My good friend Alexander Everett died in 2005 aged 85 on his ranch in Oregon. It wasn’t really a ranch, more like an Ark. Alexander just liked to hang out with animals, certainly not eat them. Hewas an educationalist and an English eccentric much influenced by Rudolf Steiner and Huxley’s Perennial Philosophy, who decamped to Oregon in the 1960s becoming a leading figure in the personal development movement that became popular at that time. As a young man he had been crippled by polio but claimed to have cured himself. He was, he told me a member of the 120 Club, all of whom committed themselves to live to be over 120 years old. Alas, Alexander didn’t make it. He died 35 years short aged 85, which is respectable.
Somewhere around the age of 18 or 19 our bodies cease developing and from that moment on the various body clocks that comprise what is us, start their remoseless countdown to our eventual demise. How long we last from that point on depends on good luck, our genes, our lifestyle and how much money we have. The process doesn’t usually start to manifest visibly until our mid-30s or so and, given good genes, psychologically we don’t usually start to feel old until our early 70s.
Here’s what we’re all up against:
Aging people suffer an epidemic of outward inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, but chronic inflammation also damages brain cells, arterial walls, heart valves and other structures in the body. Heart attack, stroke, heart valve failure, and Alzheimer’s have all been linked to the chronic inflammatory cascade.
Diabetics age prematurely, but even non-diabetics suffer from this chemical reaction, where protein molecules bind to glucose molecules forming non-functioning structures. Glycosylation is most evident in senile dementia, stiffening of the arteries, and degenerative diseases of the eye.
Our cellular DNA requires constant enzymatic action for maintenance and repair. Aging cripples methylation metabolism causing DNA damage that can manifest as cancer, liver damage and brain cell degeneration.
Mitochondrial Energy Depletion
The cellular energy powerhouse, the mitochondria, requires a complex series of chemicals to maintain critical functions such as transporting nutrients through the cell membrane and purging the cell of toxic debris. Mitochondrial depletion lead to congestive heart failure, muscle weakness, fatigue and neurological disease.
Trillions of cells in the human body are synchronised to function by chemical signals called hormones. Aging creates hormonal imbalance that can lead to depression, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease and loss of libido.
Calcium ions are transported into and out of cells through calcium channels into the membrane. Aging disrupts this process and the result is excess calcium in the cells of the brain, heart valves and arterial walls that can lead to arteriosclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
Fatty Acid Imbalance
The body requires essential fatty acids to maintain cell energy output. Aging causes alterations in the enzymes required to convert dietary fats into specific fatty acids the body requires. The effect of fatty acid imbalance manifests as irregular heartbeat, joint degeneration, low energy, hyper-coagulation, dry skin and a host of other conditions.
Numerous synthetic and natural compounds mutate cellular DNA and cause cancer cells to form. Aging cells lose their DNA gene repair mechanisms and the result is DNA genetic damage causes cells to proliferate out of control, i.e., turn into cancer cells.
For a variety of reasons, the aging immune system loses its ability to attack bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. In aging humans, excessive levels of dangerous cytokines are produced that cause the immune system to turn on its host and create auto-immune diseases,, such as allergies, lupus, anemia, rheumatoid heart disease and arthritis.
Non-Digestive Enzyme Imbalance
Internal cellular functions depend on multiple enzymatic reactions occurring with precise timing. Aging causes enzyme disturbances in the brain and liver, which result in severe neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s or persistent memory loss. Impaired liver function results in toxic damage to every cell in the body.
Digestive Enzyme Deficit
The aging pancreas often fails to secrete enough digestive enzymes, while the aging liver does not secrete enough bile acids. The results are the chronic digestive problems many face as they age.
The aging brain loses control of its release of neurotransmitters such as glutamate and dopamine, and this results in devastating brain cell damage and destruction.
Microcapillary flow of blood to the brain, eye and skin is impaired as a part of normal aging. The result is that disorders of the eye (such as cataract, macular degeneration, glaucoma) are the No.1 age-related degenerative disease. Major and mini-strokes are common problems associated with circulatory deficit to the brain.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that have been implicated in most diseases associated with aging. Antioxidants have become popular supplements to protect against free-radical-induced cell damage, but few people take the proper combination of antioxidant supplements needed to do any good.
The Boomer Corner is a column dedicated to people over 60 living in Bali. Its mandate is to cover topics, practicalities, activities, issues, concerns and events related to senior life in Bali. We welcome suggestions from readers.
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