What sounds like a simple question is in fact a puzzling question that has been subject to a lot of research. The fact of ageing may be an inevitability at present, but there is numerous question around the rate at which we age, and why some people seem to stay younger for longer, or even live to an extended age. Myths of immortality has been around for as long as humans have walked the earth. The famous story of the fountain of youth has existed across decades and civilizations, suggesting an innate human desire for immortality. Whispers of this have come under the spotlight recently, with advances in science bringing immortality ever closer to the horizon.
There are 2 main theories around the science of ageing. The first is the theory that our genetics determine how long we live. In our genes it is hypothesized that there are instructions telling our bodies how long it should live. The other theory is that our DNA gets damaged over time until it can no longer repair itself. Most scientist seem to agree on a combination of the 2 theories in determining the way, and rate at which we age as there has been evidence pointing to both camps being right.
The first theory isn’t something that we can personally change and alter about us…yet. Gene editing technologies like CRISPER, or gene repairing nano bots might bring this closer to reality however. Our DNA has a protective layer called telomerers that shorten every time they replicate, until they are no longer able to replicate and die. The oldest recorded human in existence is Jeanne Calment who lived to be 122 years old.
Even though there isn’t much we can currently do to alter the first theory, the second which includes environmental factors that affect our ageing can be altered here and now. When it comes to visible ageing or the appearance of age, the sun seems to be a large factor. In fact studies have shown the sun to be responsible for up to 80% of visible ageing. In fact, getting a sunburn is an indicator that your DNA has been damaged, and mutated by Ultraviolet Light(UV). The hottest topic in visible ageing now has moved away from UV and is looking at air pollution, especially in cities. Age spots on the skin have been shown to increase up to 25% just from a little bit of air pollution. This makes taking care of our skin important, especially if you don’t want to wear pollution on your skin. Have a good cleaning, and moisturizing routine is simple a must if you want your skin to stay looking youthful.
This poisonous air is also responsible premature deaths due to lung and heart diseases, it has even been linked to diabetes. Visible ageing is only one part of this equation, the ageing that happens inside our bodies, though not as immediately visible will have a larger effect on our health. There are a multitude of toxins in our air, water, food, and products that can cause damage to our DNA causing rapid ageing, and the growth of cancers. Toxins such as free radicals cause changes in your bodies molecules and cells, which drive their decline. Our lifestyle choices such as exercise, and diet play a big part in this.
Past the age of 50 we start to lose 1-2% of muscle each year, and by consequence strength. This lose begins at around 30, and can be kept in check by regular strength training. High intensity interval training (HIIT) has been shown by studies to be the most effective form of exercise at decreasing ageing. HIIT training involves short intense bouts of exercise, followed by slower rest periods before ramping up intensity again, rinse and repeat. This form of exercise has been demonstrated to stop ageing on a cellular level. Ideally you’ll want a combination of the 2 plus stretching in order to maintain your bodies suppleness and reduce injury. This works by allowing your body to move through a greater range of motion while unimpeded. This evidence can easily be seen in the elderly as their lack of flexibility often leads to injuries as they overstretch. Combine with proper nutrition, and you’ll be able to greatly reduce the effects of ageing.
As our understanding of the mechanisms of ageing accelerates so will our understanding of the ability to delay this process increase. Right now we already know of harmful, and helpful lifestyle choices for us to avoid and embrace in order to maintain our health and happiness.