A few key processes occur in the body which accelerate the aging process:
The shortening of telomeres
- Telomeres are structures found at the tail end of chromosomes. In a healthy young individual, an enzyme called telomerase adds length to the telomere which results in normal tissue growth and maintenance over the lifespan of the cell.
- As an individual ages, these telomeres shorten over time – causing disrupted cell growth, reduced longevity, and the promotion of abnormal tissue growth (which may or may not be cancerous).
Loss of hormone production
- Due to the shortening of telomere length, the production of hormones declines as we age. One example is the reduced pineal gland function – which lowers melatonin levels (the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle).
- Chemicals formed by the body called “reactive oxygen species” can damage the DNA in cells – which can cause the cell itself to die prematurely, promote the formation of degenerative diseases, or lead to mutations which increase the risk of tumor formation.
An uncontroled inflammatory response
- While inflammation is an important part of the immune system for protecting against outside disease (ie. bacteria, viruses) or promoting the healing process after an injury – there are times where the body’s own inflammatory process operates unchecked.
- Signaling molecules from the immune system (ie. C-reactive protein, cytokines) can be inappropriately increased, causing widespread inflammation across the body. Chronic inflammation can lead to disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, or other diseases.