The human body is capable of many things. It can grow, develop, break down food into usable molecules, and heal, but one thing that it is incapable of doing is lasting forever. The process of aging is inevitable but there is a discrepancy when you look at how rapidly aging affects one individual from another.
Healthy aging refers to a slow and gradual process of aging that allows you to maintain a good quality of life well into your later years of life.
Some individuals in their 80s are still running marathons while others are confined due to physical limitations. The main difference in these situations tends to be related to decisions made earlier in life such as living a healthy lifestyle, getting exercise on a consistent basis, and maintaining good cellular health.
Countless hours of research have been dedicated to learning more about the aging process and things that can be done to support healthy aging. Antioxidants have garnered attention in recent years to help the aging process but what exactly is their role in aging?
Below is a closer look at theories of aging, known causes of accelerated aging, and the role antioxidants may play in helping people age more gracefully.
Why do we age?
Aging has long perplexed scientists and even though it has been the center of many research endeavors, there is still a lot of unknown when it comes to aging. Throughout the years there have been a number of theories that attempt to explain why humans undergo aging. What exactly is happening at a cellular level to drive this biological expiration date?
Many people believe aging to be a result of many different factors, and below is a closer look at some of the more popular theories as to why you age.
One of the more well-studied theories behind aging is that it comes as a result of a biological limitation of eukaryotic cells.
The main limitation faced by eukaryotic cells is that they contain linear DNA. Linear DNA is problematic in terms of longevity as its replication is not perfect.
When a cell needs to replicate, some of the DNA code is lost at the very ends for each replication. Over time this leads to the shortening of DNA, which can negatively impact the functioning of cells.
Eukaryotes however have created a way to help fight back against the shortening of DNA by utilizing stretches of non-coding DNA at the ends of DNA known as telomeres.
Telomeres can be thought of as blank pages at the beginning and end of a book. When replication inevitably cuts some of it off, there is no severe consequence in terms of removing a necessary coding region.
An enzyme known as telomerase adds segments to telomeres to help maintain this safe buffer. While this system works great, over time it can become less effective, and result in the eventual shortening of DNA, which in turn can reduce the efficiency of cells (the same problem discussed above).
This process occurs gradually at a cellular level, and over time it is thought to contribute to some of the symptoms of aging. Telomere shortening is also thought to be associated with the development of many different diseases, including cancer.
Free radical theory of aging
Another supposed theory behind aging has to do with the accumulation of cellular damage as a result of external stressors, known as the free radical theory of aging. Mainly, this theory focuses on a particular kind of stressor that impacts your body at a cellular level, known as oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is a form of chemical stressor by which unstable molecules like free radicals including reactive oxygen species (ROS) steal electrons from structures within your cell causing damage.
Your body naturally produces these unstable molecules through cellular respiration and other biochemical pathways, and has specialized molecules known as antioxidants to help protect against oxidative damage. Under optimal conditions, there are enough antioxidants present in the body to keep these reactive molecules in check and keep oxidative stress at bay.
This balance between antioxidants and ROS can also be thrown out of balance if antioxidant levels decline or if free radical levels increase. It is thought that aging can impact this balance, increasing oxidative stress as time goes on.
While this stress is inflicted at a microscopic level, over time it can bear its head in the form of symptoms of aging such as wrinkles, reduced energy levels, and reduced cellular efficiency. Uncontrolled oxidative stress can pose a real problem, and it is associated with a number of deleterious health consequences.
Causes of accelerated aging
The other popular explanations of aging focus on changes at a cellular level. What factors actually lead to accelerated aging at a cellular level and cause someone to look or feel much older than they really are? Below is a closer look at some commonly known causes of accelerated physical and biological aging.
Too much sun exposure
Getting a healthy dose of sunshine is good for a number of things, including the natural production of vitamin D and elevating your mood, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to the sun.
The sun emits energy across a whole spectrum of wavelengths, most of which are not harmful to your cells. There is, however one wavelength in particular known as ultraviolet (UV) radiation that has the ability to damage cellular structures like DNA.
Constantly bombarding yourself with damaging UV radiation over time (either via natural sunlight or in artificial UV such as in tanning beds) may result in accelerated aging in the form of wrinkles or other skin blemishes.
Stress and poor sleep
If you look at individuals with stressful lives, you have most likely seen the physiological impacts of stress and poor sleep firsthand. Both stress and poor sleep habits are thought to elevate oxidative stress, which may contribute to premature aging of the body.
Maintaining good stress management techniques and prioritizing a good night's sleep may be able to help you maintain a healthier rate of aging.
One of the more harmful factors contributing to accelerated aging is the development of unhealthy habits. Habits like smoking, excessive drinking, overeating, and lack of exercise cause damage to organ function over time, and either avoiding these habits or making efforts in the opposite direction (e.g. healthy diet and regular exercise) can make a significant impact for healthy aging.
What antioxidants can support healthy aging?
When it comes to looking for ways to age gracefully, the best advice would be to live as healthy of a lifestyle as you can throughout life. Living a healthy lifestyle provides your body and cells with the best fighting chance of standing up to the test of time. While this is the best method of achieving healthy aging there are other potential sources of aging support. One of the more popular is the supplementation of antioxidants.
As stated previously, antioxidants are molecules that help to protect your cells and cell structures from reactive molecules like free radicals or ROS. The body produces these antioxidants naturally, but could sometimes benefit from a little extra assistance. This is where supplemental antioxidants come into play.
Below is a closer look at some potent antioxidants that may be able to provide some level of support to an aging body.
There are a number of different antioxidants within the body, and one of the most important for maintaining optimal cellular health is CoQ10. CoQ10 is a natural antioxidant found within the cell's energy powerhouses, known as the mitochondria.
The mitochondria take oxygen and glucose and convert them into a usable form of energy for the cell to utilize. This process also produces ROS as a byproduct.
CoQ10 is found within the membrane of the mitochondria to protect against oxidative damage, but over time, levels can decline due to a number of factors including aging. These results may result in mitochondria under oxidative stress, which can reduce efficiency and cause physical side effects such as fatigue due to less efficient cellular processes.
MitoQ is a modified form of CoQ10 that is highly bioavailable and can provide antioxidant support directly to the mitochondria. Taking MitoQ won’t stop you from aging, but it may help your cells run more efficiently if there is an oxidative imbalance, which may help to rejuvenate your cells (and your body).
Another supplement that may provide some support for aging is curcumin. Curcumin is a molecule naturally found within turmeric that has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties within the body.
Both inflammation and free radicals are thought to contribute to signs of aging, and supplementing with a potent molecule like curcumin may provide your body with some needed relief from these stressors.
MitoQ Curcumin offers a powerful dynamic duo when it comes to supplements. Equipped with two antioxidant powerhouses, this supplement provides an ideal amount of antioxidant support with a whole host of other potential benefits.
Aging is a natural and unavoidable process. That being said, there are a number of actions you can take to try and prolong your ideal quality of life well into your later years of life. Exercising, eating a well-balanced diet, avoiding cellular stressors, and getting a healthy dose of antioxidants may be the best options you have to facilitate healthy aging.
Cell regeneration supplements: revitalize your body from the inside out
Heart-healthy supplements: Support your cardiovascular health