Effect: Obesity, Digestive Issues, Age-Related Problems
The greatest year for aging Americans: 1935. That April, it was found that the lifespan of laboratory rats could be extended considerably by putting them on a serious calorie-restricted diet. And when it comes to calorie restriction, the mechanism that slows aging comes in the form of a protein called sirtuin, which seems to change the chemistry in your body to help neutralize the effects of aging. But, not everyone's sirtuin protein-manufacturing gene is activated!
Researchers have found that calorie restriction helps activate sirtuin; that is, eating fewer calories acts as the light switch that turns it on. But sirtuin production can also be turned on by other things—resveratrol in wine being a biggie, as well as quercetin in apples and onions, and physical activity—and may end up being the ultimate anti-ager of them all.
Major Ager 8: Neurotransmitter Imbalance
Effect: Emotional Issues like Depression, Cognitive Decline, Sleep Problems
All of us get messages on the phone and computer. Some of us get messages in bottles. And the lucky ones get messages on steamed-up bathroom mirrors telling them that someone's waiting for them in the bedroom. Now take the same concept and apply it to your brain. It's in the business of sending and receiving messages that help dictate how you act, how you feel, whether you want to be asleep, or whether you're craving triple-chocolate cake.
This all happens via neurotransmitters, which are just messengers that your brain uses to communicate. As you age, your brain actually shrinks (don't worry, it's normal), and you lose some of the neurotransmitters you produce, which has been linked to emotional issues like depression as well as other cognitive abilities, like how well you sleep. The good part, however, is that food, exercise and sleep work as dials on your neurotransmitter radio, regulating how you feel from day to day and hour to hour, and thus can have a profound impact on the emotional side of aging.
Major Ager 9: Wacky Hormones
Effect: Menopausal Issues in Women and Men
From an evolutionary perspective, hormones may be considered the most important system in your body. Testosterone and estrogen, the major sex hormones in men and women, respectively, give us the urge and ability to try to reproduce and continue the survival of the species. Biologically, it don't get bigger than that. But once we're past our reproductive prime, our hormone levels drop. The tangible outcomes: lack of sex drive, insomnia, impotence, weight gain, and countless other potential health problems that can chip away at the quality of your life.
Effect: Erectile Dysfunction and Other Age-Related and Artery-Related Problems
Most of us have a pretty limited view of what's swirling around inside our bodies: We've got our organs, our bones, our blood and water, and our chemicals. Inside your body, you also have a short-lived gas that tremendously affects your body's function. This gas—nitric oxide (NO)—was discovered to be the neurotransmitter in the nerve cells that control erections and helps other blood vessels in your body to relax and dilate. And that makes the declining functioning of NO over time a key cause of erectile dysfunction and other age-related and artery-related problems. The bottom line when it comes to nitric oxide and aging is this: Nitric oxide plays a fundamental role in keeping a body healthy, and the reverse is also true. In many diseases, the production of nitric oxide is impaired, and that leads to cell injury or the dysfunction of organs.