Why Do We Age and What Can We Do About It
Aging is something that is universally common to all of us. Aging is generally accepted as an inevitability, from which there is no escape. Unfortunately, it’s also something that very few people look forward to, seeing as it brings with it physical and even mental deterioration, as well as diminishing life expectancy.
But why is it that we age What causes this gradual deterioration And is it really so inevitable as we have been led to believe In this post, we’ll examine these beliefs and take a closer look at precisely why it is that our biology slowly starts to let us down.
How We Age
In theory, there is no reason that we couldn’t live indefinitely. If the body’s processes were carried out entirely and without degradation, then we would be able to rejuvenate and regenerate our cells through mitosis continuously. Mitosis is the term used to describe the division of cells.
Instead of reproducing sexually, cells simply split down the middle to create two perfect copies of themselves.
Or at least the copies should be perfect in theory. The problem is that these copies very rarely are entirely perfect and more often than not, errors will creep in.
Your cells also happen to be where your DNA is stored. DNA is the genetic code that is used to ‘build you.’ It can be thought of as a blueprint that exists inside every single cell, and that ensures that each cell is adequately copied and that it does its right job.
So, when an error creeps into the cell during mitosis, it will usually affect the DNA, causing it to be copied imperfectly. The problem with that is that now each time that cell reproduces, it will bring with it those errors.
This isn’t usually a problem. What many people don’t realize is that actually, the vast majority of their DNA is ‘junk.’ Only a relatively small portion of our genetic code is meaningful, and only a relatively small part is responsible for the way we look and feel.
The problems only occur when the imperfections start to affect the crucial and most essential parts of our cells. This is what then causes deterioration. This is what causes wrinkles, sunspots and the failure of various body parts.
Another aspect to consider here is the role of telomeres.
When a cell splits and divides, the damage that occurs to it is most likely to happen at the end of the DNA strands. This is often described like ‘fraying.’
The body has a system in place to negate this effect though. Telomeres are additional information that sits at the ends of the DNA strands and that can be broken down over time with no adverse effect. These act like buffers to prevent our genetic code from damage.
The problems then begin to occur once those telomeres are entirely broken down, which leaves the DNA vulnerable and exposed.
If your telomeres were indestructible, then, in theory, you could avoid the vast majority of cell damage. This is why scientists and pharmaceutical companies are clamoring to find ways to restore or protect the telomeres and some promising studies are looking at specific enzymes.
For now, though, the best option is to protect your cells for the rest of the time. Use antioxidants to avoid oxidative stress, and you can minimize those errors and prevent mutations occurring as a result of bombardment from free radicals.
Things You Can Do Now to Protect Your Health in Old Age
Many of us are frightened of getting older, and the reasons for this are often the same: we don’t like the idea of becoming less mobile and less able to look after ourselves. Some of us will have seen our loved ones suffer as they get older, and we’ll be frightened that we may face the same fate.
Getting older will inevitably mean some decline in your health, but it doesn’t have to mean you become reliant on others. Here we will look at some of the things you can do now while you’re young and healthy to avoid letting your health deteriorate too much as you reach older age
Antioxidants are nutrients in our diet that combat free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are substances that can attack our cells, leading to some of the visible signs of aging, and which in some cases can break through to damage our DNA leading to mutations that may lead to cancer. Antioxidants are one of the best things you can get in your diet then if you want to try and prevent several health issues when you get older.
And Generally, Improve Your Diet
Meanwhile, other aspects of your diet can also help to fortify you against old age. Calcium, for instance, can help to strengthen bones and connective tissue to prevent injuries, while proteins and omega 3 fatty acids are essential for your muscles and your brain and joints. Obesity meanwhile can put all kinds of strain on your body which you will have to answer for when you get older: the sooner you correct your diet the better the benefits will be.
Staying physically active is a highly important way to boost your health in older age. Many studies have shown that sitting still can actually take years off of your life, whereas being active can add them. This doesn’t have to mean following an intensive training routine either: simply going for regular walks or using other gentle, regular forms of exercise can make a big difference.
