AGING: Global Worst Fear

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What comes first in your mind when you hear of the term “aging”? Wrinkles? Grey hair? Muscle weakness? Or even death? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), aging is a course of biological reality that starts at conception and ends with death. It has its dynamics, much beyond human control. In simple words, aging is an inevitable natural process in a human’s life cycle. Even though aging cannot be stopped, there are ways to slow it down and reduce its impact. To overcome the fear of aging, we should first understand the factors of aging. There are two types of factors that cause aging: intrinsic and extrinsic factors.

Intrinsic aging, also known as chronological aging, is affected by the body’s hormonal changes, degenerative effects of free radicals, and the body’s inability to perfectly repair the damage. Excessive free radicals in the body are harmful to the cells, eventually causing deterioration of body tissues and organs. Hence, antioxidants play an essential role in anti-aging, due to their excellent ability in protecting and repairing damaged cells, tissues and organs. Since intrinsic aging starts from internal parts of the body, its effects are more towards the internal tissues and organs, such as muscle, bone, heart, blood vessels, kidney, and brain. The structures and functions of the organs will be gradually destructed, resulting in serious chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, Parkinson’s disease, osteoporosis, etc.

Extrinsic aging is caused by the individual’s lifestyle and environment. Several external factors cause aging, including over-exposure to sunlight, poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and chronic stress.
Furthermore, intrinsic aging is a process that is highly dependent on the individual’s genes and metabolism of the body. One of the important genes that can affect the rate of aging is silent information regulator T1 (SIRT1), the “longevity gene”. SIRT1 plays a role across multiple cellular pathways, such as regulation of gene expression, DNA repair, maintenance of telomere length, and regulation of metabolism. Studies show that SIRT1 may increase longevity and reduce the risk of age-related diseases. Therefore, consuming supplements that can activate the SIRT1 gene is also a good way to achieve healthy aging. Polymethoxy flavonoid (KPMF) in black turmeric and resveratrol in giant knotweed are compounds that can help to activate the SIRT1 gene and help to slow down aging.

As mentioned in the article above, glycation is a powerful accelerator of aging. Since glycation acts on protein and our body is made up of a large percentage of protein, this means that none of the tissues and organs can be safe from the harm of glycation. Glycation is considered as a form of intrinsic aging because it is a natural process of metabolism, however, it also can be altered by external factors. This shows that there is a correlation between intrinsic and extrinsic aging.

The effects of extrinsic aging are more visible compared to intrinsic aging. The signs of aging would show on the skin such as loss of elasticity, the appearance of wrinkles, and pigmentation of the skin. Furthermore, extrinsic aging could speed up the rate and magnify the effects of intrinsic aging, and act together with it to cause premature aging. Extrinsic aging can be avoided, however, there are still a lot of people who are lacking awareness and knowledge on how to achieve healthy aging. Let’s find out more information about how to fight aging in the following article!

EXERCISE REGULARLY
Exercise can benefit us in numerous ways. Exercise benefits us physically in terms of increasing muscle mass, building stronger bones, aiding in weight loss and creating a good physique.

On top of all that, exercise can help to slow down aging. Exercise can raise one’s heart rate, strengthen our cardiovascular system and keep our cells young and fresh.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a good way to get some sweat out when short of time. This kind of exercise is short but intense, it ranges from 10 to 30 minutes. HIIT is a short intense exercise and follows by a short period of rest or low-intensity recovery, for example, 40 seconds of burpees and 20 seconds of rest, repeat this 10 times.

GET ENOUGH REST AND SLEEP
Little that we know, sleeping is essential as our body requires rest. When we are sleeping, our body restores energy, regenerates cells, increases blood supply to muscles, promotes growth and repairs tissues of tissues and bones, and strengthens immunity.
Getting enough sleep can reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and so on.

