Last Updated on 21 May 2021 by Ray Plumlee
We’ve all seen the commercials. Beautiful women explaining how they maintain their youthful appearance, without having a magical portrait in the attic. We’ve heard it all – lotions, and creams, and serums, oh my! But most of the emphasis in these advertisements seem to be on the outside. And just what good is a newly renovated facade on a crumbling building? Just what do we mean, exactly, by anti-aging? Are we simply talking about the outside ravages of the passing years, or are we looking for a more fundamental renovation of our entire body?
Anybody who has enjoyed the scare of a good Dracula movie is certainly aware of the phrase, “The blood is the life.” Well, it turns out that this couldn’t be truer. The vascular system is, literally, the lifeblood on which we depend. Veins and arteries carry our blood and the oxygen and nutrients which it contains to every part of our body, carrying away waste and debris. But as we age, this important system tends to break down, having dire consequences for every part of our body. Our tiniest blood vessels are the first to wither and die, causing a deficit in the delivery of life-giving nutrients. Hard to reach, yet vital, areas are the first to suffer the loss. As the consequences of the aging process increase, we see an increase in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. Our hearts and our brains no longer function as they should. Such problems are the leading cause of death in people over the age of sixty-five, causing one-third of the deaths at age sixty-five, and a whopping two-thirds of deaths of people over eighty-five. With an aging population over age sixty-five due to increase from twelve percent to twenty-two percent in the next thirty years, this presents a major problem to a major portion of society.
And an increase in cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease means an increase in Alsheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment, as well as kidney and eye diseases. Without the vital oxygen and nutrients supplied by an efficient blood supply, our cells begin to degenerate. Lack of oxygen causes cellular stress and mitochondrial dysfunction. This means that our cells can no longer heal themselves, or reproduce, effectively. Our telomeres grow shorter. This may sound unimportant, until you realize that these telomeres play a vital role in the aging process, being the tiny end caps that protect each strand of our DNA. Think of them as that little piece of plastic at the end of a shoelace, and imagine what happens to the shoelace when they become damaged or disappear entirely. Now imagine your DNA, that little map of genes that makes you, you, unraveling like an old shoelace. Surely that can’t be good. So, when we think of anti-aging techniques, we must include something to provide for our vascular, and cardio health.
Next, how about our muscles? What good is a line-free face, if the muscular structure which supports our bodies are suffering the debilitating effects of the aging process? The bad news is that muscle degeneration begins early. If you are over thirty years of age, odds are you are already experiencing some muscle loss. And that loss will only increase as you age. Studies show that one-quarter of those over age sixty, and one-half of those over the age of eighty have much thinner arms and legs than they did in their younger years. In 1988 Irwin Rosenberg of Tufts University devised a term for this loss, calling it “sarcopenia,” and it is caused by a number of factors, such as the decrease of muscle stem cells, the only cells in our body which can rebuild muscle tissue, mitochondrial dysfunction, a decline in the quality of protein available to rebuild tissue, and for hormonal changes. And, while exercise has been proven to decrease muscle loss, this is a kind of vicious cycle, as muscle weakness most often precedes muscle loss, making it harder to exercise. The less you exercise, the more muscle you lose.
And our internal organs are not immune to the aging process either. Our organs are made up of various building blocks, the most basic of which is the cell. Together, cells form organs, which are covered in connective tissue. The aging process wreaks havoc on the organs at every level. Cells grow inefficient, their mitochondria are unable to effectively repair them. They find it difficult to reproduce, and waste products may build up inside them. The connective tissue of the cell wall, as well as that of the organ wall, becomes thicker, thus making it more difficult for the bloodstream to deliver needed nutrients and oxygen, and carry away waste products. At the age of twenty, our heart is capable of providing ten times what is needed for our body to function, but this capacity starts decreasing, at a rate of about one percent per year, after the age of thirty. Organs most affected by this loss are the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
So, you can see what aging is, like beauty, more than skin deep. A little cream applied to your skin is not likely to cause much of a change. You may look better, but feel much older than you look. The good news is, of course, that medicine has been hard at work tackling the question of aging. Exercise has proven to be quite effective against aging muscles. Embark on a regular regimen to keep your muscles flexible and strong, Remember the adage, “Use it or lose it!” applies here.
Nutrition is also of primary concern when combating the aging process. Follow a sensible, balanced diet. Don’t eat like a teenager, but use the wisdom of your advanced years. And look into dietary supplements. There are quite a few on the market backed by clinical trials. Quite a few of them, such as nicotinamide riboside and fisetin enhance the function of the mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell. Check out antioxidants such as acetyl-L-carnitine which can help prevent damage by dangerous free radicals. And don’t discount whey protein as simply for use by bodybuilders. Whey is a powerful antioxidant that helps build glutathione, which aids the liver in reducing toxins in the body. And remember that collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, essential to the health and continued growth of structures such as muscles, skin, bone, and connective tissue. Do your research, and consult a nutritionist, to find the right supplement, or collection of supplements, to enhance your dietary commitment to the anti-aging campaign.
As you certainly know, aging is a natural process, but there is no law against fighting the ravages it brings. Life expectancy increases each year, and who wants to live a long life if it is not as healthy and rewarding as we can make it.