While it is normal for people to age as they get older, it is not normal to be the victim of premature aging. This happens when people are accidentally, because of wrong decisions, or through harmful environmental factors, exposed to unnecessarily harmful things. The human body is a wonderfully created piece of equipment and it can take a lot of punishment but that is no excuse to abuse it. People who abuse their bodies, thus prompting themselves to age much quicker than normal, generally have less energy than they are supposed to have, have a less-than-normal appearance, and, if one must be frank, live shorter lives than people who take better care of their bodies. This being the case, it behooves everyone to avoid the following mostly-avoidable, potentially-aging factors:
1. Cigarettes. People who smoke gradually develop leathery, wrinkle-marked, yellowish skin-as a matter of fact, it is possible to pick out smokers out of a crowd, especially if one knew their ages. Those who are supposed to be in their 30’s usually look as if they are in their 40’s, those who are in their 20’s look as if they are much older, and so on. As for what causes this, one can easily blame all the toxic chemicals that spring from cigarette smoke (e.g., benzene, formaldehyde, ammonia, acetone, carbon monoxide, arsenic, hydrogen cyanide-just to name a few!) and perhaps the by-products of human-lung-processed second hand smoke. These factors not only kill cells, they’re carcinogenic.
2. Disease. While it may be impossible to avoid certain diseases, it is possible to avoid or reduce the chances of getting some diseases-most notably, communicable diseases. Sexually transmitted diseases (syphilis, herpes, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, etc.), for example, can be avoided by not engaging in wantonly promiscuous, unprotected sex, especially with multiple partners. Additionally, proper hygiene can protect people against diseases like tuberculosis, hepatitis, meningitis, etc; other precautions may include regular checkups, getting treatment as soon as peculiar symptoms arise or test results reveal signs of trouble, and abiding faithfully by prescribed treatment. Once disease is allowed develop or run rampant, it can damage important parts of the body. Such “damage,” meanwhile, causes the body to work harder than should be necessary, possibly leading to premature aging.
3. Morally/ethically decrepit behaviour. Christian and Jewish theology calls this “sinfulness.” Although some people don’t believe in the concept of “sin,” there is something to be said for the built-in instinct that we all seem to have when it comes to inappropriate or criminally-minded behaviour. This knowledge is in direct opposition to what we call a “conscience.” Yes, we may have been taught that murder and rape and assault are wrong and illegal, but everyone also has a sense, at a deeper level, that these things are unacceptable, thus prompting us to lie about them or not take responsibility for our actions. As for why morally decrepit behaviour can age people faster, well, it may have something to do with the stress that comes with such behaviour, as well as the underlying factors which, although we cannot explain or describe, can also be at play.
4. Stress. Many things can help stress people out, thus putting pressures that can both in the short and long run have very harmful effects. Stress, for one thing, prompts the body to produce excessive amounts of certain hormones and biochemical substances, such as adrenalin. It is no wonder, then, that stress has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and, possibly, even cancer. It is most probably also linked to premature aging.
5. Exposure to the sun and other skin stressors. Were it not for the ozone layer, cosmic radiation from space would most probably eventually wipe out life on this planet, most notably by continuously damaging skin cells. Even with outer-earth-atmosphere ozone protection, exposure to the sun and other skin stressors (such as sun tanning lamps) can be very damaging, not only possibly exposing people to skin cancer but causing them to age faster than normal.
6. Alcohol and the use of so-called “illegal” drugs. Alcohol, in general, appears to have the same aging effects that cigarette smoke has; to these two may be added the other “drugs” now presently illegal (though why cocaine should be illegal when alcohol is just as addictive and just as harmful-actually alcohol is responsible for more deaths and medical problems than all illegal drugs combined!-is a mystery society has yet to adequately explain). All these drugs make people age quicker, quite simply, by systematically destroying a body’s healthy cells. By the way, that, the inability to reproduce new, vibrant cells, is what happens when we age. Drugs just speed up the process-the question is, why would anyone wish to bring about that kind of development?
7. Lack of sleep or succumbing to erratic sleep patterns. One of the best things people can do for their bodies is to get plenty of deep REM sleep. During sleep, the body has a chance to rebuild cells, give the organs some rest, and prepare the body for the next day’s stressors and challenges. When people do not get enough sleep (or get the wrong type of sleep), the body falls behind on this process, and people ultimately age faster than they expect.
8. Lack of proper nutrition. Our bodies need certain vitamins, minerals and other nutrients on a daily basis. These are best obtained from naturally-grown fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, dairy products, and meats. Vitamin and mineral supplements might help, but we do not yet know for sure how beneficial these things are and whether they are as nutritious as eating a proper diet. Some experts theorize, in fact, that these supplements just go through the body mostly un-metabolized and unabsorbed. The bottom line, though, is that if we do not get the proper nutrition we need on a daily basis, our body’s cells do not regenerate properly, our organs do not work as well as they need to work, and other parts of the body atrophy or fail to grow (or stay healthy) at a proper rate, thus aiding in the premature aging process.
9. Exposure to pollutants. Unfortunately, this is probably one of the least controllable factors on this list. Like it or not, there are many pollutants in the air, water and food that we consume on a daily basis. Processed foods, for example, are chock-full of preservatives, emulsifiers, taste and appetite enhancers, and special conditioners. Artificial sweeteners, just to name one specific group of potentially toxic foods, probably aid in damaging cells and in putting unnecessary negative stresses on our organs. All these things make our bodies work harder than they need to work, thus cutting down on their efficiency and longevity. While some pollutants may be impossible to avoid (especially those in our air and water), we can definitely take some precautions in order to reduce some of the pollution-oriented stresses on our bodies. Whenever possible, for example, eat raw, organic foods; reduce the amounts of processed foods you eat; eat well-balanced meals; and get involved in and support groups working to reduce pollution and better manage the pollution already in place.
10. Lack of exercise. Experts agree that exercise is probably one of the simplest and most efficient ways to help the human body stay healthy, young and vibrant. No, exercise cannot turn back the clock, nor can it stop the aging process, but it can help to make your body more efficient, thus increasing cell reproduction and helping the organs to function at peak capacity. Without question, people who exercise on a regular basis live longer, healthier lives. Lack of exercise, on the other hand, may help people age faster, even if by no other means than by making the body more susceptible to disease.
1. Rhode Island Department of Health. (2010) “Communicable Disease List.” http://www.health.ri.gov/disease/communicable/diseaselist.php
2. Nave, R. (2000). “Cosmic Rays.” http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/astro/cosmic.html
3. Liden, Daniel. (2003). “What is Cosmic Radiation?” http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-cosmic-radiation.htm