The Biology of Aging
We used to think that the aging process is inevitable and that age-related diseases cannot be prevented or reversed. Indeed, in conventional medicine, we don’t analyze blood tests with the purpose of helping patients slow down the effects of aging. We are looking at bringing your lab values back to a normal acceptable range that keeps you alive.
Today, as we understand better the biology of aging, we can do much more than surviving, we can have quality of life for many more years.
Old age has been historically associated with illness, and it doesn’t have to be. There are actions we can take to delay the onset of age-related diseases and to extend our life span.
The earlier in life we start focusing on the lifestyles and supplements that help us towards these goals, the better.
What has science discovered about the physiology of aging?
The newest anti-aging treatments target cellular health. We are made of trillions of cells that duplicate to create new cells, the ongoing process that maintains our lives.
In the aging process and the development of certain illnesses, we have found that “Senescent cells” play a very important.
Each cell in our body is a mini factory. It contains our DNA sequence and uses it as a blueprint to create new cells. This continuous production of new cells keeps us alive and healthy.
Senescent cells, on the other hand, are old cells with damaged DNA who have lost their capacity to create new cells.
When senescent cells stay stagnant in our system, they produce inflammatory substances that lead to illness. They play a major role in increasing the onset and the course of cancer, diabetes type 2, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and even cataracts and macular degeneration.
Alzheimer’s disease is an example of the effects of senescent cells. As they cumulate in the brain, senescent cells secrete toxic substances that affect other healthy cells and propagate the disease.
Removing Senescent Cells
Research has been focusing on ways to remove these senescent cells with interventions and supplements coined as “senolytics”.
We are currently looking at different drugs and antibiotics to potentially remove senescent cells.
Meanwhile, studies have shown that caloric restriction helps with the process of removing senescent, which led to promote Intermittent Fasting as a way to regenerate the cells.
Quercetin, a supplement that has been recommended for many years after these initial studies, also supports anti-aging through the same mechanism.
Anti-aging treatments have mainly aimed at replenishing the body from the substances that become depleted as we age. Whether we are replacing nutrients or hormones, we are essentially adding more fuel and more years to the body. These interventions, along with healthy diet, exercise, and stress prevention, are the basics in reversing the effects of aging.
We are now taking it a step further by observing the multiple benefits of newer treatments such as NAD and Oxygen therapy, which are also preventing the accumulation of senescent cells.
These treatments essentially contribute to slow down the aging process by acting on different components that make up our cells, such as telomeres and mitochondria, and they are thought to have an effect on our stem cells.
Here is how Telomere shortening, Mitochondrial dysfunction, and aging Stem Cells are all involved in age-related disease.
Telomeres are the end-caps of our chromosomes and they protect our DNA. Telomeres become shorter each time a cell divides. After some time, they become too short for the cell to continue dividing and they turn into senescent cells which eventually start causing health issues. In fact, your biological age is mainly determined by the length of your telomeres. The longer your telomeres, the younger and healthier you are.
Many advanced approaches are being developed to efficiently increase the telomere length and to protect cells from chromosome shortening.
There is an enzyme called “telomerase” that helps prevent telomeres from becoming too short. Some supplements help boost Telomerase and therefore may increase the length of telomeres over time.
Interestingly, studies involving groups of monks and long term meditators have shown increases in telomere length.
Mitochondria are the powerhouse in our cells, the place where the molecules of energy are produced. Mitochondria are organelles that produce ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate), the energy molecule that plays a central role in cellular processes. Mitochondrial dysfunction means less efficient energy production, and it directly affects our energy levels, metabolism, and general health.
In fact, there have been many studies suggesting a direct relationship between mitochondrial dysfunction and stem cell aging. So Mitochondria are involved in the aging process. We commonly use CoQ10 to support mitochondrial function, but we can also boost our mitochondria through lifestyle and breathing exercises.
Stem cells are remarkable in the sense that have the ability to differentiate into all cell types. We also believe that stem cells contribute to cell repair and damaged tissues and organ regeneration.
However, the aging process has a deleterious effect on stem cells which plays an essential role in the development of various aging-associated diseases. While stem cell treatments are restricted due to the potential development of cancer cells, the use of growth factors contained in our own blood can assist tissue repair in injuries. We also encourage holistic ways to preserve stem cells through supplementation, exercise, intermittent fasting, and meditation.
Health is key determinant of Happiness and we need to act on preserving it by reversing the effects of unhealthy past behaviors, and the negative effects of aging.
Several alternative approaches such as supplementation, oxygen therapy, breathwork and meditation have shown results in improving quality of life, levels of energy, resistance to illness, and the reduction of many symptoms. Therefore they all play an important role in anti-aging medicine.
I encourage you to start reversing the effects of aging by joining the Breathing program we recently released on Highbe.org. It is a short and simple practice that anyone can include in their busy schedule, yet the results are immediate and sustainable.
In Vibrant Health,
Evelyne Leone, DO, FAARM, ABBARM