We spend billions every year trying to fight “the signs of aging.” Yet, most of these anti-aging products are designed only to prevent wrinkles – no the numerous other signs of aging. The focus on wrinkles and beauty aspects of aging just go to show how little we really understand about what aging is.
What is Aging?
Aging can be described as the sum of all changes to our bodies over time. These changes will ultimately result in death. Even though there have been countless studies about how our bodies age, there is still no medical answer for why we age, how we age, or what impacts aging. The reason is because aging is an incredibly complex biological process which occurs on many different levels:
- Cellular Aging: Also referred to as senescence, cellular aging refers to changes in an organisms cells after it reaches maturity. In humans, for example, cells can replicate about 50 times before their genetic material starts to deteriorate. As the genetic material deteriorates, it becomes more prone to damage and thus needs to replicate more frequently – thus leading to faster deterioration. Interestingly, some organisms, like certain fish and other cold-blooded animals, aren’t as prone to cellular aging.
- Aging from Damage: Our bodies are subject to all sorts of toxins, UV rays, chemicals in food, and other harmful factors every day. These harmful aspects damage cells in the body and can lead to signs of aging.
- Hormonal Aging: Levels of hormones fluctuate throughout our lives. As hormone levels change, they can cause signs of aging.
- Metabolism Aging: Metabolism is not just the speed at which your digest food. Metabolism is a complex process involving many bodily processes which work to turn food into energy. This process can produce harmful byproducts and ultimately damage the body, leading to signs of aging.
Development versus Aging
Some people believe that aging starts at birth. It is true that our bodies are constantly changing from birth (and even before that at the moment of conception!), but this is not the same as aging. Biologically, aging is considered the changes in an organism after it reaches full maturity.
Methods of Anti-Aging
There are so many anti-aging products (many of which use false, debunked theories) that it is impossible to go through them all. However, the methods of anti-aging can be broken down by their theoretical goals.
- Put body into development, not aging: Some methods of anti-aging work by putting the body into a state of development again, rather than the post-maturity state of aging. The most common way of doing this is with human growth hormone (HGH) injections or supplements. There are conflicting opinion as to whether this actually works or is possible at all.
- Remove physical signs of aging:This is not really anti-aging because it does not actually slow, stop, or reverse aging. Instead, you are basically just masking the physical signs of aging – such as by using injections to fill wrinkles or vitamin E to smooth out skin.
- Slow aging: Since aging caused by damage to our bodies, you can slow aging by reducing the amount of damage to the body. The most common way of doing this is with diet. For example, there are anti-aging diets high in antioxidants as anti-oxidants fight off harmful free radicals. Another popular method of slowing aging is detox cleanses or diets, which work to flush harmful elements from the body. These methods (the ones which actually work, at least) will have a full-body effect and not just reduce the visual effects of aging.