and other causes were the usual reason for death.
There are number of theories about exactly why and how we age. You may have heard of free radicals – a free radical is a special type of molecule with an extra electron that steals electrons from other molecules as it passes through your bloodstream, causing damage to your body’s cells. (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”)
The exact role of free radicals is still uncertain, and much research is still being done, but studies have established that the presence of free radicals plays a part in diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, hypertension, and other health problems.
Studies have also shown a definite relationship between a strong and healthy response to stress and aging. Free radicals can cause progressive damage to the body’s tissue and functioning, and thereby increase the rate of aging. “A good stress fights off the free radicals, which in turn slows down the aging process and increases your lifespan.” (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”)
There are several substances that function as antioxidants that work to bind the unstable free radicals and render them harmless. Many of these substances will be discussed further on in this book, but they include Vitamin C, Vitamin E, betacarotene, grape seed extract, Melatonin, and other substances.
It is only in modern times, when increasing numbers of people live long enough to die from so-called “natural causes,” that the role of phenomena such as free radicals has become important enough to study.
Another theory of aging focuses on how our DNA works. DNA is the blueprint of our individual body and life and is inherited from our parents. The theory here is that our individual code ages us at a predetermined rate, to keep humans from overpopulating by making sure we do not stick around too long taking up room. (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”) But this code can also be altered or “fooled” into aging much more slowly, through improving our diet and lifestyle and avoiding pollution and other environmental toxins as much as possible.
Another theory posits that the nucleic acids, or telomeres, in our cells shorten slightly every time one of our cells replicates itself. Each time the cell is duplicated, it is a less than perfect copy of the previous version, and this eventually leads to the body’s aging, breakdown, and death. In other words, like your car, you can only repair the machine so many times – eventually it just simply wears out. (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”)
Scientists have recently found a direct link that indicates that excessive fat in your body speeds up the aging process. “Studies found that the more that someone weighs, the older their cells are.” (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”) The exact mechanism by which this process happens is still uncertain, but the fat cells help weaken and destroy important genetic structures. “It was found that being overweight effectively makes a person nine years older, on average!” (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”)
Many of the most common health problems we encounter in Western societies, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other greater and lesser maladies, may occur due to fat cells hurrying up the process of aging.
“A lot of it boils down to proper nutrition and exercise.” (“Dedicated to Uncle Gerry Who Stayed”) We know that the proper nutrition and exercise can and will have influence on how healthy our bodies age. Just as smoking, sugar, and alcohol may not show effects for years and years but very few get away without repercussions. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and osteoporosis are three debilitating diseases that diet and exercise can have an intense effect on. Let me share with you what we know about keeping our bodies healthy.
Best Wishes, Coyalita
SEE TOMORROW “Exercise Need Not be Hard Work”
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