How many times have you heard some old timer attribute the dysfunction of a body part or physiological attribute to “gettin’ old”? Or how about that time you tweaked your back and everyone was quick to tell you to get used to it because it’s never going to get any better? “It’s all downhill after 30!” The funny thing is that this is somehow supposed to make you feel better about your prospects. Some people, I guess, prefer to have control over their health wrested out of their hands and distributed to the fates. Some people like the idea of letting “nature take its course.” At least that way nothing that goes wrong is your fault, because you never had a chance anyway. You were always destined to get all soft and flabby, lose your hearing, get brittle bones, and be unable to go to the toilet by yourself. Right?
Wrong. Age isn’t “just” a number, and we can’t maintain Dorian Gray-esque vigor all through life, but that doesn’t mean we’re destined to be frail, brittle things relegated to chairs and walkers and homes and doctor’s offices.
Today, let’s take a look at some common “inevitabilities” of aging and why they may not be so inevitable after all.
As much as we focus on food and fitness as the “physical” arbiters of health and longevity, there appears to be much more to it. In fact, most research fails to find any grand commonalities in the diet and fitness patterns of the longest lived. From Okinawans with their sweet potatoes to Japanese centenarians with their dairy to the Ashkenazi with their higher rates of smoking, drinking, and lower rates of formal exercise to the 107 year old with her butter, no exercise, and mistrust of medicine to the supercentenarians with their liver, bacon, wine, chocolate, and eggs to the other supercentenarians with their caloric restriction. Sure, they’re generally not eating Twinkies and Panda Express, but the secret to longevity – at least as it’s practiced by living centenarians – does not lie in one specific diet.
As children, we live closer to our instincts. Yes, there’s the humorous and rather unfortunate side to this – like the time you ate an entire bag of Twizzlers and threw up all over your great-aunt’s carpet. In addition to the plethora of bad decisions (as if adults don’t make those too), however, there’s the extravagant daring and that amazing, irrepressible exuberance.
As adults, we might know better than to gorge on dye #40, but we’re tripped up by other things. We become distanced, detached from our instincts. The responsibilities, the schedule, the expectations surrounding our culture’s take on maturity can cast us out of the land of exuberance. It’s like we get gradually diverted to a boring Interstate stretch after traveling the scenic route. The road is efficient, utilitarian and might have nicer rest stops, but it often feels like a major letdown. What does it take to find our way back to the panoramas? What are the things we never should’ve stopped doing in the first place? I hope you add your own to the list. Let me throw out a few I’ve been thinking of today.
For years now, it’s been said that telomeres – the tips of your chromosomes – are the key to cancer and aging. The shorter they are, the worse off you are – so the story goes. But what do we really know about them? Can the length of your telomeres help predict how long you’ll live? Could telomere research unlock a modern fountain of youth? Could humans one day live to be hundreds of years old?
Dr. Ron Rosedale of DrRosedale.com and The Rosedale Diet is here to answer some of these questions in this special guest post. In it he will introduce you to these little bits of genetic sequences, and provide his expert commentary on the state of telomere science. It will get somewhat technical in parts, but it’s well worth the read.
Now, Dr. Rosedale…
Pretty much every feature of the human body can be found, in some form or another, on other species. Opposable thumbs? Great for building and using tools, but apes have them, too. Even the giant panda has an opposable sesamoid bone that works like a thumb. Bipedalism? Helped us avoid direct mid-afternoon sun and carry objects while moving around the environment (among other possible benefits), but plenty of other creatures walk upright, like birds and Bigfoot. The human foot? Okay, our feet are quite unique, but every other -ped has feet (just different types), and they all work well for getting around. So, what is it that makes us so different from other animals (because it’s got to be something)?
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