Chapter 1 - What is Aging?
Probably since time immemorial, the prevailing notion about aging has been that it is an "inevitable consequence of time". The longer you stick around on earth, the more the body decayed. Quite remarkably, both poets and scientists rely on colorful literary tropes. Poets speak about time digging furrows into tender brows, and scientists proclaim the idea about the biological clock of aging. Whatever the case may be, it is not a major leap in logic to see that events which occur in time exact a certain toll which account for the wear and tear on the body. Once this wear and tear goes on for long enough, you could say that progressive deterioration or aging has occurred.
As scientists continue to probe at the aging phenomenon, many of them are changing their notion, even their very definition of what constitutes aging. The definition in the world of Anti-aging Medicine which has taken hold is that aging is a disease itself. One leading authority on health and nutrition sums it up best when she says that aging is a "conglomerate of diseases caused by a lifetime of environmental assaults to the cells leading to a slow deterioration of the body and culminating in multiple breakdowns of bodily functions (what we call now chronic disease)".Such chronic illnesses such as heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, most cancers, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, to name just a few, have aging as the common characteristic. Most of these afflictions occur after the age of forty, which is considered the age fulcrum between youth and old age.
Furthermore, scientists have located genetic structures within the genetic code, which they believe moderate the pace of aging. Application of antioxidant vitamins to treat certain serious afflictions such as heart disease, cancer, and arthritis are proving that aging can be considered a disease. Why is this? In part the reason has to do with what was said earlier, that these ailments are closely allied with old age since the majority of those afflicted with them are old. In addition, oxidation is considered a disorder, but is not necessarily associated just with "senior disorders", but is found in diseases of the young and very young. This indicates that free radical damage causes disease across the boundaries of age. Progressive free radical damage leads to aging and the more serious, chronic diseases primarily found in old age.
Once you accept that aging is a disease, it's just one short step to realizing that it is treatable and preventable. Dr. Bruce Ames of UC Berkeley, published his findings on antioxidants in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in the September 1993 issue. His studies focused on the genetic code of DNA in chronic illnesses such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders. He found oxidation builds up with age and plays a major role in aging. The good news is that he reports that much of this deterioration can be corrected by eating food rich in antioxidants. Furthermore, it has been found that antioxidant supplements can contribute to replenishing cells harmed by oxidation.
Hopefully the type of information you just heard will not only encourage you to begin including antioxidants into your daily diet and supplement intake, but will also help you realize that information can be valuable in directing you to healthful well-being. In fact, the first step to prevention is acquiring information, just as the first step of treatment is noticing or being aware of symptoms. At this point in the development of Anti-aging Medicine, prevention lies in knowing in detail and practicing the five secrets disclosed in this book. These secrets form the basis of a methodical and wide-ranging plan. Following this step by step approach will set you on the road to good health and allow you to benefit from what has been called the bridging concept. It's what we call "buying time". By following this Anti-aging program you can buy enough time in the next 10-15 years when the greatest discoveries in this field will be made and from which you will in turn benefit enormously. Knowledge can increase the chance of living through the vulnerable ages between your 70's and 80's. Knowledge can help increase the chance of avoiding Alzheimer's disease, stroke, heart attack or other devastating illnesses. Knowledge can help provide the means to live a long and healthy life. Knowledge alone, however, is not enough. Successful aging is determined by how hard one works at it. Extending one's life in order to get the most out of it takes a commitment. With this program in hand, you will have a firm understanding of Anti-aging Medicine and how it can benefit you.
Anti-aging Medicine is one of the fastest growing industries in business. Why is that? Pure numbers predict it. Did you know in 1995 there were 70,000 centenarians in the U.S. and in 2004 there will be 140,000? By the 2047, there will be over 1 million centenarians and the average life span may reach 120-140 years . Let there be no doubt, America is definitely going gray. That's because more people are living longer and fewer people are being born.
Today, for many, the prospect of growing older is not a pleasant one to ponder, but this will all be changing. Since at this point there is a dearth of people who have practiced Anti-aging programs, it is difficult to declare what those last 30 or so odd years will be like. Yet certainly they will not be what they are like today. In his book called Dare to be 100, Walter M. Bortz III, M.D. speaks about the "third dimension" or the last 30 years of a 100 year life which has been guided by an Anti-aging Medicine regimen. He claims with the advent of Anti-aging Medicine, these last thirty years will not be ones marred by incapacity and frailty, but marked by productivity and robustness. Today, for the most part, we cannot claim this. Aging afflicts all people and makes most of them miserable. The signs are evident to everyone. Nonetheless, let's now look at the symptoms of aging in order to get a clearer picture of what it really is.
