Theories on aging have been around as long as there have been people who age. We have pondered the questions repeatedly. What is really the method by which we age? Is aging a disease process? Do diet, nutrition, or air pollutants affect aging? Do our habits and the way we handle ourselves make a difference? What makes us age faster than other people? Bringing together other physicians to form the Longevity Institute International, we worked to develop solutions to overcome disease and disability. We also sought to discover ways to promote being healthy for as long as possible, and to find ways of prolonging life.
The Four Basic Theories of Aging:
- The Free Radical
- The Wear and Tear
- The Neuroendocrine
THE FREE RADICAL THEORY OF AGING
The Free Radical Theory of Aging states that every time you consume something, you generate what is called Free Radicals. There is a structure in the cell called the mitochondrion, which is a powerhouse to the cell. When you take in food sources, the mitochondrion generates energy and, as a by-product, it gives off an oxygen ion with a negative charge that is called a free radical. This free radical is a scavenger. It looks around and says, 3I1m going to bombard the muscle cells and cause atrophy. I1m going to bombard the brain cells and cause such things as Parkinson1s disease and Alzheimer1s.2 In essence, free radicals are powerful elements that bombard the cell membranes. When these membranes get holes poked in them, the fat in the cell membrane becomes rancid and builds up toxins in our bodies.
The body fights back, refusing to just give in to the barrage of free radical assaults. It recognizes the need for fortification and calls upon the enzymes and other chemicals called antioxidants. Then the war is on between the robbers of the body the free radicals and the antioxidant police force.
Antioxidants are one of the major weapons against free radical aging. They give up electrons to free radicals, so that the free radical can1t damage us. Each cell in the human body is bombarded about 10,000 times a day by free radicals. Since this bombardment occurs day after day after day, over the course of time, it damages the cells and the DNA so much that it turns on those genes which cause us to age and to develop diseases associated with aging, such as diabetes and arthritis.
THE WEAR AND TEAR THEORY OF AGING
The Wear and Tear Theory of Aging states that the body does its best with what we put in our mouths. However, as we grow older, our body chemistry changes. Because the stomach can1t absorb as it once could, the liver has to give up some enzymes. The liver then borrows enzymes from the gall bladder. Because the gall bladder is overworking in a way it shouldn1t, it has to borrow from the bones, causing osteoporosis because of calcium depletion. The body ends up overusing and working overtime in a way it wasn1t meant to do, accelerating the aging process.
Taking vitamins and supplements to ease the overuse and overworking of your body is one way to upset the Wear and Tear Theory of Aging. However, this is an area where a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Anytime you take vitamins or supplements, you must make sure they are in a form that your body can use. The only way to upset the Wear and Tear Theory of Aging is to understand what supplements you should be taking, and when and how you should be taking it. Vitamins, minerals, and supplements have to be in a form that the body can absorb.
THE NEUROENDOCRINE THEORY OF AGING
The Neuroendocrine theory says as we get older, our production of many hormones is significantly reduced. One of the hormones that really affect our lives is growth hormone. Growth hormone is a production of the anterior pituitary and affects everything in the body. After it is secreted, it passes from the pituitary to the liver, changing to insulin growth factor one (IGF-1). IGF-1 factor goes all over the body to reverse some of the first signs and symptoms we see in aging. It affects brain cells, hair color, and even cellulite.
In addition, growth hormone, a peptide secreted by the anterior pituitary, is greatly affected. The critical aspect of growth hormone is that beyond the ages of 20&Mac220;25 it decreases every decade about 14 percent. Consequently, every decade thereafter, there is a continual reduction in energy and stamina levels, affecting the body's ability to fight the aging process. With aging, there is not only a decrease of growth hormone, but there is also an increase in the production of a substance called somatostatin, which is a blocker to growth hormone. In order to block somatostatin, we can add an amino acid called arginine, which actually takes away the blocker and allows the production of your own growth hormone to be more effective. Once, growth hormone shots were not only expensive, but could have some serious side affects if used unwisely. Recently a new host of all natural stimulants to growth hormone have been added to the anti-aging regimen. These new products work in a natural and safe manner to help fight the neuroendocrine decline of our advancing years.
Human Growth Hormone, more commonly known as HGH, is the ultimate anti-aging therapy. It affects almost every cell in the body, rejuvenating the skin and bones, regenerating the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys, bringing organ and tissue function back to youthful levels. It is an anti-disease medicine that revitalizes the immune system, lowers the risk factors for heart attack and stroke, improves oxygen uptake in emphysema patients, and prevents osteoporosis. It is under investigation for a host of different diseases from osteoporosis to post-polio syndrome to AIDS. It is also the most effective anti-obesity drug ever discovered, revving up the metabolism to youthful levels, resculpting the body by selectively reducing the fat in the waist, abdomen, hips and thighs, and at the same time increasing muscle mass. It may be plastic surgery in a bottle, smoothing out facial wrinkles; restoring the elasticity, thickness, and contours of youthful skin.
GENETIC THEORY OF AGING
The Genetic Theory of Aging is currently on the cutting edge of science. The mapping of the human genome is going to be the greatest breakthrough in the history of medicine. The ultimate goal of genome research is to find all the genes in the DNA sequence and to develop tools for using this information in the study of human biology and medicine. This will not only allow us to study why Parkinson1s, Alzheimer1s, diabetes, cancer, and other diseases occur, but will also give us the means of altering the DNA in such a way so that we can prevent those diseases from happening. In essence, when the types of diseases listed above are eradicated, human life will be extended astronomically.
The big breakthrough we are going to see, however, is in the substance called telomerase. Telomerase is a substance which controls cell divisions. Every cell in the body is programmed for roughly 70 cell divisions. As the body ages and the cell approaches what is known as the Hayflick limit, which is the maximum number of times the cell can divide, the aging gene is ignited and programs cell death or apoptosis.
This is similar to the oil light going on in your car. If the oil light comes on, it tells the driver that oil needs to be added. If no oil is added to your engine, it will overheat and, eventually, grind to a screeching halt. The same thing is true with the cells in your body. The age light goes on and tells the cell, "You are going to start aging."
At the time of Julius Caesar, the average life expectancy was 25 years old. At the turn of the 20th century, it was 47 years old. Now, life expectancy is between 75 to 77 years old. There are approximately 70,000 people in the United States today who are around 100 years old. By the year 2050, due to genomic research, scientists foresee between 2.4 and 4 million people living beyond the age of 100. We are in the midst of a miraculous break-through in anti-aging and longevity medicine. Scientific information regarding anti-aging and longevity is doubling every 2.7 to 3 years. That not only means that what we know today will be outmoded in 3 years, it also means that viable scientific knowledge in this field will be doubled in that same time period.
Dr. James Barber completed his Plastic Surgery training at the University of Texas. Dr. Barber is a Spiro award winner for excellence in Plastic Surgery and is an honorary co-chairman of the Physicians Advisory Board of Congress. He is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging medicine, a sought after speaker and author of The Forever Factor, New Horizon Communications, 2003. Visit Dr. Barber at www.foreverfactor.com.