Can We Defy the Process of Aging?

Recently, I was going through a chapter called the “Physiology of Aging” from my Environmental Physiology course on the Stanford website. This chapter intrigued me specifically because although it is amazing how dramatically our life expectancy has increased over the past centuries due to modern medicine, there are still some factors beside allopathy that could greatly affect our aging. In this section of the course, I watched a video of one of the professors go to the MIT AgeLab to try on AGNES, which is essentially a suit in which anyone can experience the deficits and incapabilties involved in the process of aging. The effects were so profound, and they seemed impossible to observe over the gradual lifespan of an adult. The video eventually showed how the professor wearing the suit lost motor, visual, flexibility, strength and dexterity skills. It actually got to the point to where I really felt sorry for elder people whom I have always assumed to have the same faculties I have. I obviously did not think old people could do everything but I did not realize it was that bad either!

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On the brighter note though, the point of the video was to show the natural physical effects of aging in a normal person, not an immensely active and healthy person. The video also showed a brief interview with a 79-year-old sprinter! This guy still performs a lot of his work manually, even though he could use machines and has taken up the hobby of sprinting at such a late age. Despite that, he is in optimal health. He is essentially decreasing his chances of developing a myriad of devastating health disorders such as hypertension, abnormal blood lipids, or type 2 diabetes. With that being said, the professor also mentioned the lady who lived till she was 122, breaking the life span record so far, Jeanne Calment. Although her secrets included olive oil, chocolate, wine and a lot of humor, there is a far more convincing observation about this:

As human beings, we have literally transcended our biological drawbacks through biotechnology and new means of improving the human condition. This doesn’t just include the use of scanners or machines to detect cancers and kill them. This also includes the mere fact that a good number of us have given significant value to having a healthy lifestyle. Another words, a lifestyle rich of mindfulness, productivity and vitality. Moreover, factors such as physical activity can make such a big difference in the end, as it can enhance repair mechanisms in the body, slow the rate of cognitive decline associated with aging, and literally stretch out telomere length on ends of chromosomes, associated with longevity. In fact, the benefits are so copious that it is too difficult to even mention them all! Regardless, we should definitely take pride in the fact that we have expanded our life span out so much by just modifying a few things here and there, and if we continue to do so, we can go even farther!

You Don’t Even Need Drugs

While studying about the different types of stimulants, depressants and hallucinogens in Psychology class today, we talked about how these type of drugs affect certain neurotransmitters, especially dopamine.

People usually take drugs like MDMA (ecstasy), Cocaine, Amphetamines etc., to boost the dopamine activity in their brain. Their emotions for the particular drive that dopamine produces, another words, the motivation that they need all comes from drugs. There are millions of people who become so dependent on these drugs to function normally as well, and it is just so sad. I’m not stating that drugs are absolutely horrible, because they are not. Marijuana can have miraculous effects on cancer patients and can fix headaches! However, in terms of motivation, and the joy that everyone craves for, it isn’t necessary to take drugs that may have potential adverse reactions. Ever heard of the “Runner’s High?” You can even train your brain to release dopamine by simply exercising.

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Who would’ve thought feelings of euphoria could be associated with strenuous exercise like prolonged running.?! An article in the New York Times called, “Phys Ed: What Really Causes the Runner’s High?” explains this phenomenon very well!

Not only does running provide that amazing rapture, there’s also other motivating ways to boost dopamine activity in the brain, or at least bump it up to a point where you’re satisfied. See, the thing is, you don’t want to have excess dopamine, because then you may be schizophrenic, and you definitely don’t want to have too less of it because then you will be depressed. So how can we naturally have an equilibrium in our brains?

It all comes down to our DIET! Remember that famous quote I mentioned earlier as well, “You are what you eat…” ? Well, your brain’s neurotransmitters will definitely act upon their receptors in response to what you eat.  Eating protein-rich foods like eggs, and fish-oil supplements or eating the fish itself, is essential to increasing the brain’s dopamine activity. Also, eating bananas can help since they’re a good source of tyrosine, which is an amino acid that neurons eventually turn into norepinephrine (another neurotransmitter boosting adrenaline or alertness) and dopamine.

Really, one of the easiest ways to stay active, have an elevated mood, and maintained levels of dopamine, is to be Bulletproof! (:

P.S..: Just in case you think I’m stupid for stressing dopamine again and again, be sure to check out this cool article that explains part of the reason why:

http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2012/05/dopamine-impacts-your-willingness-to-work/