What Causes Aging
Aging occurs gradually. At first, the damage to your body is barely perceptible. But eventually it’s possible to notice changes in many organ systems: the brain, the muscles, the circulatory system, and the skin. You may experience a decrease in energy and libido, as well as a lack of concentration and focus. The processes responsible for these changes are: Oxidative damage, Inflammation, Glycation, Stress, and Hormonal Changes.
Free Radicals are to your body’s cells what oxygen is to iron. They interact with cells, destabilizing them, and can make you more susceptible to disease and the effects of aging.
The link between free radicals and aging is well established. It was discovered by a scientist in the mid 1950′s, Denham Harman, MD. Now we also know that this oxidative damage is involved in de-generative diseases, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions that used to be considered just a part of “aging”.
Every atom has pairs of electrons around them. The pairing makes the molecule stable. But if one electron breaks free, then the molecule becomes unstable, and a free radical occurs. These free radicals can’t remain in that unstable condition forever and will try to regain an electron from another structure next to them, attacking the cells and damaging the DNA. A certain number of free radicals occur naturally as part of our natural defense system against bacteria and viruses. If the accumulation of free radicals is too high, then damage starts to accumulate. The body fights excess free radicals with antioxidants. The antioxidants become the donors of the electron instead of the nearest cell or DNA. The amount of antioxidants our bodies naturally produce start to decline at the age of 30. Replacing these antioxidants with a proper diet and nutritional supplementation helps us stay healthy, and prevents the buildup of free radicals.
This is another natural process that protects us against infection, allowing our bodies to attack invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Our immune system (white blood cells and chemicals) react to this aggression with inflammation. The process can also be triggered by cell damage, similar to the damage caused by free radicals.
Our bodies need a certain amount of inflammation to heal themselves, but if we have too much inflammation it can have a detrimental effect. In that case, we need anti-inflammatory compounds to act as correctives. It’s possible to be suffering from an ongoing, low-level inflammatory process, which can become chronic inflammation that is difficult to detect.
Low-level inflammation can be responsible for arterial damage, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity and more. It is very important to detect chronic inflammation from cell damage early so it can be treated, and you can remain healthy as you age.
Glycation is simply the process of “sugar coating” our body proteins, which makes them stick together and give off glycation end products (AGEs). These AGE’s accumulate in your body and release free radicals that can cause chronic inflammation.
There are two ways we acquire AGE’s:
1. your blood sugar levels get too high by eating too many carbohydrates (common in diabetes patients) causes the excess sugar (glucose) to attach to proteins in your blood and cause glycation.
2. AGEs can also come from external sources, through food: especially fried food.
Everyone knows what stress is. But you may not know how stress can trigger changes in your body. Because we’re programmed to respond to stress triggers in ways that could potentially save our lives, stress causes a multi-dimensional hormonal and chemical response that affects your whole body.
When you experience stress, in milliseconds your brain’s internal mechanism triggers the release of a series of chemicals that will make us produce two important hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are associated with the “fight or flight” response, causing increased heart rate, pumping more blood to the muscles; dilated pupils, enabling you to see better; elevated blood sugar, providing more fuel to the muscles.
But stress also has the effect of dialing down other systems to help your body preserve energy (digestive, reproductive and immune systems). Adrenaline levels fall quickly, but cortisol levels stay elevated for a longer period of time. Think of it like your response while driving: you push the gas pedal down hard to pass someone on the road or avoid a collision, but then we let up on it and return to a safe speed.
Chronic elevation of cortisol has a number of detrimental effects, including increased resistance to insulin, susceptibility to heart disease, elevated blood pressure, lowered immunity, muscle breakdown, abdominal fat accumulation-it even affects memory and thinking, as well as sexual function. A thorough review of your lifestyle and some testing can help to identify your risks and establish a corrective plan.
People don’t die of old age: we die of degenerative diseases that occur because of the aging process. That’s why identifying risk factors and taking steps to change your lifestyle can make such a difference.
Most medical researchers agree that beginning at the age of 30, there is a 2-3% decline per year in many hormones. These deficiencies are significant contributing factors for several of the symptoms of aging, such as declining energy level, loss of muscle mass (between the ages of 24 and 40 we can experience as much as 40% loss in muscle mass and strength), increased fat-to-muscle ratio, diminished libido and erectile function, osteoporosis, loss of skin elasticity, diminution of sensory, cognitive and motor function. The entire endocrine system participates in the aging process.
The pituitary growth hormone diminishes with age (replacement requires meeting the diagnosis criteria for adult onset growth hormone deficiency). Thyroid hormone plays a powerful role in body metabolic regulation. Low levels contribute to weight gain, depression and fatigue. Testosterone, estrogen and progesterone play a significant role not only in sexual organs but also in cardiovascular, muscle, bone and brain function.
Carefully modulating and supplementing-not replacing-the hormones your body naturally produces using bio-identical hormones can reverse many of the ill effects of hormone deficiency and imbalance. But not all hormones need to be supplemented. Sometimes we just need to reduce the body’s own output of hormones, such as insulin or cortisol.