Very simply put, if you are ageing faster than your chronological age, you have accelerated ageing. Why does this happen?
Our chronological age is irreversible but our biological age, which is dependent on how we live, can easily be lower. Consider this—the damage to your cells and tissues caused by daily activities, stress, and wear and tear can be repaired by a healthy lifestyle and eight hours of sleep. However, if you don’t repair daily, this damage accumulates, causing accelerated ageing. All because you did not give your body the time and space to repair via proper nourishment and sleep. Hence, your biological age will increase and that is what causes premature ageing.
It is like your financial status.
You can spend and overspend and live on credit till you reach the stage of debt. Accelerated ageing is debt. The human body and mind need a certain time and input to repair any damage at a physical, emotional, and neurological level on a daily basis. There will be damage because the physical body is being used, the brain and mind are labouring and they need to be rested, cleansed, and rejuvenated every day. When this repair work doesn’t occur daily, there is a deficit that builds up; it can happen over a few years. And that is when diseases we were meant to have as part of the natural degeneration process of ageing start to happen at a young age.
Simply put, if you buy a new car and don’t look after it, in four years, you will have to junk the car. However, the human mind and body are much more complex than a car, any machine, or a broken financial state.
Nurturing via holistic nutrition must be daily because the damage is happening daily.
The normal ageing process also makes energy deficit, triggering diseases. Our cells extract energy from nutrients. Every time we inhale, the blood transports oxygen from our lungs to our cells’ mitochondria, where it is used to convert the nutrients in our food into a form of energy that the body can use. Problems with this process, called cell respiration, have been linked to numerous conditions, from rare genetic diseases to diabetes, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and the normal ageing process. For cell respiration to function properly, it needs proteins synthesized outside and then imported into the mitochondria, and proteins synthesized within the mitochondria themselves from their own DNA (mtDNA). It has long been known that an accumulation of harmful mutations of mtDNA can cause premature ageing. This premature ageing can stop when positive epigenetic changes (read lifestyle changes) repair response of our DNA.
Activating our anti-ageing gene
We all have an anti-ageing protein or gene in our body called SIRT1 which controls ageing. And if we can activate this gene via the specific healthy lifestyle given, we are changing our response to the speed of ageing.
This repair work daily is not very difficult. It can be fulfilled with holistic nutrition, and it becomes a powerful preventive tool to give a quality of life that slows down ageing and risk of diseases. And reducing your risk to get diseases means lower costs, higher agility, and higher energy levels to be able to do everyday tasks more efficiently and live a life that is enviable.
What is the impact of accelerated ageing on the human body? Let’s look at it in detail below.
Your mood is off: Mostly Try and remember the last time you had a stomach upset or a viral fever. You were not feeling good, your energy levels were low and if somebody tried to push you into doing something you didn’t want to, you snapped. Now, if you don’t have an illness or disease and you are still in that state, it is indicative of something going wrong inside which is yet undiagnosed. When you’re not well, and you don’t know about it because it has not yet manifested into a physical symptom like a heart attack, hypertension or type 2 diabetes, the best way is to analyse your moods. A person who is in balance physically and mentally, is often going to have mature and even moods. Here, we are not talking about a one-off response like a burst of anger. We are talking about people who used to be fine, but now are consistently in a poor mood, don’t see the positive side in most situations or spread the sarcasm more than the sunshine. If that behaviour is continued and consistent, it is the most prominent sign of disease and accelerated ageing.
Your inflammation levels rise: As explained earlier, inflammation levels are measured by markers in our blood and they predict the rate of disease activity. Even when you feel absolutely healthy but have had some kind of physical or emotional deficit in the repair work, your inflammation markers like CRP and ESR will be high. If there is a logical rise in ESR levels, it is usually due to an infection or allergy. However, if you have not experienced any infection or allergy and are feeling healthy and have been feeling ‘fine’, defined as ‘absence of disease’, then you get into a state of chronic inflammation. You may have symptoms that you are not acknowledging, like low moods, poor energy or not waking up fresh.
Chronic inflammation means that your ESR and CRP are consistently high and remain so for long periods of time in the absence of any infection, allergy, or disease diagnosis. They are the best predictors of inflammatory diseases including cancer. Get them checked.
Your day-to-day life gets impacted: An inflammatory environment inside the body means your energy levels are low, your brain is functioning at a slower pace and even after eight hours of sleep you are not fresh. At a physical level, this is going to impact your work (because your output is going to be compromised), your relationships (because you’re not going to have the energy to enjoy simple and loving tasks with loved ones), and, finally, make you feel pessimistic about your present and future. This pessimism can very quickly turn into chronic anxiety, depression and manifest in unexplained tremors, sudden weight gain or weight loss, substance abuse (which includes junk food), etc. All of these will make you age even faster and increase risk of lifestyle diseases.
Your medical visits rise: So many of us go from one symptom to the other and get treated for those symptoms. Acidity? Antacids. Palpitations? Anti-anxiety drugs. Insomnia? Sleeping pill. Instead of going to the root cause and eliminating the symptom, these ad hoc measures suppress the underlying inflammation and problems. This can lead to late diagnosis of the disease, causing more suffering.
Whether you are in a country like India, which is not completely covered by medical insurance, or in any developed part of the world where everyone is covered by insurance, it is extremely distressing and inconvenient to keep visiting the doctor or hospital. Even if you are covered by medical insurance, sometimes you wait months to get an appointment or treatment because the medical system is so overburdened already. During this waiting time, the distress you cause to your body and the continuing spread of your disease is only driving you to a point of no return.
Ill-health increases the vicious cycle of fear and anxiety, and the joy of everyday living disappears. The only certainty in life is that we will age and die. But there is that period in between which is meant to be enjoyed.
It’s called life.
Excerpted with permission from Alive! Lifestyle Changes to Age-Proof Your Body by Rachna Chhachhi, a certified nutritional therapist who runs the wellness platform Rachna Restores.