The aging process, we can’t do anything about the aging process unless we understand WHY and HOW it is happening.

What Makes People Age Faster?

8 theories of aging

Whether you’re more concerned about the fine lines, memory lapses, or sexual function…

…we can’t do anything about the aging process unless we understand WHY and HOW it is happening. We can’t reverse the aging process, but we can surely slow it down.

There are four general theories of aging to examine prior to looking at more specific theories of aging.

🧓 The Scholastic Theory or “Growing old is the result of living”. This is the wear and tear on our bodies’ viewpoint of getting older.

🧓 Programmed Theory involves thinking that physical damage to our body occurs from genetic programming. The function of our bodies “wind down” over time. We have a built in biological clock beyond which we can’t live. This is related to DNA damage and telomere theory discussed below.

🧓 Neuroendocrine Theory focuses on the potential damage cortisol causes to the hypothalamus. Cortisol is one of the few hormones that increase as we age. If cortisol damages the hypothalamus, a vicious cycle occurs during the aging process. Hormone receptors become less receptive and less effective at responding to their messages, sent under hypothalamic control, for regulation.

🧓 The Membrane Theory proposes that the lipid bilayer of our cell membranes becomes more solid and less watery. This interferes with processes that occur across our cell membranes including energy, chemical, and heat transfer. There is an accumulation of toxic lipofuscin deposited in our brains, heart, lungs, and skin that interferes with normal cell functions.

American psychologist Gene Cohen wrote a book ( The Mature Mind ) in which he describes four stages of aging. They are as follows:

🕐 Phase 1: Typically referred to as the midlife during the time you age from your late 30s to your mid 60s. During this phase, you may begin to question your life and consider your mortality. This happened to me the week I turned 40.

🕑 Phase 2: Think of a retiree that is traveling, going on adventures, and learning new things. The age range for this is the late 50s through the mid 70s.

🕒 Phase 3: This is a time in which you start thinking about how people will perceive the life you’ve lived after you’re gone. From the late 60s into the 80s, you start considering the legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren (if you have them).

🕓 Phase 4: This is known as the Encore or Final Phase of your life. I heard a talk by a retired physician called “Sageism not Ageism” given while he was in this phase of his life. It was a fascinating topic regarding the wisdom of a long life well lived. Starting from the late 70s to the end of your life, it is a time when you adapt well to changes and may have a celebratory viewpoint of the life you’ve lived.

Let’s take a look at 8 more specific theories of aging:

1. Free Radicals
Free radicals create oxidative stress to damage cellular DNA. They increase with exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollution, and unhealthy foods. Oxidative stress can lead to chronic inflammation, the basis of most chronic diseases. Free radicals damage mitochondria (see below) but they are generated by the necessary process of creating energy. The issue is how to scavenge and get rid of them to keep inflammation at bay.

What can we do? Load up on antioxidants from fruits, vegetables, herbs, and supplements.

2. “Inflammaging”
Changes in the immune system can shift the body into a state of low-grade and chronic inflammation, also called “inflammaging.” This is part of the Scholastic Theory of aging since immune response becomes blunted as we get older.

What can we do? Eat an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, boost our immune system with supplements, and minimize stress.

3. Protein Cross-Linking
Protein cross-linking happens when sugar forms a chemical bond with proteins. It leads to stiffening of the blood vessels, stiffening of the joints, loss of skin elasticity, and other signs of aging. Those with type 2 diabetes have 2-3 times the number of protein crosslinks compared to nondiabetic people. It is thought sugars bind to DNA causing damage leading to malformed cancer cells.

What can we do? Keep blood sugars stable and minimize sugary food and drinks. Avoid ultra processed foods. Eat whole and natural foods.

4. Heat Shock Proteins
Heat shock proteins protect cells from damage under stressful conditions, but they decrease with age. They are involved in hormesis, in which circumstances of mild stress and damage provide health benefits. Some of the benefits of exercise, time restricted eating, and calorie restriction are based on hormesis resulting in extended healthy lifespans.

What can we do? Anything the body perceives to be mildly stressful, like exercise, cold showers, and time restricted eating.

5. Telomeres
Telomeres are sections of DNA at the end of each chromosome that protect it from unraveling. It is felt that cells have a limited number of times they can divide before cellular damage leads to programmed cell death known as apoptosis. Scientists consider shortening telomeres to be a hallmark of aging. The generally accepted cell division limit is 50 times. If we want to live longer lives, we may need to slow down our rate of cell division.

What can we do? Eat a plant-rich and natural whole food diet, exercise, and minimize stress.

6. Stem Cells
Adult stem cells help old and damaged tissues regenerate by replacing damaged cells. But their ability to do so declines with age.

What can we do? Stem Cell therapies are an emerging area of regenerative medicine.

7. Hormones
From declining levels of growth hormone to all the changes associated with menopause and andropause, hormones can contribute to many of the signs of aging. Promising research on replacement of Human Growth Hormone to slow aging has been going on for over 30 years. Hormone replacement therapy is safe and effective when monitored and guided by health professionals who dedicate much of their practice to hormone treatments.

What can we do? Hormone replacement is an option but should be considered only under the supervision of a healthcare professional well versed in this type of therapy.

8. Mitochondrial Decline refers to dysfunction of the power generating organelle of the cell. Using protons, electrons, CoEnzyme Q10, and B vitamins, mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which provides the energy for cellular function. ATP is a life giving chemical for our bodies but we cannot store more than 8 seconds worth. The production of ATP must be continual. Like Humpty Dumpty, without ATP all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put us together again.

Stay tuned because I have 2 more posts coming your way—with practical strategies to support healthy and happy aging!

#healthyagingmonth #healthyaging #antiaging #aginggracefully #HRT #stemcells #mitochondria #inflammation #telomeres #freeradicals #askdrtreacy #healthwithoutrisk

References:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318119608_Theories_of_Aging
https://www.fightaging.org/archives/2013/12/exploring-heat-shock-proteins-and-longevityvia-hormesis/
https://spermidinelife.us/blogs/news/what-are-the-different-theories-of-aging

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