Staying active will also help you to build stronger muscles and bones, which will help to prevent you from accidents as you get older.
Stress is very bad for you and can weaken your immune system while also placing strain on your cardiovascular system. Those who have a happy and optimistic outlook on life actually tend to live longer, so try to develop a healthy attitude if you want a healthy body.
Use Your Brain
To avoid age-related cognitive decline, you need to use your brain. This is perhaps most important of all. Make sure you are continually learning new things, continually challenging yourself and always communicating with others. This will keep your brain limber as you get into older age while also giving you a much fuller life to enjoy with your better health! Your brain will literally remain more plastic, allowing you to learn new things and feel better as you age.
What diet-related diseases am I at risk for as I age?
As you age, many things come into play when determining the risk factors for disease. According to the Center For Science In The Public Interest, the number one factor in determining your risk of death from disease is diet.
Diet can play an essential role in the prevention and management of many age-related diseases, including but not limited to:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
Choosing the best food for improving aging may be a matter of what you consider an improvement in your aging process. At the same time, it is true that pomegranates and blueberries contain free-radical fighting antioxidants that may help fine lines and smooth your skin that may not be the most important thing for you to consider as you age. The antioxidants contained in these foods can also help fight inflammation throughout the body, which is going to be a far more important effect than battle wrinkles.
In general, including a wide variety of whole real food (and not processed junk) that provides with you a wide range of nutrients is your smartest choice so you can cover the farthest range of disease-preventing and health-supporting benefits that sound nutrition provides. At the same time, it is crucial to limit or avoid junk and processed food that is typically lacking in nutrients has unnecessary added fats and sugars and excess calories.
Is diet important for health and vitality in aging?
Diet can control many aspects of how you feel and how much energy you have. According to Web M.D., many foods give you a boost in energy and help you feel especially full of vitality even as you age, including nuts, lean meats, salmon, leafy greens, colorful vegetables and foods high in fiber.
This extra boost of energy may not seem very important when you are young, but as you age, it becomes a key ingredient in maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Diet is one of the most important factors in maintaining health and vitality as you age.
Why is maintaining a healthy weight vital as I get older?
Obesity is currently the number one cause of preventable death in the United States. About 1/3 of all US adults are oversight or obese, these numbers present an epidemic level of the weight problem in America, and further highlight the need for vigilance in diet, and the need for regular exercise.
Obesity is also the culprit in many lifestyle diseases that prematurely kill thousands of people around the world. Overweight and obesity-related health problems include coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2diabetes, joint-related conditions, metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea, and the list goes on. According to The National Heart Lung And Blood Institute, being overweight and obese, along with age increases your risks for these diseases.
The last thing you want to do is give yourself a double dose of risk for these severe and preventable conditions. Aging gracefully and living with vitality in your golden years means maintaining a healthy weight to reduce the risks of many avoidable diseases and maintaining a high quality of life.
Is portion control important in aging?
Your body needs less food as you age because metabolism begins to as you get older naturally slow. Most of us miss the memo, which is why we see a 5 to 10% weight gain each year after age 50.
What does nutrient dense mean?
According to the National Institute of Health for Senior Health, nutrient-dense foods are foods that have the most nutrients with the least calories. Therefore, nutrient-dense food will provide you with a high amount of vitamins, minerals, lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and/or healthy fats with the least amount of calories. For example, broccoli is nutrient-dense, as a serving of it is very high in nutrients, but very low in calories, conversely a chocolate chip cookie is high in calories but has minimal nutrients so is not considered to be nutrient-dense.
It is important to focus on nutrient dense foods as you age because naturally declines, and every calorie counts, so each food you eat needs to be of value. Additionally, people begin to see a drop in appetite as they get older and this means that they are not getting as many nutrients as they should because they are eating less food.
