Someone once asked me if I do what I do because I want to live forever. I answered no. I do what I do because I want to live WELL for longer.
Nowadays we see the words ageing everywhere! It’s the topic of so many things, the headlines in so many magazines and the underlying theme in so many products (creams, serums, powders, pills etc) and the funny thing is is that the ageing process is inevitable and something that is ongoing throughout our lives. We hit our 40’s or 50’s and start to consider and recognise the fact that we’ve ‘suddenly’ aged, we begin to look into what we can do to slow down the process and try and reverse it. I truly believe that the power is in recognising that ageing is a constant process and there are ways to support yourself to help reduce some problems we may face later on down the line.
The average age for developing the onsets of chronic illnesses is age 40! 40- That just seems way too young to me… But never the less people are being diagnosed with illnesses and diseases and are being prescribed pills that they may be reliant on for the next 40 years of their lives… That’s over half a lifetime dependant on medications with the average life expectancy at 82 here in the UK last year. So why is this? Yes ageing is a natural process of life that we experience every day but health issues, illnesses, ailments and chronic diseases shouldn’t be.
So what exactly is ageing? It’s the obvious external signs- getting wrinkles, saggy skin, perhaps some grey hairs but what are those outside signals mirroring in the inside. The internal reasons are biological age and genetics. For example, we know that people with fair and sensitive skin (photo types 1 and 2) are more predisposed to wrinkles at an early age. These factors are unavoidable and there is little or nothing we can do about them (even with lots of sunscreen!) Oxidative stress and free radicals are a number one cause of internal and external ageing; these are highly reactive chemical compounds that inject oxygen into cells, causing important components of them to oxidize as well as altering DNA, cell membranes, proteins and lipids. This in turn can leads to ageing and many other inflammatory diseases like heart disease, cancer, alzheimer’s, diabetes, arthritis, etc. It can also accelerate external ageing. Have you ever taken a bite out of a banana or an apple and left it out in the air? That brown colour it turns is a result of oxidation caused by free radicals. A similar process takes place in our skin but (thank goodness!) over the course of decades rather than minutes. So it seems by combating these free radicals and fighting oxidative stress we may be able to slow down the process…
As I said above ageing is inevitable but disease and health problems are not.
Drivers of rapid ageing: STRESS
Stress is something that I feel we as a society are fighting every single day, life isn’t slowing down and there seem to be more things that can contribute to stress but equally there are more methods and solutions in helping us to deal with it. Unfortunately stress is one of the biggest culprits in causing so many diseases, inflammation, mental health issues, gut problems and internal and external premature ageing. The body uses anti-oxidants to neutralise potentially harmful free radicals but, when there is an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize them, the free radicals start to damage cell membranes, proteins and DNA in a process known as oxidative stress which I touched on in my last post!
EXTERNAL: Among the cells that are damaged are those responsible for the production of substances such as collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid that give youthful skin its firm structure (e.g. fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Production of these substances naturally declines as we get older and oxidative stress will accelerates this process. While ageing is an entirely natural process, oxidative stress can cause skin to age prematurely and it may start to develop visible signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles and appear dull and tired before its time.
Premature aging aside, as we get older skin’s ability to de-activate free radicals decreases naturally, leading to an acceleration in the skin ageing process. Stress triggers many pathways that cause aging, and when all these come together, it results in premature aging on the inside and the outside.
INTERNAL: When stress continues and becomes chronic, it results in a continuous release of stress hormones that causes your body to stay alert and able to respond quickly to surrounding dangers this means you are in constant fight-or-flight mode. These stress hormones work in contrast to insulin hormones. This is why when people are stressed or traumatized their blood sugar levels tend to rise. Your body acts this way just to let your tissues use the sugar in the blood as energy throughout the recovery process instead of storing it in muscle or fat cells. When this constant hormonal release continues, the constant attack causes a reduction in the body’s ability to sense problems, prevent fatalities and avoid battles. Stress, however, also suppresses the immune system and its response, making the body prone to infections, illnesses, and inflammation. When we consider the signs of aging, we often think about our appearance, and our physicality but our cells also display signs of aging and this can massively affect how well we function on a daily basis. One sign of a cell’s age is the length of its telomeres. Inside every cell are the chromosomes that carry most of our genes and the telomeres are at the two ends of the chromosomes. The older a cell is, the more times it has divided so simply put every time a cell divides, its telomeres get a little shorter. And chronic chronic stress (I mean day in day out continuous stress!) can shorten these telomeres by up to 10 years!!!!
Stress is not a light subject and it really does cause our bodies to age more rapidly and far worse than a few wrinkles so it’s super important to identify the causes of stress in your life and explore how to lessen them.