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April 11, 2011

Demystifying The Human Aging Process

The Human Aging Process

Grey hair or hair loss, wrinkled sagging skin, squeaky bones and joints and weakened reflexes are just some of the results of the human aging process. As of this writing, growing old remains inevitable. Even before the time we blew our first birthday candle, the wheels of aging was already set in motion. However, we only start worrying over wrinkles and lines when we reach the age of 35 when we start seeing the symptoms. When we reach 50, most of us will not be able to deny that we are already past our prime.

The Usual Suspects of The Human Aging Process

All of us go through the human aging process. However, not one of us exactly knows why. Scientists know that to be able to defy the aging process, it must first be understood. Hence, they have come up with some theories on what are to blame for sagging skin and shrinking muscles.

Hayflick Limit Theory. This 1660’s theory suggests that the life span of human fibroblast cells in the lungs, skin, muscles and heart has an expiration date. The two scientists behind this theory infer that each of our body cell has an intrinsic genetic program that commands the cell to stop reproducing, hence, stunting the process of growth leading to deterioration and aging. Food intake is seen to be playing a vital role in cell reproduction. Overfed cells were seen to undergo more divisions than underfed ones. Some cells were altered or degenerated even before they grew to their limit. This theory points an accusatory finger to this irregular cell performance and depletion of cells in tissues and organs as the culprit to the symptoms of aging.

Free Radical Theory. While not fully blaming free radicals for the effects of aging, scientists behind this theory the believe that these molecules have a hand in speeding up cell damage. Because these molecules have an unpaired valence electron, they have the tendency to take an electron from an accessible atom so that they can become electrically balanced. As a result, another free radical is produced, further leading to a string of destruction to cells and organs. As long as we are living, it is hard to step out of free radicals’ way. Nevertheless, we can take actions that can combat its effects, like making fresh fruits and vegetables a major part of our diet, staying away from pollution and going on a regular anaerobic exercise routine.

Telomere Theory. This theory suggests that cell damage and death is a result of the reduction of the length of telomeres. These are unique kinds of chemicals that appear to have protective properties for chromosomes in our cells. They become shorter each time the cells divide, thus, diminishing their protective effects on the chromosome. As a consequence, cells get damaged and die. To prevent this from further happening, scientists are experimenting on ways to fix telomeres, hence, decelerating the human aging process.

The Glycation Theory. This theory points to glycation as another perpetrator of the human aging process. This process is a reaction between proteins and excess sugar in the body, resulting in protein damage that may further lead to the malfunction of many systems in the body. Diabetics are susceptible to damage caused by glycation due to the irregularities in their blood sugar levels. If this theory is proven, then one way to stunt the human aging process is to avoid excessive sugar intake.

Fully understanding the human aging process is the key to preserving our youth. Until we get to the bottom of the process, wrinkles will surface, hair will turn silver and we will eventually become part of the antique collection.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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