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Aging And The Role We Play In It

Happy person

Ask anyone how old they are, and they will give you an answer based on the number of candles on their last birthday cake. Those candles can be quite a cause for celebration. Eventually, those celebrations may become bitter-sweet as they also ring the bell of aging and all the pains, aches and medical issues that come with it.

But it doesn’t have to be so


What is aging all about?

Aging, in essence, is a slowing down of the systems.

An aging nervous system manifests itself with worsened balance and coordination, slower reflexes, and memory problems. The kidneys become less efficient, slowing down the body's detoxification process.

Connective tissue becomes stiffer, making organs, blood vessels, and airways more rigid. Cell membranes change, making it harder for tissues to get oxygen and nutrients and remove waste.

Bones lose density, making them more susceptible to breaks. With all the years of wear and tear, muscles weaken, and joints can become inflamed, painful, and less flexible.

Lung capacity declines as breathing muscles like the diaphragm weaken, and lung tissue loses elasticity, causing airways to narrow.

Many cells lose their ability to function, or they begin to function abnormally.


All hope is not lost

When we talk about our age, we reference numbers. That is our chronological age.

What most people don’t realize is that there are 2 sides to the coin.

The passing of time determines your chronological age.

The health of the cells in your body, however, determines the biological age. That is your true age.

While genetics may set the stage, our lifestyle choices determine our biological age. Our diet, stress levels, and exercise habits all play a significant role. Essentially, we have the power to influence how our genes express themselves and, ultimately, how we age.

It's a hopeful reminder that we are not just passive participants in the aging process but active agents with the ability to shape our health and wellness.

While improving our biological age may not extend our chronological age, it can significantly enhance our quality of life.

'Of all the causes which conspire to render the life of a man short and miserable, none have greater influence than the want of proper exercise.'
William Buchan, the 18th-century Scottish physician

Your genes are not your destiny

Your environment and your choices influence your genetic code. Your lifestyle plays a huge role in your biological well-being, which is excellent news.

One of the most effective ways to maintain a healthy biological age is through regular exercise, a proper diet, and a positive lifestyle. These are not just markers for well-being; they are powerful tools that cannot only slow down the aging process but also reverse it.

As humans, we have been blessed with the power of choice. Every day, we can choose to walk towards a healthy biological age by what we eat, how much we exercise, and how well we manage our stress.


It’s never too late

Is there a point when it’s too late to start exercising? Not at all!

If you want to fuel yourself with some motivation, just look at the National Seniors Game Association (NSGA). NSGA can be referred to as the Olympics for seniors and is an inspiration at its best, proving that it is never too late to start.

Surf the YouTube channel to take a glimpse at these inspirational seniors, and you will see that the best time to start exercising is now. Some of these seniors started exercising in their 80s, some started in their 70s, and have earned medals for their performance. See them in action in swimming, track, and other exercises that we wouldn’t think someone their age can perform.

But is it possible that these seniors were healthy to begin with? Not necessarily. Some have had serious medical conditions, and they have still brought themselves to that healthy biological stage. For them, their biological age is lower than their chronological one.

The point is to just start – at any point in your life. This reassuring message should encourage us to take that first step, no matter our age, and start reaping the benefits of exercise.


Are all exercises created equal?

As studies have shown, endurance training is the best means of maintaining a healthy biological age. It improves cardiovascular function, making the heart muscle supple, lowering the resting heart rate, and maintaining healthy blood pressure. The benefit is not only to the cardiovascular system; endurance training also regulates sugar and cholesterol levels.

The idea is to engage the body somehow- whether that’s dancing, running, or walking. Think about how long you sit – behind a desk or a steering wheel -each day and how often you are standing and moving your body. For most, those scales are not balanced. Take that and add on hours slept and hours at a dining table and you will see that your days -if not managed properly- are mostly spent sitting or lying down.

Another piece of good news about the importance of working towards a healthy biological age is that you do not need fancy exercise equipment or expensive gym memberships. We all can find a place to walk, run, climb, or dance. The key is to continuously move your body in the form of exercise.



How to keep at it when so much else needs to be done

1. Don’t get discouraged.

If walking around your neighborhood is boring, but that’s the only exercise you can engage in, then dig deep and find a spot that will be enjoyable to walk.

Go to the beach or a park or drive to a pretty neighborhood nearby and walk there. Whatever you do, make it something that brings you joy. It will motivate you to stick with it.

As far as walking goes, make it brisk. Although a leisurely walk is important to calm the nervous system, a brisk one works the cardiovascular system.

2. Make a promise to yourself that you will stick to it each day, whatever that may look like.

I have patients who work from home, and some of them set their alarm to 5 p.m. as a signal to close shop and go for a walk. Some bring a change of clothes with them to the office. At the end of their workday, they change and climb up and down the office stairs enough times for 15 minutes before they go home.

3. Bring your family & friends along.

If you are someone who enjoys talking on the phone, then do so while you engage in exercise- if that is possible. Take your kids, spouse, or anyone else on that run or bike ride or whatever form of exercise you engage in. It will do 2 hearts good and will give you a chance to shut off all those electronic gadgets for a while. I have a patient who is a single Mom. Three times a week she packs dinner in her backpack and heads out for a bike ride with her son to a nearby park for dinner and a ride back. It’s great exercise and makes for a good bonding time.

The possibilities are endless.

Here’s to you and a healthy biological age.

Dr. Kermani

Dr. Ben Kermani