What really causes aging?

There are two dominant theories. One says that aging is the result of cellular damage from free radicals. These molecules have an unpaired electron and are created in our bodies as byproducts from essential tasks such as metabolism. Antioxidants fight free radicals to some extent. Another theory says that all cells have a set lifespan. Every time a cell divides, the tip of a chromosome called a telomere shrinks. When the telomere is gone, the cell dies.
Lisa Palmer
Marriage & Family Therapy

Have you ever met someone who as they get older appears younger than others of similar age? These individuals have tapped into the fountain of youth! Some of it may be genetics, but it seems that a large part of staying looking young has to do with lifestyle!

I have witnessed teenage anorexics appear 20 years older, and older individuals who look twenty years younger! It is amazing to me how many of my own relatives look so young for their age! I have relatives nearing their 90s who have very active lifestyles and are extremely energetic, so this very topic has always peaked my curiosity! I even knew a woman who lived until 106! I am often mistaken for being at least 5 years younger than I actually am! I like to have fun with this and say that I am even 5 years older than I am!

So, what is the secret? It seems that individuals who have tapped into the fountain of youth take good care of their health and themselves-no smoking, very little alcohol intake, regular check-ups to the doctor and dentist, no substance abuse, well-balanced diet. Interestingly enough, some of the "old timers" I know never even exercised at a gym, but were very active in their work, home, and social lives! People who stay young seem to keep their minds and spirits young. Mostly they seem to be better able to handle negativity in a more constructive way, have motivation, more resilience, are more future-oriented instead of problem saturated! Remember youthfulness comes from within, so take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and you will look and feel younger!

Sharine Forbes
Geriatric Medicine

There are a multitude of different mechanisms and biological processes that cause aging. However one important one that should be mentioned is homeostasis.     

 The concept of homeostasis is very important to the biological human aging process as homeostasis is important in maintaining the body in equilibrium by aiding in the support of the body’s functions, by providing protection from traumatic experiences, facilitating movement, mineral storage and blood cell production. However, the body’s ability to maintain itself at equilibrium decreases over the life span. This mean that as an individual ages the body’s ability to sustain its functions in a normal range decreases. Although every individual experiences homeostasis it can vary from individual to individual.  Homeostasis is not to be mistaken by symptoms of abuses and misuses of the body. For example, someone who experiences repeated physical traumas, whether moderate to severe, over an extended period of time results in damaging the ability of the body to maintain normal ranges. Thus, this individual is more likely to deteriorate bio-physically when compared to someone who has not experienced such traumas. Homeostasis is the concept by which the body’s ability to recover from a decline or incline in functions is described. However, this decline or incline must be for a short period of time in order for no long-term damage to occur. For example, as one ages the amount of fat that the body is able to store reduces causing the body to work harder at keeping itself in a normal range. However, maintaining this normal range doesn’t happen as all the functions that would normally be notified of the deviation from the normal range have slowed down making it harder for the body to restore itself to normal. Essentially, the body’s ability to maintain itself in equilibrium can keep the body’s neurological functions working normally and as appropriated. However, a deviation for an extended period of facilitates the aging process because the body’s processes are slowing down and simultaneously working hard. Essentially, with the decline of homeostasis comes aging, as certain body functions are no longer working at the normal range. 

Eric Olsen
Aging is almost certainly not the result of any one cause, but rather results from a variety of interacting processes, some of which are probably genetic or internal in origin, and some of which result from wear and tear caused by environmental or external factors. Thus an individual's genetic or internal makeup, for example, may make him or her more or less vulnerable to certain environmental or external factors such as dietary fats, stress, carcinogens, or perhaps even a tendency to be distracted while driving. 
Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

More About this Book

Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...
Randolph P. Martin, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Aging is caused 30% by genetics and 70% by lifestyle choices. Bad lifestyle choices like being overweight, smoking, not exercising, and having high blood pressure increase the aging process. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Randy P. Martin about what causes aging.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
The environment continually ages our bodies through oxidation or other internal processes. What is oxidation? Like the rusting of your house's foundation or pillars, it is a natural process and a byproduct of your body functioning properly. But when too much oxidation occurs, it puts you at a higher risk of aging-or rusting-your body. This is why so many foods that are good for us contain antioxidants, which slow the oxidation process. We don't know for sure if the antioxidant property of these foods is responsible for the health benefits you get from eating them, but it's likely a contributor.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

Between your full-length mirror and high-school biology class, you probably think you know a lot about the human body. While it's true that we live in an age when we're as obsessed with our bodies as...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.