Aging (sometimes spelled ageing) is inevitable, but how fast we age is not. We can manage the aging process, and it’s possible for humans to remain physically active and mentally sharp to the time of death.
By better understanding the aging process we can take the required steps to improve our chances of living a life full of verve, vigor, and vitality despite our age.
Aging is the result of genetic and environmental factors. Experts now think that 75% of aging is related to lifestyle or environmental factors. That’s good news, because we can control our lifestyle. We cannot control our genetics.
Theories of Aging
There is not one universal theory of aging, but there are several accepted major theories, many of which are interrelated. By developing treatments based on these theories the aging process can be slowed down.
The major theories of aging include:
1. The DNA and Genetic Theory
4. The Membrane Theory
5. The Hayflick Limit Theory
6. The Mitochondrial Decline Theory
7. The Glycosylation or Cross-linking Theory
To one degree or another nutrition plays a role in each of these theories. Therefore, one way to improve your health and slow down the aging process is through better nutrition.
Factors to Live By
The following 7 factors have been associated with longevity. Lester Breslow found that a 45 year-old male who followed 6 of these lifestyle habits lived 11 years longer than a similar age male who followed 3 or less. Notice how many of these factors relate to nutrition.
2. No to moderate alcohol consumption
3. Moderate to strenuous exercise
4. Seven to eight hours of sleep/night
5. Eat moderately
6. Eat breakfast
7. Eat regularly without snacking between meals.
Aging and the Body
Aging affects every part of the body. We typically lose height. We usually gain weight in the form of fat while losing muscle mass. Our bones become more brittle and more susceptible to fracture. We develop balance problems predisposing us to falls. Our minds become forgetful and less able to learn new information. Our hearts pump less efficiently. Our blood vessels become increasingly stiff leading to high blood pressure. Our metabolism slows down and our ability to handle stress diminishes.
Our many hormones that facilitate our biochemical processes decrease and contribute to the changes related to aging discussed above. Hormones play a vital role in how we process and use energy from foods. Hormones are vital to bone and muscular health. Our brains contain numerous receptors for our sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone. The same is true for the heart. Hormones regulate our metabolism, and when in balance in optimal levels aid in fighting infection and stress.
Slow Down the Aging Process
There are three immediate steps that many can take now to slow down the aging process, while we develop a more thorough understanding of this unique aging process.
The first is to eat a more healthy diet. Restricting calories has been shown to consistently increase longevity in animals, and early studies in humans show the same. Consumption of a low-glycemic diet prevents glycosylation of proteins (Glycosylation or Cross-linking Theory). Once proteins, which include our hormones and enzymes, become glycosylated they become impaired and unable to carryout their functions.
The second step is to have your hormone levels measured (Neuroendocrine Theory). Successful, youthful aging is not possible in the presence of low hormone levels. Low hormones levels do not necessarily require replacement, as changes in lifestyle in the form of proper nutrition and exercise can improve hormone levels in the early stages. But, with time hormone replacement therapy is generally necessary.
The third step it to engage in regular exercise, and that must include strength training. Strength training enables us to maintain our muscle mass allowing us to be more functional. In addition, strength training serves as a stimulus for hormone production.
Taking action in these three areas alone will greatly enhance your chance of living a life full verve, vigor, and vitality.