It doesn't take a genius to document what aging is and is not. All one has to do is use the five senses to tell. Right? Well, yes and no. Although it maybe true that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, most people, or at least most adults, would agree that signs of aging begins in their early to mid thirties. Wrinkles begin making curious dashes and zigzags over the face. Hair begins to be lost or loses its color. Physical ailments may also begin to take their toll. However, when measured at the internal, microbiological level, the symptoms of aging often begin long before the mid-thirties. Maximum lung capacity begins declining at age twenty and by age eighty it falls to 40%. The pancreas, responsible for the control of glucose, which itself is responsible for energy outlay of the body, diminishes at a steady rate after age forty. Furthermore, this degeneration appears to weaken the vital organs after age sixty. Muscle mass declines progressively after middle age. The average person can see a 5-10% decrease of oxygen in the muscles every ten years after adulthood. Handgrip strength, which is the perennial sign of manhood in the West, weakens by 45% by age 75. Bone minerals begin declining by the ripe old age of 35. This loss is accelerated yet even more and even earlier in women after menopause and in men after 60. Considering the information overload today, no one needs a primer lesson on the destruction osteoporosis is wreaking on women and men. Loss of brain function leads to senility. This particular ailment accelerates brain decline and hits around age 70. It is sadly accompanied by a loss in nimbleness and agility.
The litany of the body's slide downward goes on as the joints and ears begin to weaken and the heart becomes more prone to disease and attack. Like the heart the degeneration of the eyes may be the most poignant. Called the windows of the soul, the eyes permit us a most rich, intimate, and pleasing contact with the objective world. For many, the thought of losing eyesight is painful. Nonetheless, it is well known in the field of ophthalmology that by age forty close objects appear fuzzy. A decade later, the ability to see clearly at night decreases while the ability to see fine detail declines around age 70. The possibility of macular degeneration rises sharply after age 60 with the progressive deterioration of the retina.
It is easy then to see perhaps why the march toward old age has been pejoratively referred to as "the steady slide downward". Yet it seems almost ironic that when humans just begin to hit their stride, to say, begin to live in the fullness of life, degeneration of all sorts strikes them. It is equally easy to understand why many people feel cheated. From this standpoint, it seems only fair that the prime of life should by extended and spent in good health, that is, through at least the sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth decades of life.
The question "Can the life span be increased?" is perhaps a bit misleading. In fact, there has probably not been a time in human history in which the life span has not been increasing. In other words, it's more or less always been increasing, even if at a snail's pace during some eras in time. There have been "dark" periods in human history in which people must have been wondering if the human race was even going to survive much less survive into old age. The Black Plague of the 13th century is one such instance.
For nearly a millennium and a half the life span only increased by four years. But within a century, it had nearly doubled. However, it wasn't until the 17th Century when the scientific Revolution began taking off that the life span began increasing significantly. As we move into the 21st century, the scientific community is poised to make other important gains in life extension.
As indicated earlier we are already seeing indications of life span increase. Many studies are currently underway which are reporting amazing results in increasing, and in some cases, doubling the life span of animals in experimental environments. For instance, rats that have had their food intake cut by 40% can live a very long life, even doubling their average life span. To top this off, these animals are amazingly free of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease! When they do get these diseases, they are much delayed when compared to animals who eat all they want. Human studies are currently underway. In fact, the noted anti-aging expert Dr. Walford is a strong proponent of calorie restriction as a method to increasing human life.
Another promising experiment which has been popular with the public was the Biosphere Project. From 1991 to 1993, 8 men and women were locked away from the rest of the world, having to grow every bite of food, generate their own air supply and recycle all their water in this environment. Problems arose when they ran low on food. As the Biosphere team members ate less, their body statistics changed. The men lost an average of 18 percent body weight, the women 10 percent. Blood pressure fell on the average by 20%. Indicators for diabetes, such as blood sugar and insulin levels, decreased by 30 percent on average. Cholesterol level also dropped. These statistics are interesting because they are numbers associated with much younger persons than were the members of the Biosphere team.
