This article poses a simple question. But is the question really that simple? How would you answer it- ‘What is normal aging, anyway?’
It seems that one of the advantages of the globalization effects of the internet and technology is the shake up to our ideas of what is normal. We are exposed to all sorts of cultures and individuals telling their stories of getting older, or belying the aging process. We hear how people in China age differently based on their diet and culture. We hear how some live to be over a hundred and others die in their sixties. And even though formulas are created to tell us if we do what ‘they’ do we too will live longer, is it so?
While this could be debatable what is within our personal power is to challenge our assumptions around what it means to age. So first, let’s start with your definition. Before reading further, if you will entertain me on this one, write down your own definition to the question, ‘What is normal aging?’
Okay. Now you have that to hold up to the concepts and research offering new ideas to describe and even redefine the aging process. Is aging an inevitable downward spiral? Are we bound to the genetics of our past? Perhaps not, especially if we frame aging in a completely new way.
A prevailing definition of what it means to age normally is to assume that our cells are programmed to degradate, which means to simply wear out. We can accept this as the inevitable case or we can ask why our cells would have that programming. If we ask why, we can discover that the belief itself sets up the programming. This kind of pattern is so entrenched in the collective of humanity we may not be able to completely dismantle it in our cells, but we can certainly approach our health that way in small steps.
Let’s take a practical example. What if 90% of your family has a history of diabetes. Would you assume that you too will probably end up suffering diabetes? Would your language begin to mirror this belief because research has shown that we are affected by our genetic line? You could walk down that road.
Or you could consider the research in other fields, such as epigenetics that contributes our response to our environment to have a larger percentage of influence upon our health. This would take us deeper out of the strangling idea that we have no power since it runs in our genes. But it does push us into a realm of greater responsibility. It could lead us to take a look at our family line and see that everyone has grown up with, and eaten a diet heavy in the very foods that cause trauma to the pancreas, liver and digestive system. We could see that the normal aging of cellular decline happened because the diet was rich in high processed foods and poor in nutrition and balance. And we could observe that our relatives that have diabetes are eating poorly. Then we step out of the system and choose.
If we are courageous we could take on a personal challenge to see if we function more effectively if we make a small change to our diet. And if we function more effectively it is fair to say that it is happening on a cellular level. Hence, we are helping our cells shift from a pattern of degradation to regeneration.
In the next articles I wish to get into other concepts tied to normal aging such as random damage, cross linkage and allostatic load (or homeostatic imbalance.) And then of course we can move into a deeper understanding of the ways our personal choices can directly influence our personal normal aging.