All Posts tagged Stress

The Role of Your Brain in Determining Your Lifespan

Recent studies in diverse organisms have provided evidence that, indeed the brain may control lifespan. Signaling pathways involved in both central nervous system and peripheral stress responses and regulation of energy metabolism may play important roles in lifespan determination. 

The brain also controls neuroendocrine systems strongly implicated in aging. The hypothalamic-pituitary system has a strong influence on lifespan. A consistent feature of environmental and genetic factors that increase longevity is that they increase cellular resistance to stress. The brain coordinates the responses of the whole body to such stressors on both rapid and long-term time scales by modulating the activities of neuroendocrine pathways (involving the hypothalamus and pituitary gland) and the autonomic nervous system.  According to M.P. Mattson of Aging Research Reviews, “However, the brain may also control maximum lifespan by its ability to stimulate signaling pathways that increase the resistance of cells to stress.”   The responses typically involve a behavioral response (fleeing the mugger or tiger), a vascular response (increased blood pressure and diversion of blood flow from the gut to muscles) and a metabolic response (increased mobilization of glucose). An increased ability of an organism to escape from a potentially lethal stressor will obviously increase its probability of having a long lifespan, and this is one way the brain can determine average lifespan.

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Your Nervous System Controls Healthy Aging

senior-womanThe human body can respond and adapt to just about anything it encounters provided it is in a state of homeostasis, which means that the body is able to send and receive nerve information. The central nervous system is the master control system of the body and every single function reflects its activity. Nerve impulses travel from the brain, down the spinal cord and out through nerves to all parts of the body. Nerve impulses then return to the brain through return pathways.

Recent research has clearly shown that even activity that occurs at the cellular and molecular levels are controlled and coordinated by the central nervous system. The central nervous system regulates the aging process and, dependent upon healthy stress responses, determines longevity. Proper neurological signaling in the human body is the primary key to psychological, emotional, immune and hormonal health and longevity.

There is a greater quantity of communication in the human body than all of the combined manufactured communication systems in the world and the coordination and precision of neurological and biological communication systems is un-paralleled.  There are in excess of 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells in the human central nervous system and the number of possible interconnections between these cells is greater than the total number of electrons in the known universe.

The entire body is wired for cell signaling so that the body can repair, restore and coordinate physiological and psychological activities. This enables our bodies to optimally adapt to physical and psychological stressors.  Cell signaling with growth factors is more fundamental to the body than is breathing. Cell signaling begins before birth and ends just before death. Loss of cell signaling underlies ineffective adaptation. Inability to adapt is the pathway to death.

To stay healthy, as well as repair cell damage during aging, our cells continuously talk to each other to know how to behave in context with the surrounding environment. Cell signaling is fundamental to coping with stress, the underlying component of functional aging.  Aging was defined in an earlier post as the gradual loss of the body’s ability to respond or adapt to its environment. We can take that one-step further and state that aging is the breakdown of communication between the nervous, immune and hormonal systems of the body.

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Aging Not Determined by Genetics

grandmother-readingAmericans are living longer than ever before. The human life expectancy is increasing and barring unforeseen circumstances, we can expect to live to a ripe old age. Though our life expectancy has increased, the quality of our lives and our health has not. The United States continues to be one of the un-healthiest nations in the developed world.

Most of us do not want to live to be 90 if the last 30 years are filled with illness, disability and dependence on family and nursing homes. We want to be able to play golf, take long walks and enjoy our families. Longer lives do not mean much if they are not active lives. The quality of our later years will be dictated by the choices we make in the preceding years, choices designed to stave off the aging process.

Assuming that a person’s entire life is “written” in the genes that they are born with has been a major mistake in recent health care philosophy. The more we learn about genetics, our biological inheritance, the more we realize that for the most part, our lifestyle decisions and behaviors have far more impact on longevity and health than does heredity. A person’s genes define their basic biology, but health decisions and habits control the way genes will affect the body and health in general.

It used to be thought that aging is the ticking away of some internal clock to a predetermined plan laid down in your genes. Dr. Leonard Hayflick, a noted research scientist, grew human cells in tissue cultures and showed that they could subdivide to create new cells only a limited number of times.   Latest research shows that this is not the case, the death of the cells were determined by the nutrients they took in and their environment.

Aging can best be defined as the gradual loss of the body’s ability to respond to the environment.

The Human Body is an amazing collection of synergistic entities controlled by what can only be described as innate intelligence. The body is designed to be totally self-functioning and self-healing. It was born with the ability to adapt to chemical and physical stresses put on the body in order to survive and thrive.

We tend to think of healing when we suffer a cut on our arm or have broken a bone, but healing is a constant process of replacing old cells with new cells. For example, red blood cells are replaced at a rate of about 100 billion a day, with one trillion total red blood cells in constant circulation.

The body is constantly analyzing what is happening within the body and what is happening in the environment outside the body and makes adaptive changes as necessary.

Aging is not just the effects of chronological time, but also the abnormal stress we place on our body, which gradually breaks it down. This is caused by a number of things by including inactivity, chemical pollution and neurological and postural stress.

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