How to Slow Aging?
Let’s check with science how to live not only a long, but also an active life.
Today’s “old” people are getting older, according to the professor of Stanford University John Shoven. In his research, he analyzes the longevity revolution, which took place during the last one hundred years. Access to clean water, sanitation, electricity, vaccinations, and continued improvement in healthcare, have allowed to decrease in mortality and improve the health of people of all ages. This has also had an impact on how we define age groups. Thus, in the year 1920, a man was considered middle-aged at 44 and old at 55. In 2020, middle age starts at approximately 60 and continues until 70 years.
Shoven and other scientists are convinced that society should change the approach to retirement. Today’s 60-70-year-olds are capable of having an active life. They don’t have to quit their jobs and retire if they don’t wish to.
When to slow aging
The aging of the human body is closely related to its maturity. As soon as a person reaches reproductive age, he or she starts to age. Meanwhile, scientists are not yet unanimous as to whether diseases accelerate aging or aging is the reason for disease. Some researchers demonstrate that people are aging in different ways irrespective of age-related diseases. The scientists from Duke University in Northern Carolina believe that gerontology should start to focus not only on the aged but also on young people. Since the latter are less susceptible to chronic diseases, this is a chance to identify what speeds up aging: genetics, physiology, psychological or emotional state. Measures to slow down aging will let people not only expand their lifespan but to prolong the health span that is the active part of life.
The cells of the human body continuously divide. While this is happening, the new cells replace the old ones, the human body rejuvenates itself, and the person remains young. But each type of cell has a limit for division. In 1961, the professor of California University, Leonard Hayflick, found that most cells in the human body can divide only fifty-two times. His discovery was named the Hayflick Limit.
The cell division process is switched off by telomeres, which are the protective caps at the end of the DNA strand. After each division, the telomeres become shorter, and at some stage, a cell loses the ability to divide and starts to age. When there is a considerable amount of cells in this phase, the body tissues begin to deteriorate. For example, when the number of aged cells in the walls of blood vessels reaches a critical number, the arteries lose elasticity, which increases the risk of a heart attack. The aged cells of the immune system, which no longer divide, stop identifying a virus in the blood, thus increasing the risk of getting flu. The cells that cease to divide excrete substances which make us susceptible to inflammations, which make the body more prone to chronic diseases. Such diseases increase the risks of death by several times after the age of 50.
The molecular biologist, Carol Greider and her colleagues, Elizabeth Blackburn and Jack Szostak, have found that the caps of the chromosomes can be protected by a specialized enzyme called telomerase. It slows down the division of telomeres and decreases aging. In the year 2009, these scientists were awarded The Nobel prize for this discovery.
Tips on how to stay young longer from Nobel-Prize Winner
So far, the attempts to inject telomerase into the human body have been unsuccessful, however, you can keep cells’ protective caps healthy, yourself. In her book, The Immortality Edge: Realize the Secrets of Your Telomeres for a Longer, Healthier Life, Elizabeth Blackburn describes in great detail how you can take care of telomeres. This scientist is a firm believer that the speed of human aging depends not only on genetics.
“Our way of life has a considerable effect on how our genes express themselves,” says Blackburn. “Sometimes, our way of life switches on and off certain genes. George Bray, known for his research on obesity, made a shrewd observation in saying that genetics loads the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.”Blackburn is convinced that the length of telomeres can be increased by regular cardio exercises, which help to strengthen the cardiovascular system. Meanwhile, the telomeres can be shortened by chronic stress from insufficient sleep and a negative environment, for example, conflicts at work or lack of trust with close ones. Meanwhile, everything is interconnected. Physical exercises can help us stay young, which, in turn, can help us remain strong. PhDs of Harvard University, Ichiro Kawachi, and Eric Kim have proven that people aged over 50, who have goals in life, like in their youth, are walking faster, remain more enduring, and stay young longer than their peers of the same age.
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