Let’s dig a little deeper into the biology of aging; what causes this natural process and how does it work?
Yes, aging is a natural process and it happens to everyone. And yes, there are some useful everyday tips you can use to make that aging process a graceful one rather than something to dread. But, why does it happen in the way that it does? How is that one solemn morning, we notice that first grey hair or those wrinkles that sneak up on us, seemingly all at once?
1) Telomeres Shorten Over Time
Wait, wait, what are telomeres? Your chromosomes carry specific genetic information in the form of genes, that form your DNA. As the cells in the body divide, chromosomes replicate in order for each cell to contain a complete set of chromosomes in its nucleus. The telomeres are at the ends of your chromosomes; they are stretches of DNA. Telomeres work to prevent damage to the ends of your chromosomes and keep them from melding into other chromosomes nearby.
Now, how do they become shorter? What happens is that a person’s DNA strands become just a slight bit shorter every single time that a chromosome replicates. Telomeres work to prevent genes from being lost throughout this process; it also means that your telomeres shorten every time a replication takes place. Some claim that there is possibility of maintaining longer telomeres through a proper diet. Recent studies have found that eating a fiber-rich diet was linked to longer telomeres. Fiber has the ability to help control blood glucose levels. Higher blood glucose is associated with inflammation and oxidative stress, which can cause telomere shortening.
2) Proteins Become Less Stable and Lack Accuracy
Unstable proteins can cause aging as they are among the more dominant products of gene expression and heavily effect the shape and function of the cell. Proteins are produced constantly within our body’s cells and work to control all of it’s functions. Proteins can move materials, carry signals, turn processes on and off, and provide the structural support of the cell. However, these proteins do not continue to stay as effective over time, and therefore need to be recycled. As we go through the natural phenomenon of aging, our bodies being to lose the ability to eliminate old proteins all on its own. The problem here is that when our bodies can’t turn over the no-longer-working proteins, they build up and become toxic to the body.
3) Cells Age and Become Damaged
Over time and just like the outside of the body, the cells undergo stress and become damaged. The problem is that they stop dividing sometimes and don’t die as they are meant to. Rather, they turn into something scientists call “zombie cells“: they cause inflammation throughout the body and can infect the cells around them.
These cells are also called senescent cells. Senescent cells begin to build up over time and as we age. Currently, there are a number of drugs called senolytics which are now being made, with the aim of getting rid of as many senescent cells in older-folk as possible, to help treat age-related diseases.
Cells have to be constantly communicating with each other in order for the body to work like its supposed to. Cells send signals through the blood and immune system in order to communicate, but they’re not as good at it as we (and they) age. Some cells become less responsive, which means they can turn into those inflammatory cells. This only further worsens communication between cells. This makes it so that the immune system is less effective in protecting the body from pathogens and other “zombie cells”.
4) Ill-Functioning Mitochondria and Tissues That Don’t Renew
Mitochondria is what produces the energy in cells through oxygen conversion and its also what processes our food into energy.
As organisms and their cells age, these “powerhouses” of the cell become less efficient and do not function as well as they used to. When this happens, they start to produce an altered form of oxygen that can cause damage to DNA and proteins.
The rate of tissue renewal basically slows down as we age and that is one of the reasons that tissue damage accumulates over time. In most tissues, stem cells act as a kind of an internal repair system; they replenish cells that are dead or damaged. These stem cells become tired and less effective as we age, meaning they can’t divide as quickly as they used to. This causes the tissues that are due for renewal to remain as they are, and no longer work as well.
5) The Metabolism Becomes Imbalanced
If there is an imbalance or inability of the cell’s ability to sense or process nutrients, it can cause interruptions in the cells ability to adapt to the amount of nutrients available.
Cells are not as good as detecting the amount of glucose or fat in the body as the cells themselves age. This, in turn, leads to some fats and sugars not getting processed properly. Aging cells tend to gather a large amount of fats simply because cells don’t digest foods properly. As older adults cannot effectively metabolize all the things they eat, age-related diabetes becomes more common.
Science has no complete conclusion regarding the markers of aging and all of the different processes that can be taken into effect. It’s important to remember that this natural phenomenon of aging is not something we aim to destroy, but something we want to understand as best we can. Knowing the why’s and how’s of the aging process is how we can prevent aging in ways that are unhealthy or less attractive. We can strive to age gracefully and with the understanding that it’s normal, and can be beautiful if we give ourselves the right attention Check out our article “How to Get Younger Looking Skin – A Simple Guide“, where we go over some of the ways we can do just that.