Aging is a natural process that happens to all of us, but have you ever wondered what causes it? Scientists have identified 12 hallmarks of aging, which are the underlying biological processes that cause our bodies to break down over time. Understanding these hallmarks can help us better understand why we age and how we might be able to slow down or even reverse some of the effects of aging. In this article, we’ll explain the 12 hallmarks of aging, and help you get a better understanding of what’s happening inside your body as you grow older.
1. Altered Cellular Communications
Cellular communication is the process that allows cells to exchange information with each other. This communication is essential for the coordination of cellular activities and is necessary for the proper functioning of the body. Altered cellular communication is involved in the aging process and can lead to the development of age-related diseases.
One of the main causes of altered cellular communication in aging is the accumulation of damage to the cells’ DNA (see Genomic Instability & DNA Damage).
Altered cellular communication can lead to the accumulation of harmful proteins in the cells, which can contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related conditions.
2. Genomic Instability
Genomic instability is a hallmark of aging cells where the DNA fails to remain structurally intact or faithfully replicated over time. This instability can lead to DNA damage, which can in turn lead to a variety of problems, including cancer. There are a number of factors that contribute to genomic instability, including environmental stresses (such as radiation, toxins, and oxidative stress), DNA replication errors, genetic mutations, and telomere shortening (see Telomere Attrition).
Oxidative stress refers to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the body due to the imbalance of the production and detoxification in our body, which can cause damage to proteins, lipids, and DNA, leading to cellular dysfunction and death. Therefore, oxidative stress is thought to be a major contributor to the aging process.
Telomeres, the repetitive DNA sequences that are located at the end of chromosomes, are also important in genomic stability. When telomeres get too short, the cells can no longer divide, which can lead to problems such as cancer.
3. Telomere Shortening
Telomeres serve to protect the genetic material from degradation and damage during cell division..With each cell division, the telomeres become progressively shorter, and when they reach a critically short length, the cell may become senescent/old or undergo programmed cell death.Telomere attrition is involved in aging because as telomeres get shorter, the cells can no longer divide and the person gets older.
4. Epigenetic Alterations
Epigenetic alterations are changes in the way that genes are expressed without altering the DNA sequence itself.. These changes can be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins, diet, exercise, and stress. Epigenetic alterations can also be inherited from one generation to the next, but the exact mechanisms still remain unknown.
Epigenetic alterations are involved in aging because they can cause genes to be expressed differently over time. This can lead to the accumulation of damage and the development of age-related diseases.
5. Loss of Proteostasis
Proteostasis is the process that helps to maintain the correct folding structure and function of proteins in the cell. This is important because proteins are essential for the cell to carry out its normal functions. When proteostasis is lost, proteins can fold incorrectly and can become toxic to the cell. This can lead to the cell’s death and can contribute to the aging process. There are several factors that can lead to the loss of proteostasis, including genetic mutations, environmental stresses such as heat, oxidative damage, and aging.
One of the hallmarks of aging is the loss of proteostasis. This can lead to the accumulation of damaged proteins in the cell. These damaged proteins can cause the cell to age prematurely and can lead to the development of various diseases, including neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
6. Cellular Senescence
Cellular senescence is a process where cells stop dividing and take on a zombie-like state, in which they are neither living nor dead. This process is involved in aging and is thought to be a contributing factor to age-related diseases. Senescent cells produce harmful chemicals that can damage surrounding cells, leading to inflammation, tissue damage and additional senescent cells. The accumulation of senescent cells is thought to be a major contributor to the aging process.
7. Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Mitochondrial dysfunction is a condition that results when the mitochondria in a cell fail to function properly. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including aging.
The mitochondria are organelles in cells that are responsible for producing energy. They do this by converting food into a form of energy that the cell can use. When the mitochondria are not functioning properly, the cell can’t produce the energy it needs to function properly.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is believed to be a major contributor to the aging process. The mitochondria produce a substance called free radicals, which can damage the cells in the body and accelerate aging.
8. Deregulated Nutrient Sensing
Deregulated nutrient sensing is a process that is involved in aging. This happens when the cells in the body can no longer sense when they have enough nutrients and begin to age prematurely. This can be caused by a variety of things, such as a poor diet, stress, or exposure to toxins and can lead to a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
9. Stem Cell Exhaustion
As we age, our cells gradually lose their ability to divide and renew themselves. This process is called stem cell exhaustion and is one of the main causes of aging. Stem cells are the building blocks of our bodies. They can renew themselves and turn into any type of cell in the body. As we age, we have fewer stem cells, and those that remain are not as capable of making perfect copies as they once were. This leads to a gradual loss of cells in the body, which affect our organs and overall aging process.
10. Disabled Autophagy
Autophagy is a process where our cells recycle old or damaged parts to make new ones. This is important for keeping our bodies healthy because it helps get rid of things that could cause problems. As we age, our cells don’t recycle as well as they used to, which means that the old or damaged parts build up and cause problems. This can lead to inflammation and diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Inflammation is something that happens when our bodies try to fight off infections or heal from injuries. It’s a normal response that helps keep us healthy. But as we age, our immune system doesn’t work as well as it used to, and it can start causing problems instead of helping. This chronic low-level inflammation is called “inflammaging.” It can damage our tissues and organs, and it’s associated with a lot of age-related diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
12. Microbiome Dysbiosis
Our bodies are home to trillions of bacteria and other microbes that help us digest food, produce vitamins, and protect us from harmful invaders. This ecosystem of microbes is called our “microbiome.” As we age, the composition of our microbiome changes, and this can have a big impact on our health. Dysbiosis is a condition where the balance of microbes in our microbiome gets disrupted, and harmful bacteria start to take over. This can lead to inflammation, leaky gut, and other health problems across other organ systems.
A Framework for Understanding and Interventions
The 12 hallmarks of aging provide a framework for understanding the complex biological processes that contribute to our bodies breaking down over time. While these hallmarks are all interconnected, they each have unique impacts on our health and well-being.
By understanding these processes and how they affect us, we can begin to develop strategies for slowing down or even reversing some of the effects of aging. Whether it’s through lifestyle optimizations, a longevity promoting diet, tracking our rate of aging, or longevity supplements like NOVOS Core & NOVOS Boost, there is hope for a healthier, happier, and longer life as we continue to unravel the mysteries of aging.