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Causes of Aging

The ABCs of Aging

What is aging?  Simply stated it can be defined as a decline in ability, balance and/or capacity.  I call it the ABCs of aging.  Ability is the measure of physical and cognitive performance.  Loss of ability leads to a loss of the functions of daily living and independence.  You may no longer be able to climb stairs, and instead require an elevator.  Getting up and down from a chair may become challenging, at best.  Once enjoyable activities, such as golf or tennis, may become too painful or even impossible.

A loss of balance can develop at a number of levels in life.  At the smallest level, the cellular level, we can experience imbalances in cellular function.  If your doctor checks your blood and tells you that your potassium level is low, your hormones are out of balance, or that a liver enzyme is elevated, that represents a cellular imbalance.  At the next level, the system level, we can experience imbalances as well.  You may develop problems with your cardiovascular system, musculoskeletal system, or immune system for instance. It might become difficult to maintain your physical balance, literally, a frequent cause of falls and premature death in the elderly.  At the highest level, we can experience imbalance in the dimensions of our being - physically, mentally and/or spiritually.

Finally, aging can result from a loss of capacity - reserve capacity.  In the first few formative, developmental decades of life, we build reserves in all of our body systems to help us resist the slings and arrows of life, such as trauma and infections.  Young children are prone to all sorts of infections until the immune system matures and develops the capacity to resist infections.  Likewise, children frequently break bones until the musculoskeletal system matures.  It is as though a fountain is in you.  The fountain is a reservoir to hold something - immune capacity, muscle capacity, neurological capacity, bone density, hormone levels, and so on.  When the reservoirs are full during our 20s and 30s, we feel invincible.  We have reserve capacity and are more resilient to trauma and infections.  If the reservoirs begin to dry up and lose reserves (capacity), as happens after another two or three decades, that is if we arent proactive, we become susceptible once again to disease and injury, lacking resilience. Who is more likely to contract infections, break bones, and develop cancers?  The young and the old do - when reserves and capacity are lower.

Biological Pathways to Aging

In the course of discussing aging and our opportunities to do something about aging, it is important to understand the fundamental biological mechanisms underlying the inevitable declines in ability, balance, and capacity.  Lets address the most important theories for the pathways to biological aging.

The phenomenon known as aging is a result of pathological changes that are somewhat controllable through healthy lifestyle choices and existing technologies.  Most of them share one thing in common - lifestyle and environment play a major role in their expression, development, and progression.  Fortunately, that implies that they are also amenable to personal intervention.  Here are some of the underlying culprits involved in pathological aging:

●    Oxidative Stress
●    Silent (Chronic) Inflammation
●    Telomere - shortening and DNA Damage / mutation
●    Environmental Toxicity
●    Hormone Imbalance