In infancy and childhood, we can fairly accurately predict physical growth and development at different ages and stages. But with increasing age there is no uniform timetable. Chronological age isn’t necessarily a good indicator of how someone will look, feel, or function in the world. Studies of Werner syndrome, a premature aging disease, can provide information about the genetic process of normal aging. Werner Syndrome causes many diseases and symptoms that usually appear with age, including: hair graying, skin changes, cataracts, diabetes, vascular disease, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
o Programmed aging theories are based on the assumption that senescence or old age sets in when a predetermined finite number of cell divisions or heartbeats have occurred.
o Somatic mutation theory suggests that chromosomal changes arise from genetic and DNA miscoding, translation errors, hydrolysis, irradiation, and spontaneous replication of errors.
o The error catastrophe theory blames defective enzymes for disrupting cell function and actually causing errors in the translation of the genetic codes for protein synthesis.
o Free radical theory suggests that the oxidation of lipids, proteins, fats and carbohydrates as well as environmental toxins leads to the formation of oxygen species with an extra charge of electrons known as “free radicals”.
o Cross-linking theory claims that cross-linking (which occurs in proteins, DNA and lipids through exposure to environmental and dietary components) actually changes the properties of the tissues of body organs such as collagen and elastin, which then become less and less pliable elastic, which leads to gross changes in the skin, artery walls, the musculoskeletal system and the lens of the eye.
o Cybernetic theory suggests that the central nervous system accelerates aging due to changes in the endocrine system and hypothalamus, affecting the rate of production of thyroid hormone, adrenal cortex steroid and the Parkinson’s disease-associated hormone dopamine.
o Long-term and cross-sectional studies do not support theories that suggest a “normal” or “general” rate of human aging. Studies on identical twins have shown large discrepancies in lifespans. Interestingly, however, there appear to be large differences in the rate of aging between men and women.
While aging is inevitable, it’s not how we look, feel, and deal with it as we age. Aging affects each of us at different rates and in different ways. Even within the same individual, each organ and organ system ages differently, influenced by genetics, environment, lifestyle, attitudes, social networks, spiritual connections, and overall health and well-being. With the right combination of lifestyle ingredients, we can be truly strong, healthy, vibrant and dynamic at any age.
The 12 warning signs of health
In the spring of 2003, a local newsletter for school health workers printed an article by District II Health Department Karen Armitage in which she created the following list (paraphrased) of 12 health warning signs.
1. Consistency of a supportive network.
2. Chronically positive expectations, tendency to shape events constructively.
3. Episodic peak experiences.
4. Evidence of increasing spiritual growth.
5. Increased awareness of the present moment.
6. Tendency to adapt to changing conditions.
7. Quick reaction and recovery when faced with challenges.
8. Increased appetite for physical activity.
9. Tendency to identify and communicate feelings.
10. Repeated episodes of gratitude and joy.
11. Compulsion to contribute to society.
12. Persistent sense of humor.
One final warning
If five or more of these indicators are present, then your complete health may be at risk.
Thanks to Erica Goodstone, Ph.D.