In yet another experiment this time in the area of genetics, Dr. Cynthia Kenyon altered a gene call daf-2 in worms and proved that the gene altered worms live for a month instead of two weeks, thereby doubling the life span. It is noteworthy that these worms lived healthily and vigorously. In a parallel study of other gene altered worms, the researchers in this experiment found that their worms looked and behaved normally - they ate less, defecated less, and "wiggled more slowly when they swam" (we take this to be good). They lived longer - the equivalent of 375 human years.
Undoubtedly the life span for humans is increasing. What's more, the possibilities for further expansion is very promising. Just in the past generation alone the average life span has been increased more dramatically than in any other time in history. With new experiments abroad concerning genetics and new drugs, in addition to other ventures, we can expect this increase to increase further.
One of the best ways you will be able to successfully follow our anti-aging protocol is for you to "know the why" of aging, that is - to know the causes of aging. The reason for this is because the practice follows up on the why. This means that the practice and habits that seek to rid us of aging were formulated in direct response to the cause of aging. To illustrate the point, let us take an example. One of the actual theories of aging which we will later present is the free-radical damage theory. In brief, the theory claims that agents called free radicals cause aging by oxidizing our cells. The practice to rid and prevent this occurrence is to eat foods rich in antioxidants. In addition our diets would be supported with antioxidant supplements. The point here is that by knowing the theory the practice will become more firmly implanted in your mind. So if and when you stray in your Anti-aging habits, your mind will say, "Oops, I don't want my cells to be open to free-radical damage". Armed with this knowledge you will effectively aid yourself in staying the course set against unwanted health problems. Learning theory can best be used in this manner, and when it is, your success is more often guaranteed.
The theoretical menu of Anti-aging is fairly lengthy and seemingly diverse. Actually 12 or 13 theories exist, but currently only 5 are widely accepted. These are the free radical damage theory, the hormonal theory, the telomere theory, the genetic control theory, and the wear and tear theory. Most aging theories fall into one of two major hypothesis of thinking --1) that aging is caused from within the cells and 2) aging is caused by random events outside the cells. Some refer to these as the Programmed Theory (from within the cell) or the Accidental (or Damage) Theory (from outside the cell). Proponents of the first broad category hold that we possess genetically programmed biological clocks that tell the body or certain parts of the body that it is time to start aging. The second hypothesis contends that extrinsic factors such as stressful environments, pollution, eating or drinking toxic products causes the body to age. The hormonal and telomere theories are examples of the first broad hypothesis while the Free-radical theory can be seen to partake of both hypotheses.
Of the five theories considered here, the free radical theory and the hormone theory are both well known in the scientific and medical communities and to growing segments of the anti-aging minded population. The third theory, the telomere theory, is currently under intense scientific scrutiny and holds great promise for the future in anti-aging medicine. Two other predominant but significant theories will also be considered.
The free radical theory, arguably the most well known theory, currently enjoys great popularity not only for those interested in anti-aging, but also among professionals and nonprofessionals in the health care profession. One might say that this theory is one of the current "rages" in health care today. One of the new bywords in health care is "antioxidants". Although most people probably couldn't give an adequate account of what an antioxidant actually is, most people would probably say something like, "but I know they're good for you".
The word "antioxidant" itself is probably the first best key to opening the door of understanding to free radicals. The prefix "anti" means "against" while "oxy" means "oxygen". Together they mean "against oxygen". Most people learn by at least second or third grade that we breathe oxygen and this is a good thing because it keeps us alive. So then, why "against oxygen"?
For the answer to this question, we have to step from the world of the air we breathe down to the cellular level. As energy is generated in one cell to keep us going, waste products are produced. Since waste products consist of an unstable molecule. This is called oxygen free radicals. These free radicals, while also helpful in fighting certain infections, turn the host body against itself and begin taking a wrecking ball to neighboring cells. In order to grasp why this occurs, it's important to understand that the term free radical refers to a molecule that possesses an unpaired electron in its outer shell. Such a molecule is in a state of disorder because the conventional molecule is paired with another electron, which renders its charge neutral and gives it a stable state of existence. The molecule then resides in a state of homeostasis. An oxygen free radical molecule, on the other hand, spins wildly out of control in desperate search to yoke itself to an unpaired electron or conversely to give its electron to another molecule so a state of homeostasis can occur.
