Effect: Damage From Stress
Say the words stem cell and you've triggered almost as much controversy as any other two words in the English language! But here's a fact about which there is little controversy: Your stem cells are an incredibly powerful tool, and they play a key role in how you recover from stress. At all stages of your life, your body responds to damage by recruiting stem cells. When you smoke, stem cells are sent to the lungs to respond to damage. Or when your skin burns from the sun, stem cells go there to make repairs. The problem is, we lose stem cells as we age, whether by using them to repair damaged organs or because they're destroyed by toxins like oxygen free radicals, leaving us vulnerable to stress-related conditions.
Major Ager 4: Declining Defenses
Effect: Run-down Immune System
When we hear the word infection, we usually think of green mucus oozing from our nostrils. When it comes to aging, however, we're concerned not only with the acute infections like colds and the flu. We're also concerned with the chronic infections—the behind-the-scenes inflammatory response in your body that ages your entire system. In fact, much of the aging process is a side effect of defense mechanisms that our body has designed. An overworked and tired immune system causes chronic inflammation in your body, which increases the risk of mutations that can lead to cancer.
Major Ager 5: Toxins
Effect: Cancer, Asthm, and Allergies
Though hell on our nerves and the person stuck cleaning the floor, we should all be thankful for humans' propensity to puke. Throwing up is nature's way of clearing toxins from our body, and we are exposed to hundreds daily, which stress our systems and tax them as we age. We live in a world where all kinds of chemicals surround us. They come from cars and factories, they're in our foods and shampoos, and they're in our homes and offices. All of these potentially toxic substances act as pollution to our biological city.
Some of the toxins that we encounter are potentially very harmful and can cause cancer, asthma, or allergies, though they can also reduce your quality of life in more subtle ways. They may cause minor irritations or fatigue or a general feeling of blahness. And all of those effects—as subtle or subconscious as they may be—can chip away at our overall health so that we're much more prone to feeling the effects of aging.
Major Ager 6: Glycosylation
Effect: Heart disease, Diabetes, Nerve Damage
Most people hear the term "glycosylation" and think of something you order up at Jiffy Lube. But glycosylation, unfortunately, is a process deep inside your body that has dramatic effects on your cells. It occurs when excess sugar molecules float around in your blood and attach to proteins, diminishing their effectiveness. The excess sugar is a little bit like acid rain—it damages the things it touches and makes them leaky. When the sugar latches onto protein on the outside of a cell, the sugar stays in the blood and gunks up the proteins in our body, making glycosylation the source of many aging-related problems such as heart disease, diabetes and nerve damage.