Theories of Aging (Part 1)

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    For centuries, people have sought the key to immortality and ways to unravel the mysteries of aging. One of the most famous was Ponce de Leόn in his quest for the legendary fountain of youth.

    Theories of Aging (Part 1)

    Modern-day seekers of youth resort to plastic surgery, injections of hormones such as human growth hormone or testosterone, miraculous lotions and potions "guaranteed" to take years off of one's face, fad diets, and all sorts of nutritional supplements such as DHEA.

    There are multifactorial processes that can affect how we age and multiple theories to explain these processes. These theories are biological, psychological, spiritual, and sociological in nature. Aging is such a complex phenomenon, that no one theory alone can suffice.

    Biological theories of aging can be categorized into two broad types: error (stochastic) theories and programmed theories (non-stochastic).

    Error theories propose that aging is due to chance from the ravages of the environment and external occurrences. In this blog entry, we will examine three of the most popular error theories.

    One of the most well-known error theories is the free radical theory. This theory proposes that products of oxidation result in a breakdown of cells. The accumulated damage from the ravages of free radicals occurs on a cellular level and eventually cause organs to lose function. Common diseases such as atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, cataracts, and cancer are associated with oxidative stress. The use of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, is believed to slow this damage.

    According to the cross-link theory of aging, connective tissue in the body, such as the skin or the lens of the eye, loses elasticity with advancing age. We recognize these unpleasant results as wrinkling of the skin or cataracts in the eye. The stiffness and loss of function is due to abnormal "links" or binding that occurs between collagen protein and glucose. The modern diet is full of simple carbohydrates and sugar. A low-carbohydrate diet (such as Atkins or South Beach) may slow the formation of cross-links and impede aging.

    A third well-known stochastic theory is the wear-and-tear theory of aging. This theory attributes aging to repeated use and injury to body parts over time. The cells of the body are constantly wearing out and being replaced. With advancing age or with repeated injury, the capacity for repair is exceeded by "wear and tear" to the body part. Loss of function results. An example of this is osteoarthritis in the knee joint.

    Stay tuned. More on the fascinating subject of the Theories of Aging to follow.


    Eliopoulos, C. (2010). Gerontological nursing (7th ed.). Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

    Aging theory directory
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 12, '15
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