In a state of such emergency the free radical crashes into other molecules and damages cellular structures along the way. Free radicals damage cellular membranes and DNA inhibits protein production, and oxidizes or spoils fatty deposits vital to the cell and the general health of an individual. It is known that war leaves behind considerable damage in its wake, well, so do free radicals. Besides creating great pandemonium and inflicting wounds to the cells and in some cases total destruction, they leave behind a great deal of waste products that cannot always be removed. It is also known that this waste accumulates over time and festers and can later cause degenerative illness to spring up as well as lead to death. It is widely implicated in contributing to the aging process. Aging can therefore be looked as a disease from this perspective. The human life span simply reflects the level of free radical oxidative damage that accumulates in cells. When enough damage accumulates, cells can't survive properly anymore and die.
Valdimir Dilman, Ph.D. formulated this theory years ago. He believed that that our neuroendocrine system (nervous and endocrine system) forms the backbone of the aging system. Malfunction or dysfunction of this system will result in hormonal imbalance, which ultimately affect our bodily function. The hypothalamus is a small organ that is the master control of the hormonal system. Much research is therefore directed at this small walnut size gland located within the brain as the center of the aging process.
Aging according to this theory can be viewed as a series of "pauses". Female menopause reflects a pause of the female hormonal system, while male andropause reflects a pause in the male hormonal system. Similarly, a pause in the thyroid gland results in hypothyrodism, and a pause in the pituitary gland results in the deficiency of growth hormone. As we age, our various body systems enter into state of "pauses".
Hormone replacement therapy - an important secret in an anti-aging regiment - helps to reset the body's hormonal clock and thus can potentially delay the effects of aging.
The telomere theory, although the most obscure of the well-known theories, holds out great promise for age longevity. The reason for this is that the telomeres are a part of the DNA and as most people well know this is one of the most exciting, promising fields of research available to people currently. Changing or resetting the genetic clock to yield the desired result with reference to anti-aging may be one of the answers to the age-old problem of aging.
First, what is a telomere? A telomere is a sequence of amino acids that are found at the tip of the chromosome of most cells. Studies have found with each cell division, the telomere became shorter. After approximately 50 replications (The Hayflick Limit), the telomere was reduced to a mere nub. At this point the cell stopped replicating. After cessation of cellular replication, cells began to die. Current theory declares that genes previously covered by the telomere become exposed and active, producing proteins that triggered the tissue to deteriorate (the beginning of aging). It is interesting to note that sperm cells and cancer cells do not exhibit telomere loss associated with replication and death. Recent research has also disclosed that a telomere preserving enzyme called telomarase has been discovered which has the potential of increasing the Hayflick limit.
Does this imply a Telomerase Therapy in the foreseeable future? This certainly sounds promising, but wisdom maintains that current reliable methods of reducing the aging and reversing should be followed until more is solidly known, which could be many years.
This planned-obsolescence theory focuses on the genetic programming within our DNA that we inherited from our parents. According to this theory, we are born with a unique genetic code, a predetermined tendency to certain types of physical and mental function. Our genes, in essence, determine our life span.
This theory has definite merit. Recent researches have proven many genetically linked diseases. In time to come, these diseases will easily be overcome once we have deciphered our genetic code. With the advent of science, our life span is more likely to be 30% determined by our genes and 70% by our lifestyle. Until drugs are available to alter our genes, the best we can do except to have an anti-aging lifestyle is practicing what we already know that can retard the expression of such genetic code. As well, early medical detection for those with a predisposition to genetically linked illness such as Alzheimer's Disease and certain types of cancer is a must.
Dr. Weismann first formulated this theory in 1882. He believed that overuse and abuse damaged the body and its cells. Daily toxins from food insult organs such as our liver. Together with excessive consumption of fat, sugar, caffeine and other external stresses, our organs and cells begin to wear down from a cellular level, leading to cell death and organ damage.
Wear and tear can be partially compensated through a proper regimen of nutritional supplement, rest, and the use of stress reduction modalities. Used correctly, these measures can help to defer the aging process by stimulating the body's internal ability to repair its cells and organs.