WHAT DAMAGES OUR CELLS? Harmful molecules are continually bombarding your body. The worst offenders are glucose (a type of sugar), and free radicals, by-products of energy production. Both can damage the proteins, fats and DNA that make up your cells. When you are young, your body is able to repair most of this damage. But as you get older, the repair process is less efficient.
FREE R ADICALS Your body breaks down carbohydrates (for example the starch in bread) into glucose, the simplest form of sugar. Glucose is a vital source of energy, especially for your brain cells. But over time, it can also cause problems. Glucose molecules can stick to proteins, forming ‘cross-links’ that stop the proteins working properly. Cross-linking can gradually lead to hardened blood vessels, cataracts, damaged nerves and kidneys - all problems of old age.
GLUCOSE Your body breaks down carbohydrates (for example the starch in bread) into glucose, the simplest form of sugar. Glucose is a vital source of energy, especially for your brain cells. But over time, it can also cause problems. Glucose molecules can stick to proteins, forming ‘cross-links’ that stop the proteins working properly. Crosslinking can gradually lead to hardened blood vessels, cataracts, damaged nerves and kidneys - all problems of old age.
CELL AGE? Every time a cell multiplies to make two new cells, special zones at the ends of its chromosomes, called telomeres, become shorter. Once the a reach a certain length, the cell stops dividing and eventually dies. The only cells to escape this fate are those that divide to make eggs and sperm. In these cells, a substance called telomerase builds the telomeres up again, so they remain the same length.
Each chromosome end - or telomere - is shown by brightly coloured dots.
Telomeres at the ends of these mouse chromosomes appear red in this image.
INEVITABLE? AGEING AND DEATH PROGR AMMED THEORY
Evolution not biology
The piano of life
Senescence or biological ageing is the endogenous and hereditary process of accumulative changes to molecular and cellular structure disrupting metabolism with the passage of time, resulting in deterioration and death. Senescence occurs both on the level of the whole organism, as well as on the level of its individual cells.
There is really no reason that the human body should “wear out” as long as it can repair and renew itself. Something other than time must be at play to cause the inevitable effects of ageing. The programmed theory of ageing believes that ageing and death are necessary parts of evolution, not of biology. If a species did not have the genetic capacity for ageing and death, then it would not be forced to replicate to survive. Individuals in the species would just keep on living until a climate or other change wiped them all out. If biological individuals lived forever, there would be no evolution.
Ageing, therefore, must be inherent in the organism and not simply a result of environmental factors or disease. Ageing and death, according to this theory, are not a result of wear and tear or exposure, but are a programmed, natural and necessary part of genetics. In short, we are programmed to age and die.
The evidence supporting this theory is that there is not a great deal of variation in lifespan within species. Elephants die around 70, spider monkeys die around 25, and people die around 80. Some changes can be made based on nutrition and medical care, but overall lifespan within species is fairly constant. The programmed theory asserts that if ageing were due to “wear and tear” there would be more variation in lifespan within each species.
Some believe life is programmed like a piano roll. Notes are dictated along with their length, but eventually the final chords will have to play.
DISPOSABLE SOMA THEORY “We’re programmed not for death, but for survival”
GERMS AND SOMA Tom Kirkwood’s disposable soma theory states that organisms only have a limited amount of energy that has to be divided between reproductive activities and the maintenance of the non-reproductive aspects of the organism a(soma). A trade off exists in which it does not make sense for an organism to invest effort (food energy resources) in maintenance (at the expense of reproductive activity) to result in living much beyond the initial breeding years. In essence, our bodies do not repair as well as they could because natural selection favoured the reproductive phases of life over older age. Turritopsis nutricula: The immortal jellyfish BIOLOGICAL SYST EMS DO NOT HAVE TO WE AR DOWN
WOMEN LIVING LONGER?
There are many others that believe ageing is in fact not inevitable. The idea that we are simply programmed to die is a fatalistic approach when taking into consideration that some animals simply do not age. These animals have no “post-mitotic” cells; meaning that they reduce the effect of damaging free radicals by cell division and dilution. Examples of negligible senescence can be seen in lobsters that live for 100 years or more, as well as the Aldabra giant tortoise that can live for 255 years. These show that death rates do not increase with age (but still run the same risk from the wild) in comparison to senescent organisms.
