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!

New Year, New Perspective

It’s a brand new year again, and all of a sudden, everyone is reflecting on what resolutions they need to make, in order to change themselves for the better this year. With this new year, I hope to bring new perspectives into the picture so life isn’t just filled with the same boring information again. It needs to rather be complete with creative energy, or a sense of purpose and direction. TheMedAspirations is meant for young people who aspire to become a great physician later on, but there’s more to the path of going to medical school than just studying the coursework and taking the MCAT. After all, medical schools are not just interested in how much someone has done to improve their application, but instead how they have learned from their failures and experiences. Medical schools need students who not only excel in academia, but also in other aspects of human life. In this new year, we can bring together new perspectives and step out of our comfort zone to discover new, innovative ideas. So, I’ve compiled a list of things that would be nice to implement in 2015.

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1) Watch a TED Talk at least once a week.

The reason I say this is because, TED is all about ideas worth spreading, and I believe it’s important to keep yourself constantly stimulated with new information and data because neurogenesis will occur more effectively and cognition will naturally increase. If we remain confined to our comfort zones, our brains have already mapped the next step. Our life is no longer spontaneous or filled with wonder, and we can no longer expand our perceptual vastness. The result is hedonic adaptation, which we want to avoid here.

2) Take Walks Outside, they are NOT a waste of time.

If you’ve ever experienced the “mind-fog” or when you can’t think clearly because you feel so burdened by all the things going on around you, take a walk outside. A recent study conducted by Stanford shows that creative thinking actually improves by walking or pacing outside. Catch some fresh air, and rejuvenate yourself!

3) Take 20 minutes out of each day to invest in a new, creative project.

It can be anywhere from drawing, painting, playing an instrument, writing lyrics to building a robot or machine using scrap material. Regardless of what your talent is, invest time and energy in it every day, and the outcome will be delectable. It doesn’t matter how busy you are, if people like Mark Zuckerberg or Arinanna Huffington can do it, you definitely can.

4) Spend time with your loved ones each day.

This one is kind of common sense, because evolution has proved that human beings have a stronger mental health when they are with people they love. Studies have shown that releasing oxytocin, a.k.a. the love hormone could potentially ward off brain disorders such as autism, schizophrenia and depression. Surround yourself with the people you love and those who imbue you. It’s as simple as that.

5) Remove FOMO: Fear of missing out.

I’ve seen passionate people, who compromise their passion to join another group that they think is superior to what they are a part of. However, like Joseph Campbell says, “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid. Doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.” Human beings hold themselves back from their true potential by joining others groups because of the “FOMO.” Like the brilliant philosopher Rumi says, “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

These are just some strong ideas I had this New Year. Perhaps this was more philosophical than intended, but I’ve learnt from the successful people who have actually made it through life thriving.

Happy New Year!

Link to article in E-Newspaper Issue (Page 13): http://issuu.com/indoamericannews/docs/e-newspaper01092015