Smok­ers may try to quit 30 times be­fore it sticks

Pakistan Observer - - INTERNATIONAL -

WRIN­KLES, gray hair, poorer physi cal and cog­ni­tive health: th­ese are some of the com­mon man­i­fes­ta­tions of ag­ing. But could it be pos­si­ble to re­verse the ag­ing process in the fu­ture? Stud­ies are in­creas­ingly sug­gest­ing so.

Ag­ing is in­evitable, but some stud­ies sug­gest the ef­fects of ag­ing can be re­versed. In sim­ple terms, ag­ing is de­fined as the process of be­com­ing older, which in­volves a num­ber of bi­o­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms that lead to de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of health - both cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal - over time.

Of course, ag­ing is in­evitable. While many of us would like to stop the clock and avoid blow­ing out those birth­day can­dles - an un­sub­tle re­minder that we are an­other year older - it is be­yond the realms of med­i­cal sci­ence. What may be within reach one day, how­ever, are ways to re­duce or re­verse the ef­fects of ag­ing, and we’re not talk­ing about anti-ag­ing face creams or cos­metic surgery. In­creas­ingly, stud­ies have fo­cused on strate­gies that could com­bat ag­ing at its core - the cel­lu­lar pro­cesses that con­trib­ute to age-re­lated dis­eases and changes in our phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance as we be­come older. In this spotlight, we ex­plore the bi­o­log­i­cal causes of ag­ing, in­ves­ti­gate what strate­gies re­searchers are propos­ing to fight the ef­fects of ag­ing, and look at what you can do to boost your chances of healthy ag­ing. Many re­searchers be­lieve the ef­fects of ag­ing are a re­sult of nu­mer­ous ge­netic and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, and th­ese ef­fects vary from per­son to per­son. The ge­netic ag­ing the­ory sug­gests that, just like hair color and height, our life­span is in­flu­enced by the genes we in­herit from our par­ents. Such a the­ory may ring true; stud­ies have shown that chil­dren of par­ents who have a long life­span are more likely to live a longer life them­selves. And re­search from Swe­den’s Karolin­ska In­sti­tutet - pub­lished in 2013 - sug­gested that the ag­ing process is in­flu­enced by mi­to­chon­drial DNA that we in­herit from our moth­ers. The team found that fe­male mouse mod­els passed mu­ta­tions in mi­to­chon­drial DNA - which they ac­cu­mu­lated through en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­po­sures dur­ing their life­time - to off­spring, which re­duced their life­span.

But while ev­i­dence for the ge­netic ag­ing the­ory is strong, the fact re­mains that healthy ag­ing and longevity is largely in­flu­enced by our en­vi­ron­ment that is, what we eat, how much we ex­er­cise, where we live and the com­pounds and tox­ins we are ex­posed to through­out our life­time. Our DNA ac­cu­mu­lates dam­age from en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­po­sures as we age. While cells are ca­pa­ble of re­pair­ing most of this dam­age, some­times it is be­yond re­pair. This most of­ten oc­curs as a re­sult of ox­ida­tive stress, where the body does not pos­sess enough an­tiox­i­dants to fix the dam­age caused by free rad­i­cals - un­charged mol­e­cules that cause DNA dam­age.

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