Eating nutrient-dense food means that you are focused on the quality of the food rather than the quantity of the calories. This way you can ensure that your body will have everything it needs to keep functioning correctly throughout your senior years.
What are the best heart health foods?
If you’re looking at heart-healthy foods, you’re going to want to incorporate things that reduce inflammation, maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure. All of these foods can help you reduce your risk for heart disease and live a longer and healthier life.
WebMD Recommends The Following Heart-Healthy Foods:
- Fatty cold-water fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Berries that give you fiber and antioxidants
- Low-fat dairy containing calcium and vitamin D
- Whole-grain oats contain high amounts of fiber that have been shown to reduce bad (LDL) cholesterol
- Olive oil instead of butter because it contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
- Dark chocolate for its antioxidants which helps keep bad cholesterol down
What are the best fats to support heart health?
- Choosing healthy fats in the right amounts is key for heart health
- Trans fats – 0% or less than 2%
- Saturated Fats – less than 10% of total daily caloric intake
- Monounsaturated Fats – between 15% and 20% of total daily caloric intake
- Polyunsaturated Fats – between 5% and 10% of total daily caloric intake
BEST – UNSATURATED FATS – These include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids). These are your healthiest choices for heart and brain health with the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids found in cold-water fish (wild salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel), nuts, and flaxseed.
In Moderation – Saturated fats – Saturated fats are typically found in dairy and meat products and are solid at room temperature. Saturated fats are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and should be moderated.
Avoid – Trans fats – Trans fats are heart killers and should be avoided at all costs. Most manufacturers have moved away from using trans fats in their foods because of risks associated with heart disease, though many packaged foods still have them. Check labels for hydrogenated oils.
What role do omega-3 fatty acids play in my health?
Omega-3’s are monosaturated fats, which are responsible for many heart-healthy effects within the body. They reduce inflammation, promote good HDL cholesterol, and keep you healthy as you age. The University of Maryland reports that omega-3 fatty acids can help you reduce the risk and even reverse the effects of damage from the following conditions:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Depression and bipolar disorder
- Cognitive decline
- Skin disorders
Marine forms of omega-3 fatty acids offer EPA and DHA and are found in oily fish. Plant forms of omega-3 fatty acids provide ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which is found in plant foods, oils, seeds and nuts. ALA is not nearly as potent as the marine sources of omega-3’s EPA and DHA.
Good sources of EPA and DHA (Experts recommend two servings of fish each week)
- Wild Caught Salmon
- Lake trout
Good plant sources of ALA
Enjoy these healthy fats in moderation daily
- Walnuts and walnut oil
- Avocados and avocado oil
- Flaxseed and flaxseed oil
- Canola oil
- Soybean oil
Enjoy vegetables liberally
- Brussels sprouts
Does diet put women at higher risk for heart disease?
According to MedlinePlus, diet is the leading cause of heart disease for both men and women. If you are worried about heart disease, there are a few things that you can do to reduce your risk.
- Eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day
- Eat whole grains
- Choose a lean, healthy protein and cold water fish
- Limit high intakes of saturated fats
- Choose heart-healthy monosaturated, polyunsaturated fats
- Avoid trans fats completely
- Sodium intake plays a significant role in heart disease, so limiting salt intake and cutting out processed foods that are high in salt can help reduce your risk for heart disease
What role do antioxidants play in the aging process?
There are many theories about why we age. One of the arguments is oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Free radicals are atomic reactions within the mitochondria of cells that cause damage to cells within the body. This is known as oxidative damage. The free radical theory of aging is very technical but to sum it up free radicals cause inflammation and premature and accelerated aging.
It is thought that antioxidants can help reduce free radical damage to the body. Foods high in antioxidants have been shown to reduce risks for many age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, heart disease and others, which may actually be the result of oxidative damage due to free radicals. Live Science notes that our bodies can produce some antioxidants on their own but not in sufficient amounts to keep free radicals in check, making it important to eat foods that contain them, specifically fresh fruits and vegetables in all colors.