- Have you ever wondered about stem cells and the science of aging?
- It's possible that your biological age, as determined by the telomeres, can actually be younger than your chronological age
- There are so many factors influencing the aging process and it's important to understand, value and celebrate this natural rite of passage
In the field of regenerative medicine, there is a lot of exciting research on stem cells and the growing potential for them to help cure degenerative diseases and cancer. Stem cells have two unique characteristics: they replicate fast, and when they undergo cell division, one of the daughter cells can become any other type of cell.
The carbon copy stem cell is what leads to self renewal and healing in our bodies. We witness this process each time a wound heals on our skin. Epidermal stem cells divide to replicate, naturally sewing up an open wound.
Closely linked with the stem cell renewal process are telomeres. Telomeres are the caps at the end of our DNA chromosomes, which help with stability and protecting the chromosomes during cell division.
The health and length of these caps influences our biological (not chronological) age. The onset of disease, stress or poor habits, however, can shorten the length of telomeres. Shorter caps can lead to weaker or slower cell regeneration, which can accelerate physical signs of aging (e.g., wrinkles, slower injury recovery, etc.).
If your overall health is in good shape, it is possible that your biological age, as determined by the telomeres, can actually be younger than your chronological age. This is encouraging news for the aging process overall!
Because there are so many factors influencing the aging process, I believe it is important to value this natural rite of passage. With aging comes more wisdom, patience and other invaluable virtues in our lives.
I liken the aging process to vintage wine - over time the flavors interact and the acidity subsides. Vintage wine is considered more valuable and especially cherished during the most precious moments of life, like celebrations of loved ones, entering a new chapter in life, or as a gift to a dear friend.
Are there things we can do to help us maintain a younger biological age even while we add candles to our birthday cake? Below are a few suggestions to consider.
Find ways to reduce the negative impact of stress in your life. Unexpected things happen to us, disappointments come, and frustrations are a reality. But our perspectives can change in the midst of it all. Practicing gratitude and appreciation on a daily basis can build up your stress defenses. Gratitude also keeps our perspective grounded on the wholesome truth of the matter.
Live each day with purpose. What are the things that bring you joy and make you feel complete? Find your purpose and live each day to the tune of this song. I’d say that we are all on a journey towards fulfilling our purpose. Some of us are still exploring what that will be. Others are putting the building blocks in place so that each day can contribute to the deeper mission of their life. Wherever you are on the journey, celebrate it and bring your full self to this space.
And always have fun. Be curious, explore, and find creative outlets to keep the childlike wonder in your soul. The goal is not to just live longer and have less wrinkles on your skin. What if the very acts of having fun and enjoying life could lead us to a ripe old age with less wrinkles and better health? It is never too late to increase your laughing output and experience joy.
In many ways, aging is a natural progression towards humility, accepting the truth that our independence is actually interdependence with our surroundings and those who have come before and will come after us.
As we age, let us consider ourselves as vintage bottles of wine, filled with an array of flavors that have been influenced by the stories from our colorful lives. Aging gracefully is a path worth celebrating.