Are We Aging Ourselves to Death?
By Peter Ragnar, EnlightenNext
While the hands of the clock spin the same for all, not all of us age the same. I’ve often said, “Time is not toxic.” “Outrageous!” you may retort. “Look at your face and body a decade from now and say the same thing!” But what is often overlooked is that negative aging is nothing but physical deterioration. This basically means you’ve got to get sick before you can die, and to get sick, you’ve got to deprive your body of its essential elements of life. And this deprivation must begin long in advance of the onset of illness.
This loss is much like today’s modern farming practices, which deprive the soil of needed minerals and organic matter. In essence, it’s not farming but mining. While debate rages over what essential elements are most important, anti-aging medicine and theoretical gerontology agree that the rapid decline of anabolic hormones is a leading cause in the development of old age.
Stress, as an example, is catabolic. When stress hormones prevail, cell proliferation and tissue growth are retarded. A cell cannot defend itself and grow at the same time. One process must prevail, and environmental conditions must match as well. By that I mean you cannot physically prosper under the burden of oversecretion of stress hormones. As one small example, look at how rapidly our presidents age after just a few years in office.
In fact, age-related changes do not occur at the same rate or intensity in all individuals. There’s an exciting new book on the market, The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner, that explores pockets of longevity and youthfulness around the world–places where folks live as if they are ageless. When we observe the similarities, we find common threads among them: relaxed lifestyle, fresh air, exercise, and healthy food. It’s an obvious contradiction to our harried, stressed lifestyles, with stale indoor air, lethargic habits, and fast food. We do not all age at the same rate simply because the clock ticks. Time is not toxic.
So what happened to that vital young adult so filled with energy and zest for living? One thing is certain in the minds of endocrinologists: it has to do with a decline in anabolic hormones. Hormones like DHEA, growth hormone, melatonin, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and others decline from the youthful peaks that occur in our early twenties. Well, doesn’t the same thing happen in longevity pockets around the globe as well? Yes, but to a much slower degree.
Take a man or woman with low stress and a vigorous lifestyle, be it working in the field picking tea leaves or making wine. Lifestyles with plenty of exercise are anabolic. In our modern society, just going to the gym for a workout will raise the level of secretion of human growth hormone and testosterone and will allow for a good night’s sleep, which entails melatonin as well as other vital hormones.
Recent studies at the Yale University School of Medicine indicate that estrogen replacement therapy can prevent heart disease by fifty to seventy percent. In our modern culture, that could save half a million women’s lives. And look at how many people who suffer from age-related Alzheimer’s disease could be saved, for example, if the studies on DHEA prove correct. Alzheimer’s sufferers were found to have forty-eight percent less DHEA in their blood. When ovarian production of DHEA slows with menopause, the drop in DHEA leads to osteoporosis. DHEA also increases testosterone production, which halts andropause in men. Why don’t seniors have the same strength and lean muscle mass they had in their athletic prime? Again, hormones. It has been proven over and over that by increasing your human growth hormone production, you can take at least twenty years off your biological age. Yes, you’ll reverse the fat-to-muscle ratio and appear younger–and stay younger–longer.
So are we aging ourselves to death? I suppose it’s based on how you live and who you are. I think our unquestioned belief in aging and death is killing us by draining us dry, not only of hormones but of spirit. Aging: A Natural History, a book by Robert Ricklefs and Caleb Finch, states, “Next to the miracle of life itself, aging and death are perhaps the greatest mysteries.” Yes, aging appears a mystery, because science can’t find a single reason for it except gross neglect for a lifetime. That’s the only way to age yourself to death.
From my personal perspective, each day as I get younger, stronger, and more vital, I’ll thank the role that supplying the essential elements of longevity plays in youthfulness. You do not need to age yourself to death; perhaps, in the words of Ray Kurzweil, you can “live long enough to live forever.”