Ageing is "unfortunately" an inevitable natural process that leads to various diseases and eventually death. The ageing process is observed in all living organisms (plants and animals).
It cannot be prevented completely, but the process can be slowed down, the symptoms can be treated and life expectancy can be extended. If we understand the symptoms and processes that cause ageing then we can slow down the process by making lifestyle changes - through diet, supplements, exercise and appropriate stress management - to directly address the causes or symptoms.
Ageing is associated with a reduction in cell number, slowing of metabolism, hormonal changes and cell damage. Together, these can reduce the number of nerve cells and lead to the deposition of various proteins in the brain, which reduce memory and brain performance, and in severe cases, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and dementhia.
They can also result in hormonal changes - most commonly in men, a drop in the male sex hormone testosterone, which can lead to reduced muscle mass, sexual dysfunction and infertility, and in women, a drop in oestrogen levels ad they go through menopause.
Ageing also affects the heart, as we age more and more collagen protein appears in the blood vessels of the heart and inflammation increases the rate of atherosclerosis (deposition of cholesterol and other compounds). Together, they increase the stiffness of the heart and the stiffness of the blood vessel. This will lead to increased blood pressure and heart rate, and the heart will have to work harder than before.
As we age, bone composition also changes - the protein and calcium content of bones decreases - increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Moisture in the joints is also reduced and, due to constant use, wear and tear is increased.
The kidneys are the most visible part of the ageing process, as the kidneys get smaller with age, their function is affected and they can no longer work as hard as before, which can cause various urination problems.
As with the cardiovascular system, the tissues of the lungs can become stiffer over time, and the intercostal muscles responsible for breathing can weaken, which together reduce the efficiency of breathing, reduce blood oxygen levels and increase blood carbon dioxide levels.
There are many theories of ageing, and it is likely that all of the processes listed below interact to contribute to ageing.
- "Genetic programme": the theory is that maximum age is encoded into all living things. Confirming this, age has increased in recent times, but the maximum age has not changed at all. Furthermore, similarly in animals, the maximum age does not really change.
- Telomere theory: this section of DNA is very interesting and the subject of much research, as it does not encode any genes. This section of DNA is very interesting and the subject of much research, as it does not encode any genes. However, this section is constantly shortened as cells divide, and an enzyme (telomerase) tries to stop this. Once the telomere region becomes small enough the cell can no longer divide. Shortening of the telomeric region has also been associated with ageing. This is where grape seed extract will be of great help, as it can stimulate the telomerase enzyme that lengthens the telomere.
- Hormone changes: as mentioned above, ageing is associated with hormonal changes, which further intensify the ageing process.
- Oxidative stress: free radicals from external (or internal) sources oxidise cells - they lose electrons. This results in the cell losing function, becoming inoperable and therefore damaged. This is called oxidative stress, and damaged cells reduce the number of cells, thus further exacerbating the effects of ageing. This is where herbs with high antioxidant content (e.g. grape seed extract, ginseng) come to the rescue.
- DNA damage: oxidative stress also damages DNA, which is the key determinant of our individual characteristics and body processes. This in turn, depending on where the damage occurs, can affect all our cells, causing cellular damage, malfunctions.
- Error-catastrophe theory: the cells in our body are constantly dividing - a finite number of times determined by the lenght of the telomere, the shorter the shorter number of times the cell will divide. During the division, the DNA is duplicated. However, errors can occur in the copying of DNA, which are corrected by error correction mechanisms. But, very rarely, the error correction mechanisms also "go wrong", resulting in damage to the cell.
- Mitochondrial theory: the "little engines" of cells are the so-called mitochondria, where energy is produced to power the cells. Free radicals can also damage these, which can also increase ageing. This is where guarana helps, as it can help restore energy balance in cells (not recommended for people with cardiovascular disease due to its caffeine content).