On average, women live five or six years longer than men. Research from Kirkwood’s laboratory has shown that there’s a possibility females live longer because males are genetically more disposable. Laboratory studies have also shown cells in female rodents repair damage better than in males, but this difference is eliminated if the ovaries are surgically removed. According to Kirkwood there is also evidence from an institution for the mentally disturbed in Kansas, where castration of male inmates was once a common practice that castrated men lived an average of 14 years longer than uncastrated inmates. It’s important for the species for females to have healthy bodies, since they bear and nurture the next generation, whereas the male reproductive role is shorter-term and less related to his good health. Professor Kirkwood states that while it’s “difficult to say things with absolute assurance” he is confident his theory of males being more “disposable” than females is the underlying biological explanation for the greater longevity of females.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, which damage cells, clog arteries and contribute to chronic illness and aging. Antioxidants are found in leafy vegetables, fruits, wine, and chocolate. Antioxidants can also be found in certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C and E, zinc and selenium. Eating healthy foods may even help preserve memory and protect against Alzheimer’s. You cannot feel it when some cells are damaged or dying, but you can see it in the signs of aging, such as wrinkles. Aim to eat more fruits to combat the signs of ageing.
EXERC I S E
B R / I N FITNESS
“Exercising in your 70s may stop brain shrinkage, reducing the risk of dementia”
TELL GOOD STORIES
TURN OFF YOUR TV
LEARN A NEW SKILL
Brain fitness programs and games are a wonderful way to tease and challenge your brain. Sudoku, crosswords and electronic games can all improve your brain’s speed and memory. These games rely on logic, word skills, math and more. These games are also fun. You’ll get benefit more by doing these games a little bit every day -- spend 15 minutes or so, not hours.
Stories are a way that we solidify memories, interpret events and share moments. Practice telling your stories, both new and old, so that they are interesting, compelling and fun. Some basic storytelling techniques will go a long way in keeping people’s interest both in you and in what you have to say.
Daily meditation is perhaps the single greatest thing you can do for your mind/body health. Meditation not only relaxes you, it gives your brain a workout. By creating a different mental state, you engage your brain in new and interesting ways while increasing your brain fitness.
The average person watches more than 4 hours of television everyday. Television can stand in the way of relationships, life and more. Turn off your TV and spend more time living and exercising your mind and body.
Books are portable, free from libraries and filled with infinite interesting characters, information and facts. Branch out from familiar reading topics. If you usually read history books, try a contemporary novel. Read foreign authors, the classics and random books. Not only will your brain get a workout by imagining different time periods, cultures and peoples, you will also have interesting stories to tell about your reading, what it makes you think of and the connections you draw between modern life and the words.
Learning a new skill works multiple areas of the brain. Your memory comes into play, you learn new movements and you associate things differently. Reading Shakespeare, learning to cook and building an aeroplane out of toothpicks all will challenge your brain and give you something to think about.
Exercising is a key part of combating the effects of ageing, not only does it improve your physique, but the mental benefits will improve your ability to deal with stress, creativity and problem solving. If going to a gym isn’t the option for you, there are many alternatives that can be done in your home. Perhaps the most important aspect of exercise is telling yourself each time you exercise that your goal is health and energy. As you exercise regularly, you will notice changes in your body: * Weight loss * Muscle gain * Increased flexibility * More energy throughout the day
“You see an old lady on the street, sweeping outside her restaurant, keeping herself busy
okinawa THE SECRETS OF
..then you realise she’s 101”
Elderly Okinawans have among the lowest mortality rates in the world from a multitude of chronic diseases of aging and as a result enjoy not only what may be the world’s longest life expectancy but the world’s longest health expectancy. Explanations for this mostly centre around the dinner table. The Okinawans not only eat more tofu and soya products than any other population in the world, their diet also includes a vast range of different vegetables and fruit all rich in anti-oxidants. Scientists refer to it as a rainbow diet. Essentially the more vibrant the colour of the fruit, the better it is for your health. Results show that Okinawans have among the lowest rate of breast and prostate cancer in the world, another benefit of the rainbow diet.
The community has discovered a secret thatâ€™s much easier to find than any gene. Its effect is so powerful that it enables them to live longer than anyone else in the US. People that go to church regularly - whatever faith they have - live longer. In Loma Linda, California, a significant number of people in the town are Seventh Day Adventist, a religion whose members live between five and 10 years longer than fellow citizens. It seems that regular churchgoers have significantly lower levels of stress hormones and so may be better equipped to cope with the challenges in life, scientists say. Stress seems to be a major factor in ageing and going to church provides the means to share with like minded people and lessen the mental effects of issues in our life.
okinawa THE SECRETS OF
the solution to ageing or so they say
durk pearson & sandy shaw Life Extension: A Practical Scientific Approach was a 1982 book by Durk Pearson and Sandy Shaw that popularized the life extension and smart drug movements. Since its release it has since sold over a million copies in the USA. Every day, they consume over 35 different chemical substances, which they believe help to maintain their youth and prevent the ravaging of age.