Can we fight the signs of aging or is it just an inevitable part of life? The answers to both of these questions are ‘yes’. In my last post, I discussed our true desire as we age. We aren’t looking just for a longer life, but we’re looking for a longer, healthier life. This is the difference between healthspan and lifespan. Aging is inevitable, but we can influence how fast and how aggressive the signs of aging come on and thereby improving quality of life.
What is happening in the body as we age?
- Altered intercellular communication = inefficient communication from one cell to the other that can contribute to decline in tissue health.
- Genomic instability = when genes start to get damaged faster than they get repaired, this contributes to unhealthy cell development, decline of DNA repair, epigenetic alterations, cancer cell formation and much more.
- Stem cell exhaustion = stem cells play 2 major roles: providing new cells for the body as old ones are lost and replacing cells that are damaged. Stem cells are the body’s raw materials. Stem cell exhaustion refers to a decline in stem cells production and compromised renewal capacity. This can lead to osteoporosis, decreased intestinal function, loss of muscle mass, weaken immune system and so on…
- Cellular senescence = when cells reach a terminal stage at which they cease to divide, they can become dysfunctional at this point. Overtime, all cells will eventually stop dividing and become dysfunctional. However, if it happens too fast and too aggressively, especially if there is DNA damage, some degree of telomere shortening occurs and cell division becomes inefficient. This results in these cells becoming senescent cells much sooner. Senescent cells are unique in that they eventually stop multiplying but don’t die off when they should. They instead remain and continue to release chemicals that can trigger inflammation. Senescent cells can help with some degree of cancer protection and some degree of tissue damage and repair; however, they lose their body benefits when senescence occurs in accelerated patterns that are involved with aging.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction = when mitochondria, often referred to as the powerhouse of the cell, cannot produce energy anymore or cannot get energy from food efficiently, this can lead to the loss of resiliency and the inability to recover.
- Deregulated nutrient sensing = dysfunction occurring in the mechanisms that help the body control appetite, insulin secretion, the growth hormone/oestrogen/progesterone production, and mitochondrial function. An example causing this dysfunction is too much food consumption which can impair nutrient sensing causing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is linked to all kinds of unwanted aging symptoms and even chronic disease.
- Loss of proteostasis = dysfunctional protein synthesis, degradation, and clearance.
- Epigenetic alterations = the messages from genes that are expressed are not efficient.
- Telomere attrition = the little caps of the chromosomes are shortened.
What accelerates the aging process?
Throughout life, different environmental exposures can create changes that can damage your DNA, change how your genes express, and can shorten your telomeres. A normal healthy cell can then become senescent or dysfunctional. Instead, they get exhausted, and you end up with lots of ‘debris.’ All of these ‘garbage dead cells’ can accumulate over time and the immune system has to get rid of it. This is called inflamm-aging which is the body’s ability to get rid of all these cellular debris. If you have an increase of injury to your tissues, you’ve experienced more toxic exposures and your body responds by increasing inflammation, you will have more ‘garbage cells’ in your body. The more garbage cells you have, the more prone you would be for inflamm-aging. All these mechanisms can start to impact your genes and your physiology where you start getting chronic inflammation and accelerated aging. You can then end up with multiple chronic diseases, one following another after another as you go through the aging process.
As a functional nutritionist, I have the tools to address these issues and can resource you to work on changing the expression of these hallmarks of aging to increase your health span.
What can I do to slow the effects of aging?
The following list includes factors that you and I can influence and take action on to slow the negative effects of aging and improve our healthspan.
- Muscle mass and strength
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Alcohol consumption
- Environmental toxins
- Social relationships
- Sense of purpose
What is resiliency and how is it tied to healthy aging?
When you look at the science that has studied individuals that are 100 and above, there is one key thing they have in common, they have retained their resiliency. Resiliency is defined as the ability to bounce back after a stressful event or adversity in life. Below are areas of resiliency that we can look to improve together.
- Pathogen Resiliency = ability to coordinate an immune response
- Immune resiliency = ability to maintain immune cells
- Microbiome resiliency = ability to change bacteria population and post-biotics
- Stress response resiliency = ability to maintain physiological homeostasis under stress
- Psychological resiliency = ability to maintain positive mood and relationships
- Cognitive resiliency = ability to handle cognitive challenges and cognitive endurance
- Thermal resiliency = ability to handle cold or hot temperature
- Toxicological resiliency = ability to quench and metabolise toxicants
- Dietary resiliency = ability to tolerate dietary foods
- Inflammatory resiliency = ability to proportionally respond to inflammatory triggers
- Sleep resiliency = ability to fall and stay asleep
My role as a functional nutritionist would be to try to identify breakdowns of the physiological resiliencies listed above and work together to restore it. Fill out my contact form to start a conversation about how we can increase your healthspan.
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