While it is normal for people to age as they get older, it is not normal to be the victim of premature aging. This can happen when people are (because of bad decisions or through harmful environmental factors) exposed to harmful things unnecessarily.
The human body is a wonderfully created piece of equipment and it can take a lot of punishment but that is no excuse to abuse it. People who abuse their bodies, thus prompting themselves to age much quicker than normal, generally have less energy than they are supposed to have, have a less-than-normal appearance, and, in general, live shorter lives than people who take better care of their bodies.
This being the case, it behooves everyone to avoid the following potentially-aging factors and activities:
1. Cigarettes. People who smoke gradually develop leathery, wrinkled, dry, and sagging skin--as a matter of fact, you can often pick smokers out of a crowd, especially if you knew what to look for and everyone's actual age. Those who are supposed to be in their 30s might look as if they are in their 40s; those who are in their 40s as if in their 50s; and so on.
As for what causes this phenomenon, you can easily blame all the toxic chemicals that spring from cigarette smoke (e.g., benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, acetone, carbon monoxide, arsenic, hydrogen cyanide, lead, carbon monoxide--just to name a few!) and perhaps the by-products of human-lung-processed second-hand smoke. These factors not only kill cells, they're carcinogenic.
2. Disease. While it may be impossible to avoid certain diseases, it is possible to avoid or reduce the chances of getting some diseases--most notably, communicable diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, etc.), for example, can be avoided by not engaging in wantonly promiscuous, unprotected sex, especially with multiple partners.
Additionally, proper hygiene can protect people against diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis, meningitis, etc.; other precautions may include regular checkups, getting treatment as soon as peculiar symptoms arise (or test results reveal signs of trouble), and abiding faithfully by prescribed treatment. Once disease is allowed to develop or run rampant, it can damage important parts of the body. Such "damage," meanwhile, causes the body to work harder than necessary, possibly leading to premature aging.
3. Depression. No, this is not referring to occasionally feeling sad or even feeling sad often, but for good reasons (losing a job, the death of a relative, being diagnosed with a serious disease, etc.), albeit, at the same time, being able to function normally and not being overwhelmed by the feelings of sadness. These feelings are normal and won't likely make you age any faster.
Clinical depression, however, has been shown to affect the body in many negative ways; in fact, it has been associated with development or exacerbation of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancer. It can also make the human body less capable of dealing with stress or exhibiting healthy immune responses to certain physiological problems. It has even been connected to inflammation, a known risk factor for many medical problems, including premature aging.
4. Stress. Many things can stress people out. Some people stress even more when they know they are stressed out and are trying to control it. Stress prompts the body to produce excessive amounts of certain hormones and biochemical substances, such as adrenalin and cortisol. It is no wonder, then, that stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and, possibly, even cancer. It is also linked to premature aging.
5. Excessive exposure to the sun and other skin stressors. Were it not for the ozone layer, cosmic radiation from space and ultraviolet rays from the sun would most probably eventually wipe out all life on this planet, most notably by continuously damaging skin cells. It is no wonder, in fact, that scientists use the skin of frogs and other creatures with exceedingly sensitive skin to ascertain how well the ozone layer is doing its job from year to year.
Even with outer-earth-atmosphere ozone protection, excessive exposure to the sun and other skin stressors (such as sun-tanning lamps, harsh chemicals, radiation, etc.) can be very damaging, not only by making people more susceptible to skin cancer but also by causing them to age faster than normal.
6. Alcohol and the use of so-called "illegal" drugs. Alcohol, in general, appears to have the same aging effects that cigarette smoke has. These two drugs, in turn, appear to be as toxic (if not more toxic) as the so-called "illegal drugs."
The truth is that all these drugs make people age quicker, quite simply, by systematically destroying a body's healthy cells. The inability to keep reproducing new, vibrant cells, is what happens when we age, a process that gets worse and worse with each passing year. These drugs just speed up the deteriorating process. The question that begs asking is "Why would anyone want to exacerbate an already naturally-declining biological mechanism?"
7. Lack of sleep & succumbing to erratic sleep patterns. One of the best things people can do for their bodies is to get plenty of deep REM sleep. During sleep, the body has a chance to rebuild cells, give the organs some rest, and prepare the body for the next day's stressors and challenges. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can cause premature aging.
When people don't get enough sleep (or get the wrong type of sleep), the body falls behind (or undergoes physiological dysfunction) on this process, and people age faster--perhaps much faster, if sleep deprivation becomes habitual or inescapable (because of type of work or by virtue of not having control over one's life). One possible explanation is that chromosomal telomeres may undergo more extensive truncation, thus reducing life-long DNA longevity and healthiness.
8. Lack of proper nutrition. Our bodies need certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients on a daily basis. These are best obtained from naturally-grown (i.e., organic) fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, dairy products, and (non-factory farm produced) meats. Vitamin and mineral supplements might help but we don't yet know for sure how beneficial these things are and whether they are as nutritious as eating a proper diet.
Some experts theorize, in fact, that these supplements just go through the body mostly un-metabolized and unabsorbed. The bottom line, though, is that if we don't get the proper nutrition we need on a daily basis, our body's cells can't regenerate properly, our organs don't function as well as possible, and other parts of the body atrophy or malfunction, meaning that poor nutrition can contribute to premature aging.
9. Exposure to pollutants. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the least controllable factors on this list. Like it or not, there are many pollutants in the air, water and food that we consume on a daily basis, all of which can bring about premature aging. Processed foods, for example, are chock-full of preservatives, emulsifiers, taste/appetite enhancers, and special conditioners.
Artificial sweeteners, just to name one specific group of highly toxic foods, likely aid in damaging cells and in putting unnecessary negative stresses on our organs. Yet, the most popular alternatives (refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup) are just as bad for you, if not worse.
All these things make our bodies work harder, thus cutting down on natural biological efficiency and longevity. While some pollutants may be impossible to avoid (especially those in our air and water), we can definitely take some precautions in order to reduce some of the pollution-oriented stresses on our bodies.
Whenever possible, for example, eat raw, organic foods; reduce the amount of processed foods you consume; stick to well-balanced meals; and get involved in and support groups working to reduce pollution and better manage the sources of pollution already in place.
10. Lack of exercise. Experts agree that exercise is probably one of the simplest and most efficient ways to help the human body stay healthy, young and vibrant. No, exercise can't turn back the clock, nor can it stop the aging process, but it can help to make your body more efficient, thus increasing cell reproduction and helping the organs to function at peak capacity.
Without question, people who exercise on a regular basis live longer, healthier lives. Lack of exercise, on the other hand, may speed up the aging process, even if by no other means than by making the body more susceptible to disease.
For sure, aging is a natural process we can't avoid. On the other hand, we can certainly avoid a lot of the things that speed up the process. By doing so, we not only improve our chances of living to the average age expectancy, but we can then also avoid many diseases (or at least greatly reduce the chances thereof) that can negatively affect quality of life.
Copyright, 2018. Fred Fletcher. All rights reserved.