What are primary biological pathways to aging? Most age-related changes are caused by seven main processes as we age. These processes are as follows.
The seven pathways to aging
- Glycation—the cross-linking of proteins, caused by elevated and poorly controlled blood glucose levels.
- Increased inflammatory processes—resulting from abnormal balances of exotic-sounding intracellular and extracellular compounds. These compounds include good and bad eicosanoids (prostaglandins), leukotrienes, cytokines, and thromboxanes. These are categories of age-accelerating compounds, which appear mainly as a result of the actions of free radicals, this why antioxidants are so important!
- Decreased antioxidant activity— Insufficient intake and balance of extrinsic antioxidants, as well as decreasing intrinsic antioxidant supplies, can inhibit the action of free radicals.
- Altered gene expression— can be a result of improper methylation, acetylation and phosphorylation of DNA. These processes determine which genes are turned on or turned off, affecting DNA masking and, therefore, gene expression. This is a process called epigenetics.
- Changes in the cell membranes and the intracellular environment— Ie: pH levels, cell hydration and accumulation of cellular waste products can all result in in suboptimal protein turnover caused by insufficient supply of repair building blocks (plasma amino acids, glycosaminoglycans, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) and diminished protein synthesis in general. This leads to accumulation of damaged protein compounds in both the intracellular and extracellular compartments, our “cellular soup.”
- Hormone imbalances— or abnormal ranges of hormones can result in poor cell signaling and poor cell turnover and regeneration.
- DNA structural integrity— compromised DNA structure can be a result of increased DNA damage combined with decreased DNA repair. This results in the accumulation of DNA errors during the natural cell replication that replaces damaged and aging tissue. This also results in faulty protein and enzyme production, which impairs the cellular machinery within each of the 100 trillion cells that make up the human body. It also results in deficiencies and mutations in stem cell reserves within all organ systems. Stem cell reserves are essential for maintaining optimal functional organ reserve as people grow older.
There is no single cause of growing old, but the various mechanisms that characterize aging are often interrelated. All of these have been shown to contribute to aging.
Managing the pathways of aging
Managing the processes of aging, then, requires addressing all of the above. We can do this through better understanding and attention to:
Free Radicals: As we age, the body generates higher levels of free radicals and other oxidants. Unfortunately, antioxidant defenses do not generally rise to meet this challenge, remaining either constant or in some cases declining. The life spans of animal species are affected by their levels of oxidant generation. The higher the level of oxidant generation in a species, the shorter will be its average life span.
Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGE): AGEs cause increases in free-radical production. Plasma levels of AGEs are associated with impaired vascular reactivity in non-diabetic subjects. A study of kidney patients shows that plasma AGE levels correlate with red blood cell deformability, which in turn correlates with vascular disease and retinopathy.
Increased brain inflammatory processes: This can lead to neurodegenerative diseases. Activators of inflammatory responses include:
- Glucose (insulin increases amyloid beta levels; insulin-dependent diabetics have 4x greater risk of dementia),
- Toxins (Any mitochondrial toxin increases the risk of Parkinson’s disease; Toxins include MPTP, Manganese, Copper, CO, Organic solvents, Pesticides, Levodopa / Synemet , Homocysteine esp. levels over 14 double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Prilosec can cause vitamin B deficiency which can cause elevation of homocysteine;), Reactive Oxygen Species (free radicals; causes mitochondrial DNA damage), Dietary fat, Infectious agents
- CoQ10 can improve mitochondrial function and is advised in all neurodegenerative diseases.
- Acetyl-L-Carnitine is a membrane stabilizing agent and reduces declines from Alzheimer’s.
- Vitamin E slows cognitive decline in older persons.
- Glutathione protects neuronal activity and dopamine receptors. Agents that enhance glutathione include Lipoic acid, NAC, L-glutathione, L- cysteine, complementary antioxidants.
We’ll explore each of the pathways to aging in depth, but I hope I have shown you that your aging is largely in your hands. By making good decisions for your nutrition, exercise and being mindful you can live a life more filled with vitality and less morbidity. There are certain strategies to protect your life and your well-being. Every time you can make a choice, make it a good one.
Contact me to learn more on how you can beat these pathways to aging and take control of your vitality.