In my lifetime I have had relatives, parents and friends that, as they aged and grew old, they died. I am sure, like me, you hold the assumption that aging is one of the main causes of death. Yet, we also know that a person can die at any age with the same physiological conditions as an aging person.
To complicate matters modern medicine has treated aging as a disease so we are taught to believe the myth that death is caused by getting old. But we all know that every day at any age people die from similar things that old people die from.
How do we dispel this fallacy that has been handed down to us that aging causes our death? It is time to wake up from this ancient folk tale and change the story in order to bring back to us health, joy and vitality to our aging lives. As a society we need a new perception, a new belief system to unlock the mystery of aging.
Our first step to change our perception about aging is to understand death. Death comes when one body system breaks down and the rest of the systems in the body follow causing the organism to stop functioning. Major body systems like a heart attack, or kidney failure, or an intestinal blockage affect all the other systems and this interaction of multiple breakdowns cause death.
The real truth is, medically speaking we don’t die from old age. We die from system breakdown. One way to shift this old pattern of thinking that aging causes death is to:
- Understand the process of aging
- Become aware of the new brain research on aging.
- Integrate the new anti-aging research into our daily life.
The process of aging
Aging is a mystery because it is very slow and difficult to observe. From research we know that it begins approximately at the age of 30. From our interior experience it occurs gradually, almost imperceptibility, but before we know it we look in the mirror and we have wrinkles and gray hair. We begin asking our self, “When did that happen?” Aging appears to be invisible and then suddenly just happens.
The research on aging supports this view. The studies on aging show that because of the slowness of the subtle cellular changes in the body it is impossible to detect the immediate impact of aging on the body. However, the good news is that research on aging also demonstrates that making changes in one’s diet, exercise and relaxation patterns people will get healthier and stronger as they age. Physical and mental deterioration not only will slow down, but stop altogether for some individuals.
New brain research on aging
It is important to note that aging is a unique process within each individual. The reason is that the aging process occurs in our individual DNA. The importance of DNA is that it is a carrier of our genetic coded information. It is this coded information that indicates the beginning and ending of our life. This DNA together with protein is found in our individual cells. DNA is housed in a structure called a chromosome. Chromosomes are long strands that look like shoelaces. Remember that at the end of shoelaces if a piece of plastic so that the shoelace will not become frayed. It has been discovered that if the end of the chromosome becomes shortened or frayed then aging occurs. The shortening occurs when many cell divisions occur so the DNA cannot be duplicated. They lose the necessary information to maintain health and vitality in all our bodily systems, which results in the aging process.
The good news is that at the University of California at Davis researchers found how the chromosomes can be protected from shortening and becoming frayed. Just like the plastic that protects the end of shoelaces these scientists discovered that at the end of the chromosomes are repetitive sequences called telomeres. Telomeres block cell division at each end of a chromosome. The next good news is that an enzyme called telomerase has been discovered which replaces short bits of DNA. Telomerase acts like the protective plastic at the end of the shoelace so that it doesn’t fray. When you stop the fraying of the chromosomes you stop the aging process because the DNA can continue to duplicate and maintain health in the body. This research is so revolutionary that it received the Nobel Prize in 2009.
How do we apply this in our life?
We now know that telomere length is an indicator of our longevity, health and aging. Scientists have also asked the question how do we increase this natural enzyme telomerase in our cells to reduce ageing? Further research has shed light on the mystery of how we stay young, healthy and have a long life. It has been found that living a particular lifestyle promotes the activation of telomerase. One study demonstrated that meditation will activate the enzyme. Consistent, daily meditation is a way to relax the mind, body and give the brain the “message” to rewire the cell pathways that help us to be more able to release our stress, increase the telomerase enzyme and in general reduce the aging process.
Meditation has a physiological effect of wellbeing that that is like a feedback loop that spreads into the mind then on to the brain and finally affects the cells of the body. What we know from the past ten years of intensive mind/brain research is that the mind is what the brain does. The mind focuses our thoughts, feelings and emotions on something and the brain carries these intentions out and makes them happen. So each thought, or feeling you have the brain will act on it. If you think you are old and can’t function the brain will make it happen that you will age and you will not be able to function. It will not add the
“plastic” of the telomerase to our “frayed” chromosomes so that our DNA can continue to duplicate and keep us healthy.
One of the added benefits of meditation is that it will increase wellbeing bring vitality to our immune system, support positive mental function and reduce stress. Studies also demonstrate that diet is also critical to support a healthy body system by providing a diet with plenty of fiber, protein, vegetables and no sugar. Let me repeat, NO SUGAR. Sugar intake is one of the biggest contributors to cell brake down. Research on aging also points to the importance of a daily exercise program. Dr. Andrew Weil advocates walking as one of the best exercises for the health of the body. Your personal health and experiencing of aging is governed by how you use your mind and brain and how you maintain what you put into your body and exercise it. The aging research tells us that if we maintain body-mind-brain health what we will die from will not be our age. We are the only ones to take responsible for our aging process.