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A Youth at 150!

İrem Ergün, MD

İrem Ergün, MD

IFM Certified Functional Medicine Doctor

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It's hard to find someone who doesn't think about living a long life. What we desire most is not just a long life, but a long and healthy one. A healthy life, and more importantly, a happy and meaningful life, brings with it a longer lifespan. So, what direction is research in this area heading?

The topic of longevity, which has been the subject of many studies and has become popular over the last 15 years, gives us important clues about this. We all know that life expectancy is increasing, but this also brings solutions to chronic diseases that reduce the quality of life.

 

Aging: A Kind of Chronic Disease!

In fact, aging might be considered the most significant and all-encompassing of chronic diseases. Therefore, extending lifespan and reversing aging, such as stopping the shortening of our telomeres (Telomere: Caps at the end of DNA that protect genetic information in DNA), will have a significant impact on delaying or eliminating chronic diseases that challenge us the most. We can discuss the social, mental, psychological, environmental, and even philosophical dimensions of a long life. However, a healthy long life unquestionably interests us all.

The distinctive features of aging, in a sense, its root causes, are being studied at an accelerated pace. If we can control or stop a few or all of these aging factors, we see that life expectancy can continue for periods like 150 years. A “longer and vibrant life,” which means an active, healthy, and happy life, not just living longer years, is not too far off.

Will Madame Calment’s Record Be Broken?

Did you know that the longest-lived person recorded in the world was Jeanne Calment? Madame Calment, born in 1875 in France, lived until the age of 122.5. However, research is progressing so rapidly that Jeanne Calment will not be on the list of longest-lived people by the early next century. This longevity science is now entering a completely new dimension of billions of years of evolution! And of course, it gives researchers very important clues about living for hundreds of years. As I mentioned before, the social, financial, and accessibility aspects of this are all separate topics of discussion. But I believe that studies showing that cellular aging can be completely reversed, not just stopped, will be effective in delaying high-cost and unhappy chronic diseases. The multiple causes of aging being studied worldwide appear as follows: DNA damage and the genomic instabilities it causes, dysfunction of mitochondria, the main organelle in energy production that we all know well, false nutrient perception caused by metabolic changes, exhaustion of stem cells, erosion of telomeres, production of molecules that accelerate inflammation by disrupting intercellular communication, disruption of healthy protein metabolism, accumulation and inability to remove aged cells we call zombies, and epigenetic studies that we encounter more in our daily lives. The common view of researchers working on these factors is: “The more we can regulate these factors, the more we can slow down aging.” And, of course, “If we can slow down aging, we can prevent the diseases it causes, and if we understand these diseases, we can live a healthier and longer life.”

 

Nobel Prize-Winning ‘Youthful Aging’ Research

Let’s consider stem cells: We can say that stem cells are countries with the potential to turn into many other cell types. If we can prevent the wear and tear of these differentiated cells, they can continue to produce all the differentiated cells needed to heal damaged tissues and fight diseases. We know how much stem cell treatments have increased today. The tissue rejection rates of bone marrow transplantation, the most common form of use, are steadily decreasing, and this therapy is being used in the treatment of diseases like diabetes, vision loss, arthritic joints, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. And these interventions, for now, prolong life expectancy, even if they don’t eliminate the disease.

Similarly, if we can play with the erosion of telomeres, which we can call chromosome-protecting caps, and stop their shortening, we can slow down the mechanisms that lay the groundwork for aging and illness. In light of this data, the discovery of the Telomerase enzyme, which won the Nobel Prize in 2009, has become a topic of study. The Nobel committee announced that they deemed Australian-born American Elizabeth Blackburn and Americans Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak worthy of this award for their discoveries showing how chromosomes are protected with telomeres and telomerases, seen as a kind of “eternal youth research.”

Aged cells that have lost their division abilities but refuse to die and cause inflammation by secreting some substances also start to harm us. In the light of all these scientific research, we can say: If we can remove these cells or prevent their accumulation, we can keep our tissues healthy for a longer period. The same applies to disorders in protein production mechanisms and all the other causes mentioned above.

From General to Specific

So, how do these disease-causing and aging pathways work in each of us? In other words, are we all aging at the same rate? Here we can talk a bit about the concept of biological age. Of course, we’re talking about the age of our cells, not our chronological age.

There isn’t a standardized test method yet, but we can calculate biological age with some performance measurements using blood tests, tissue samples, exercise capacity, mental and psychological tests. Our biological age, and thus our lifespan, are closely related to the area we live in, education level, eating habits, sleep patterns, exercise habits, smoking-alcohol consumption (Smoking and alcohol are harmful to health), and of course, the stress and emotional state we’re exposed to.

We can give a few blood tests as examples for this topic: Sugar metabolism, which we consider for all chronic diseases, especially HbA1c, sRAGE, IGF1, cholesterol, creatinine, IL-6, hsCRP, WBC, DHEA, other hormone levels, kidney function indicators, immune and inflammation indicators, are among them.

Lifestyle changes and various molecules are being studied for each of these aging indicators. Of course, the most dreamed-about is the discovery of a single substance that can accomplish all these! Although not scientifically proven yet, some scientists and people who work on long-young life have started to use some molecules in our lives. NMN, NAD, Resveratrol, quercetin, fisetin, urolithin A, spermidine, rapamycin, and of course metformin are among these substances. Along with these supplements and other methods, studies continue on stimulating long-life genes, supporting autophagy, slowing down inflammation, inhibiting mTOR, activating the AMPK enzyme for cell renewal, and reversing aging. Besides these, Hyperbaric oxygen, hot and cold applications, blood exchange, special exercise therapies, stem cell applications, and ozone therapy support applications are being discussed. Accessing and sustaining these doesn’t seem easy at the moment. It also doesn’t seem very likely that these will be effective on their own without establishing some basic rules in daily life. So, it’s necessary to place epigenetic factors, which are commonly agreed upon from telomere studies to studies on long-life genes, at the top.

Clean eating, good sleep, an active life, a clear mind, conscious learning, and good relationships will always be effective on our genes and our lifespan.

I liken life and health to a pool problem. How fast we go or wear out, as well as what and how we fill our lives with, and how much we apply and become aware of what we learn, are very important in solving the math of life and health. We know that everyone’s biological, mental, and spiritual integrity is different. Shaping and improving this extraordinary whole in layers means making the world a place to live for 100 years and more, just as much as it does for ourselves. And of course, all this can also enable us to lead a happy and healthy life.

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The information and statements on our website are not intended to guide individuals towards medical diagnosis and treatment. Please consult with your doctor for medical diagnostic and treatment procedures. The contents are shared for informational purposes only, derived from scientific studies prepared by EMC Medya Yayıncılık Ticaret Ltd. Şti.’s researchers, consultants, and authors/scientists, as well as compilations from publicly available publications. Our texts do not contain health statements related to medical diagnosis or treatment

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