STOP SMOKING
Smoking kills.
Many of us know the fact that smoking is harmful to us, hence smokers should slowly cut down and finally quit smoking. Whereas, those who are not yet smokers, avoid smoking as it is highly addictive due to the nicotine in cigarettes.

Smoking affects many aspects of our body, not only that it increases the risk of lung cancer, but it also affects our heart, immunity, fertility, skin condition, aging, and so on.
Some associations are helping individuals who struggle to quit smoking by offering free programs to smokers.
To quit smoking is hard but it benefits that individual and on top of that, it reduces the number of secondhand smokers.

PSYCHOLOGICALLY HEALTHY
Other than extrinsic factors which include a healthy diet and staying active physically, intrinsic factors such as mental health are also crucial.
Hormones such as Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Endorphins are the ones that keep us happy. Staying happy was found to have an association with better life quality, longer life, and lower risk of illness.
Hence, try not to stress ourselves and focus on the happy moments instead of the bad memories.

HEALTHY DIET
A simple guide would be the Food Pyramid, whereby the pyramid is composed of 4 levels of food groups, level 1 which are the rice, noodles, bread, cereal, cereal products, and tubers, level 2 are fruits and vegetables, level 3 fish, poultry, meat, legumes, milk, and dairy products, and lastly level 4 would be the fats, oils, sugar, and salt.

It is recommended to take 4-8 servings of level 1 food group which is mostly carbohydrate-dense food, which provides 50-55% of the total daily energy. Some examples of a serving of level 1 food would be 1 cup of cooked rice, 2 slices of bread, and 2 whole potatoes.

Secondly, take at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits daily, for example, half cup of cooked dark green leafy vegetables, 1 whole apple, and 1 whole medium banana.

Thirdly, protein and Vitamin B are crucial for the body’s building blocks. Hence, the Malaysian Food Pyramid recommends half to 2 servings of poultry, 1 serving of fish, half to 1 serving of legume, and 1-2 servings of milk and dairy products.

Lastly, reduce the intake of level 4 food groups. Excess intake of fats, unhealthy oils, sugar, and salt can largely contribute to many chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, and cancers. Other than the Food Pyramid, there are many other diet plans such as the Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, and gluten-free diet that we can practice.

FAQ ON ANTI-GLYCATION/ ANTI-AGING
WHAT FOODS ARE HIGH IN AGEs?

AGEs are particularly high in animal-derived foods that are high in fat and protein, such as meats (especially red meats), certain cheeses, fried eggs, butter, and mayonnaise. Sugary foods, highly processed and pre-packaged products are also high in AGEs. Cooking methods that use high temperatures to brown or char foods, such as grilling, roasting, and broiling, have the largest impact on the amount of AGEs consumed.

HOW TO REDUCE INTAKE OF FOODS HIGH IN AGEs?
One way to reduce the intake of foods high in AGEs is to modify cooking methods. Foods cooked with moist heat, shorter cooking times, lower temperatures, and acidic ingredients such as vinegar or lemon juice produce the least amount of AGEs. For instance, boiling, poaching, and steaming cooking methods can minimize the formation of AGEs. Eating a diet full of antioxidant-rich food which includes colorful fruits and vegetables such as kiwifruit, mangosteen, grapes, blueberries is another way to reduce AGEs consumption.

DOES OUR BODY PRODUCE ANTIOXIDANTS?
Yes. Our body produces antioxidants such as glutathione, coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid, etc. However, the production decreases due to aging. Besides, an unhealthy diet, cigarette smoke, and stress will increase the free radicals in our bodies. When free radicals overwhelm the body’s antioxidant level, it causes oxidative stress. Hence, supplementation of antioxidants is needed to fight the free radicals and reduce the oxidative stress

ANTIOXIDANTS ARE ALL VITAMINS?
There are thousands of antioxidants but relatively a few of them are vitamins such as vitamins C and E. Antioxidants also include a wide range of substances such as Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPC), resveratrol, Superoxide dismutase (SOD), flavonoids, polyphenols, etc.

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