Imagine cruising around in your intergalactic spaceship with your spouse, visiting exo-planets for your honeymoon. Having a starlit dinner at a resort in Kepler-22b, encompassed by the beautiful stars and in the middle of a never ending green-bluish ocean.

This may sound like science fiction or something your 30th generation might be able to experience, but what if you could live forever? Of Course science is not there yet but we have now figured out why we get old, and how to prolong our life spans! Moreover, we can now reverse the age of mice. Yes it means mice would get younger with time. I’ll leave reverse aging for the next article, stay tuned for that!

Today, let’s learn why we age and how to live longer.

 

Why Do We Grow old?

Many people are now aware of Telomeres Attrition Theory which says that we grow old because the protective ends of our chromosomes or telomeres shorten every time our cell divides. Thus our cells can only divide a certain number of times and at a certain age, our vital organs don’t have enough cells for the organ to function.

While this is true, it is just one of the reasons why we age. There are 11 more that we know of and to live long, we must try our best to keep those substances happy. I’ve listed a few of them below:

  • Senescent cells or ghost cells are dead cells that resist being removed by our immune system. These cells can accumulate and damage the healthy, neighboring cells.
  • Mitochondria dysfunction – You might remember from 8th grade that Mitochondria are powerhouse of the cell. When they dysfunction, they don’t provide the required energy to the body
  • Altered intercellular communication – This is partly caused by cellular senescence and cells do not communicate properly and tend to become inflammatory

There is another important factor called Epigenetic Alteration and we’ll discuss it further in detail.

A genome consists of all the genetic information of a being, and epigenome is a collection of chemicals that instruct the genome. Epigenomes can package DNA in many ways, turn it on or off and change the functions of cells. All the cells in the body essentially have the same genome in them, yet we see that some are brain cells, some are skin etc. This is because of the epigenome and it’s changes within the cell that dictate these functions. Thus epigenomes maintain the identity or the purpose of the cell.

When our cells get damaged because of the environment, it is the job of the epigenome to repair the functions properly by packaging the DNA using histones (protein) and methylation. Now the epigenome can lose this information i.e. how to package the DNA and some of our cells can behave in unintended ways.

This is part of why we age.

The methylation pattern and their count determines our age and lifespan. Thus it is the loss of information in the epigenome that makes us age. To live longer, the goal is to make the epigenome protect and repair rather than grow and reproduce.

 

How To Live Longer

  • Avoid DNA Damage – use sunscreen to protect from sun. Epigenome won’t have to work and make mistakes
  • Intermittent Fasting – SIR2 is is a gene important for lifespan, eating less produces NAD which increases activity in SIR2
  • Workout More – Aerobic exercises reduces the risk of heart diseases and muscle reduces the chance of severe injury as you get older
  • Eat Appropriate Protein – Lots of protein reduces longevity while less of it will hinder your muscle growth. Here’s a post which might be helpful
  • Extreme Temperatures – uncomfortable temperatures play a role in neuroendocrine mechanisms that impact aging. So be uncomfortably cold and hot for sometime.

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