Four Reasons We Age & Our Defense Against Them

You can slow down your aging process and help stave off heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Here are four theories on the causes of aging and your defense against them.
free radicals

Free radicals are chemically unstable molecules that attack your cells and damage your DNA. Free radicals disrupt the normal production of DNA and RNA and alter the lipids, or fats, in cell membranes. They also damage cells lining blood vessels and interfere with the production of prostaglandins, which are derived from essential fatty acids and regulate many physiological functions. Partly as a result of free radical damage, aging leads to alteration of proteins (cross-linking). Proteins are complex chains of amino acids that bend into three-dimensional structures. Cross-linking takes place when attachments are formed along the chain in abnormal places, disrupting the protein's function. This leads to poor cell membrane performance in molecular transport, decreased enzyme activity, and inhibition of immune function. The total effect is a variable rate of decline depending on the level of exposure to free radicals.

Defense: The body produces essential antioxidant defenses internally. Enzymes that control free radicals include superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase, and catalase, as well as other molecules such as cholesterol, steroid hormones and sulfur-containing amino acids that neutralize free radicals. It is also possible to choose many nutrients in both foods and supplements that help fight free radicals...

Most free radical protection involves eating a better diet, exercising, maintaining a clean environment both internally and externally, and reducing stress, in addition to taking dietary supplements.

Eating better means eating whole, organic foods whenever possible and avoiding processed foods, charred foods, trans fats and artificial chemicals used for preservation, coloring and flavoring. Exercising increases production of free radical-scavenging enzymes, which protect the body from the increased oxygen-related stress associated with a higher respiratory rate. A clean environment means avoiding excessive exposures to toxic air pollution, cigarette smoking, chemicals such as solvents and industrial waste that leach into water supplies, harsh cleaning and cosmetic chemicals, heavy metals, unnecessary medications, and pesticides. Pesticides can generate free radicals, and many also mimic hormones and can disrupt the normal hormonal balance. Stress increases the metabolic rate and alters hormonal balance, which also generates free radicals.

More Defense: High antioxidant foods such as prunes, blueberries, cinnamon, cloves, sunflower seeds, lemons, beans, broccoli, grapes, garlic, pomegranate, leafy greens. Foods high in vitamins A, E, and C. Supplements such as pycnogenol, grape seed extract, coenzyme Q10, and milk thistle. Drinks such as green, white tea, pomegranate juice, and green smoothies.
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Medical researchers are becoming increasingly convinced that the most primitive part of the immune system, usually the body's first defense against infection and injury, may play a crucial role in some of the most devastating afflictions of modern humans, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and possibly Alzheimer's.

According to a theory that has been steadily gaining ground in recent years, the immune system reaction commonly known as inflammation has a troublesome tendency to go awry. While inflammation's familiar manifestations, such as the redness of an infected cut or a raw sore throat, are unpleasant, the reaction is crucial to survival. It unleashes powerful immune cells, enzymes and other chemicals to fend off viruses, bacteria and other invaders, and to coax wounds to heal. But inflammation can misfire, or fire far too long, and evidence has been mounting that this "inflammation theory" of disease may cut across what are usually unrelated fields of medicine.

Through his research, Dr. Perricone concluded that inflammation is the single greatest precipitator of aging and age-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, arthritis, certain forms of cancer, as well as wrinkled, sagging skin.

Inflammation, which takes place on a cellular level, is triggered by a wide variety of external factors such as the ingestion of toxins (i.e. cigarette), a weakened immune system, excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation, hormonal changes, stress and eating a pro-inflammatory diet (high glycemic carbohydrates). By controlling inflammation we minimize disease and maintain skin's health and youthfulness.

Being overweight causes excess inflammation in the body.

Defense: Foods such as ginger, olive oil, turmeric, burdock, omega 3's, vitamin C high foods, avocado, garlic, cruciferious vegetables, berries, leafy greens, flax seeds, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, and olives. Drinks such as green tea. Supplements such as MSM and Boswellia.
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Glycation is what happens when sugar mixes with proteins and fats to form molecules that promote aging. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are thought to accelerate your aging process by churning out free radicals and promoting inflammation. 

The basis of the Glycation Theory of Aging is that our DNA and certain proteins cross-link to each other over time.  There are several ways by which these proteins cross-link, but the one this theory focuses on is glycation, also known as glycosylation.  During glycation, glucose molecules stick to proteins and create a molecule called advanced glycosylation endproduct (AGE).  When the AGEs stick to other proteins, they can cause abnormal cross-links between the proteins.  These abnormal cross-links reduce elasticity in the proteins.

The main problem cross-linked proteins cause in relation to aging is a breakdown in tissues that weaken structures within our body.  This process can affect everything from brain tissue to skin elasticity.  It has also been linked to protein clumps in Alzheimer’s patients.

One way to avoid ingesting AGEs is to turn down the heat when you cook. The browning effect of high-heat cooking causes these molecules to form. Limiting your intake of sugar-filled foods in general will also help.

: Items for glycation include l-carnosine, alpha lipoic acid, benfotiamine and yerba mate.
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Stress initiates the release of a variety of hormones that make your pulse race and cause your blood pressure to rise. The hormone cortisol, released to lessen these effects, also creates problems when it remains chronically elevated. Try practicing relaxation techniques to help manage stress, and get enough sleep every night.

Defense: Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, herbs such as ashwagandha & tulsi. 

Aging of Your Body  

  • Heart Aging: The heart muscle thickens with age as a response to the thickening of the arteries. This thicker heart has a lower maximum pumping rate.
  • Immune System Aging: T cells take longer to replenish in older people and their ability to function declines.
  • Arteries and Aging: Arteries usually to stiffen with age, making it more difficult for the heart to pump blood through them.
  • Lung Aging: The maximum capacity of the lungs may decrease as much as 40 percent between ages 20 and 70.
  • Brain Aging: As the brain ages, some of the connections between neurons seem to be reduced or less efficient. This is not yet well understood.
  • Kidney Aging: The kidneys become less efficient at cleaning waste from the body.
  • Bladder Aging: The total capacity of the bladder declines and tissues may atrophy, causing incontinence.
  • Body Fat and Aging: Body fat increases until middle age and then weight typically begins to decrease. The body fat also moves deeper in the body as we age.
  • Muscle Aging: Muscle tone declines about 22 percent by age 70, though exercise can slow this decline.
  • Bone Aging: Starting at age 35, our bones begin to lose density. Walking, running and resistance training can slow this process.
  • Sight and Aging: Starting in the 40s, difficulty seeing close detail may begin.
  • Hearing and Aging: As people age, the ability to hear high frequencies declines.

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