What happens when we age?
Aging is a natural process in life. Everybody goes through it. For some, it starts earlier than others. But, have you ever wondered what the main cause of aging is? Do you know what happens on a cellular level for our bodies to age?
Firstly, before understanding the process of aging, one needs to become familiar with telomeres.
What are telomeres?
Telomeres are an essential part of cells that influence in the process of aging. They can be found in the ends of DNA that protect chromosomes. They are regions of non codified DNA that are found in the extremities of chromosomes. A common analogy is to compare telomeres with the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces. Without the plastic caps, shoe laces would fray and would no longer work properly. The same happens with telomeres. Over time, they are damaged and the cells can’t function properly and die.
The main functions of the telomeres are:
The structural stability of the chromosomes in eukaryotic cells
The life span of cells
So how do telomeres influence the process of aging?
We need to understand the role that DNA plays in order to correlate the two. DNA is present in all the cells of our body. Every time a cellular division or reproduction occurs, the telomeres shorten. Over time, the telomeres have shortened in numerous occasions until they have become so short that they are unable to function properly. As a consequence, cells begin to age and stop working. Thus, the telomeres are responsible for the process of aging at a cellular level.
However, the process of aging doesn’t occur at the same rhythm for everybody. Depending on one’s lifestyle, the cells will begin to age at different paces. Factors such as stress, nutrition, exercise, smoking, and alcohol can have a direct impact on the process of aging and the development of illness related to aging. These include cardiovascular and neurodegenerative problems, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, etc.
Therefore, to avoid premature aging and the development of illness related to it, leading a healthy diet is key. Approximately 30% of aging is dependent on genetics, whilst the remaining 70% is a result of lifestyle choices. Thus, we have more power over our health and aging process than we are aware of. By leading a healthy lifestyle, we are able to prevent certain illnesses and we can delay the process of aging.
A healthy diet, exercising, reducing stress and an all round healthy lifestyle are the keys to living longer and better.