Aging is a biological process every living individual must undergo. There comes a time in everyone’s life when the organs begin to get weaker, the bones begin to fail, the wrinkles begin to appear, and the skin starts sagging. This process occurs at varying speeds in different individuals. The difference in speed depends on several factors. The human body can be related to a machine, in other words, how long a machine would last depends largely on how it is being used or maintained.
Chronological age is the number of years an individual has spent on earth (from birth to present). This is the age we quote when asked our age. Biological age simply describes our body’s physical development based on the biological makers (the cellular and molecular processes that occur in the body). Many people wonder if biological aging can be slowed and why some look younger or older than their age. The truth is this-Yes, biological aging can be slowed and there are also several individual factors that contribute to aging, which are beyond our control.
As expected, a body that has been exposed to prolonged strenuous activities would become weaker and age faster than that which has been exposed to less strenuous activities. A study conducted in 2008 by Dr. Gunn and his team to find out the clinical methodology for generating perceived age as a biological marker of aging. In this study, he made use of facial photos of subjects, which were shown to assessors who were asked to assess their ages. This study showed that people who are of the same age could be seen as either older or younger due to the presence or absence of wrinkles, shape of face, and lips. This led to the question, why do people look younger than they are?
The truth is that genes play a huge role in this. There exist, DNA variations on individuals and this is why even in the cases of twins, one appears to look older or younger than the other. A study conducted in the early 1990s and published in 2016 which focused on identifying how diseases develop with age showed that there is a strong relationship between genetic associations marked by the presence of multiple Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms in the MCR1 gene. Individuals who carried the MCR1 genes and two alleles that are common looked younger than others while individuals with MCR1 gene, one rare allele, and one common allele looked exactly their age and those with two rare alleles and MCR1 gene looked older than their age. Thus, the MCR1 gene plays a huge role in the aging of the skin of individuals.
Lifestyle also influences aging. This includes your environment, physical activities, nutrition, and others. An individual who eats a lot of vegetables and drinks a lot of water would look younger than another who is of the same age but feeds on snacks and other less healthy foods. To look younger, you have to ensure you take a lot of fruits and veggies and also avoid unhealthy foods and drinks such as alcohol, meat, and snacks. Fruits and vegetables have been shown to contain nutrients that strengthen and nourish the skin.
Smoking and drinking accelerate the skin’s normal aging process. It has been shown that cigarettes contain carbon monoxide and carcinogens, which are very harmful to the body. They wrinkle the skin due to narrowing of the blood vessels and also depleted oxygen supply to the bones thus causing osteoporosis. These are responsible for the remarkable differences in physical appearance that can be noted when a smoker is compared with a nonsmoker of the same age.
The effect of exercise too cannot be overemphasized. The aging of the skeletal muscles is characterized by a number of functional and structural changes that are linked with an increased risk of disease and physical limitations. These changes can be primary (happens in the cellular structure and function independent of environmental influences and lifestyle) or secondary (involves the interaction of the primary changes with disease and environmental influences. Primary aging is inevitable while secondary changes can be prevented. Exercise and physical activity have been found to prevent or lower primary aging as well as secondary aging. They improve cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle quality, and functional abilities and also attenuate the decrease in muscle strength linked to age. Very important is also skincare, the best way to prevent or lower aging is to use natural cosmetics.
This is evident when athletes are compared to their age mates who do not exercise at all (they look younger).