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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Aging Story Part 2: Aging & Oxidative Stress

Science

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For many of us, the word ‘aging’ evokes feelings of fear, negativity and resignation. And it’s no wonder we have such an aversion to aging as it often comes with a number of unwanted changes, both in the way we look and feel. But as you learned in The Aging Story Part 1: Biological vs. Chronological Age, maintaining a youthful look and feel as you grow older may be more realistic than was once thought.

The way in which you do so… by keeping your cells healthy.

Cellular Health and Aging

The problem is, despite your best efforts to keep you (and thus, your cells) healthy, destructive forces and a natural deterioration process happening inside the body are working against you. So even though you are promoting the health of your cells by eating a good diet, taking a multi-vitamin every now and again and engaging in regular exercise… it’s not enough.

Think of it this way. Your body is a machine and though it’s pretty amazing, it eventually wears out from repeated use. In addition to naturally becoming weathered, exposure to certain environmental and lifestyle factors can wear your cells out even faster.

What’s more, there are internal disrupters that threaten the health of your cells. That’s right, your own body is working against you. The very process of making the energy you need to survive creates harmful molecules that can damage your cells.

So… is there really anything you can do in addition to living a healthy lifestyle to protect your cells as you age?

With the number of destructive forces you are up against, along with the natural deterioration process, it would seem as though it’s a losing battle. But in fact, it’s not. There are things you can do to keep those billions of cells (that collectively make up your body) working hard well into your older years.

The first method is to minimize oxidative stress, a major culprit of cellular damage.

The second method has to do with maintaining mitochondrial health. We will save this piece for the next article in the series – Part 3: Aging & Mitochondrial Health.

For now, let’s take a look at the oxidative stress piece.

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Battling Against Oxidative Stress

New research has provided insight as to how things like pollution, sunlight, emotional stress and metabolism deteriorate your cells.

Here’s a rundown of the main points –

Destructive influences, like those mentioned above, place stress on the body by increasing the cells exposure to free radicals. And while the body needs free radicals in small amounts, having too many around can be disruptive.

Essentially, once the production of free radicals exceeds the body’s ability to counteract their potentially damaging effects, a state of imbalance is reached. This is called oxidative stress and it’s believed to be one of the major culprits behind the deterioration of cellular health.

Therefore, keeping your exposure to sources of free radicals to a minimum and boosting your internal defense system can help to maintain the health of your cells as you age. And the healthier your cells, the more likely you are to preserve your youthful look and feel.

Here’s the bullet point version –

  • You are exposed to a number of things that can increase the level of free radicals in your body.
  • When the level of these molecules becomes so high that your internal defense system can no longer provide adequate protection against them (referred to as oxidative stress), the cells are damaged.
  • Damaged cells are unable to function at their best.
  • Increased exposure to excessive free radicals over your lifetime (leading to damaged cells) can accelerate the aging process.
  • Minimizing your exposure to sources of free radicals and building up your internal defense system can promote the health of your cells as you age – helping you to look and feel young as you get older.

Check out Part 3: Aging & Mitochondrial Health. This article covers another factor that can interrupt cellular health – the disruption of mitochondrial function. Specifically, you’ll learn about how the mitochondria (important structures within your cells) work to keep your cells healthy and what happens when they are unable to carry out their day-to-day tasks.

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