The aging game (and more)
Many scientists now believe that aging is not a normal process, but that it is a chronic disease process resulting from free-radical damage. While certain physiological changes are associated with the passage of time, there is no programmed aging process, no aging genes that determine how long you will be young, no death gene that “knocks us off” at some predetermined age.
What we call aging is essentially physical changes associated with the passage of years. The first change we see is usually gray hair that eventually turns white. Yet, there are many beautiful women (and men) who have gray hair in their 20s! By no stretch of the imagination would we call this a negative change, since these individuals are perfectly attractive.
However, when gray hair is associated with faded, sagging, or wrinkled skin, we consider the individual “old.” Some of these people are still in their 30s! Are they old? Absolutely not, but they have probably been afflicted with severe free-radical damage. Gray hair, for example, is hair that no longer produces melanin (i.e., pigment).
The process is not irreversible, since many gray-haired individuals, who have undergone radiation treatment to their heads, have regrown jet-black hair over the next few months. I have seen this many times in my patients who went through radiation therapy for metastatic cancer. Degenerative diseases in older people, such as muscle wasting, is usually the result of inactivity. This is known as “the rocking chair syndrome” following retirement. And it is certainly not inevitable.
In one study, individuals 80 years old and older were put on a weight-lifting program for four weeks. They had been mostly confined to beds or chairs. But in just two weeks of regular exercise, they improved their muscle strength to the point of self care! It is remarkable how resilient the body is, and how many repair systems can help us restore health…