Epigenetics 6/1/2020

What is Aging?

What is aging?

We all age - but at different rates!  This course will cover what to expect as you age

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“Do you ever get anywhere?”
said the Hare to the Tortoise.

Aging for many of us means slowing down, gaining weight and getting grey and stiff.  But this is just what aging looks like - its symptoms.

Other symptoms are vision loss, hearing loss and getting sick more often and easily.

Diseases of aging also threaten us as we age.  They include obesity, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

We might mistake the Tortoise for being old - he is slow, after all.  But tortoises live a ridiculously long time without any diseases of aging like cancer.

Symptoms of aging show up at different ages for different animals AND people.

Many people today develop diseases of aging when they are young.  Other people escape all of the major aging-related diseases!

Why is this?
Well, aging is not the same thing as getting older in years.

Aging happens deep in your body, within your cells, at the level of your DNA.

Your DNA and proteins that protect it are prone to injuries that build up as you age.

Too many of these injuries cause a cell to become senescent - a zombie-like state.

Tortoises have many genes to repair these injuries, so they live nearly free of aging!

We aren’t so lucky.  Our injured cells become senescent.  These cells, alive but unproductive, are part of why we age.

The biggest problem is that senescence, like a zombie infestation, can spread

Injuries within cells in your gut can cause aging in your brain!  How is this possible?

Your body is a network of different types and communities of cells that are all connected

When there is harmony in this network, like in an orchestra, the performance is beautiful.

But as you age, your body is like an orchestra where the players can’t hear each other.

One out-of-tune player, a senescent cell, can throw others out of tune and wreck the performance

Having one disease of aging, like diabetes, puts you at risk of developing another, like dementia

Imagine that the Hare starts drinking to cope with the stress of outrunning the fox...  The alcohol harms microbes in his gut

His now unhealthy gut creates inflammation that injures DNA and proteins.

The inflammation also causes pain in his joints and now he runs with a limp.

Because running is now painful, he doesn’t run as much.  He gains weight.

The Hare’s inflammation and new “zombie” cells now put him at risk for dementia.

Now we know why the Hare was napping during the race - he was aging!

Age slowly like the Tortoise: Exercise and eat more greens to prevent cell injuries!

Smoking, alcohol, eating too much sugar, obesity and stress can injure your DNA.

Find your calm and do things you love with others - even if that is racing the Hare!

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Sources
  • Jazwinski & Kim, 2019, doi:10.3389/fgene.2019.00263;
  • López-Otín et al., 2013, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.039;
  • Quesada et al., 2019, doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0733-x;
  • The Hallmarks of Aging, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2013.05.039;
  • Genomic Instabilities, Cellular Senescence, and Aging, doi:10.3389/fmed.2018.00104
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