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What is Aging?

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Updated June 27, 2009

DNA

DNA

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Question: What is Aging?
Aging is something we all do but understand very little. We could list things that change as we age (memory loss, wrinkles, muscles loss, balance trouble, etc.) but no one really understands what aging is, why it happens or how to stop it.
Answer: I would like to start this answer by defining aging as "that which happens to our bodies over time." I think this is helpful because some things that happen to our body are caused by our bodies themselves (think kids growing and teenagers maturing) while other are the accumulated result of time (think sun damage). Aging itself is a combination of changes in our body and the impact of what we do with our bodies.

What is Aging?

Aging, then, is the impact of time on our bodies. This happens on multiple levels:
  • Cellular Aging: Cells age based on the number of times they have replicated. A cell can replicate around 50 times before the genetic material is no longer able to be copied accurately (because of the shortening of telomeres). The more damage to your cells (through free radicals and other factors), the more your cells need to replicate.
  • Hormonal Aging: Without a doubt, hormones play a big factor in aging, especially in childhood growth and adolescent maturity. Hormone levels change through life, leading to menopause and other age-related changes.
  • Accumulated Damage: Toxins, the UV radiation from sunlight, harmful foods, pollution and other toxins all take their toll on our bodies. Over time, these toxins can lead to tissue damage and the body "falls behind" in maintaining and repairing your cells, tissues and organs.
  • Metabolic Aging: As you go through your day, your cells are turning food into energy, which produces by products that can be harmful. This process of metabolizing and creating energy results in damage to your body over time. Some believe that slowing the metabolic process (through practices such as calorie restriction) may slow aging in humans.

    More on Why We Age

    Back to Aging FAQs

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