Theories of aging
Aging and dying. That’s what I was thinking about as a stranger shared his story with me.
Rain forcibly hits my umbrella, as I listen to a gentleman ninety years old disclose his thoughts on different recessions in the US.
He is sitting at a covered bus stop, and I am waiting outside a warehouse area to pick up a key from a storage guy running late.
I am speechless in his presence. I hear only some of the troughs he has survived. In most species, females outlive males. Statistically, he has already lived about twelve years past his sentence.
As he spoke, my mind wandered to the different ideas we have on aging. There are different theories on why aging leads to dying:
Genetic theory of aging bets that our genes determine our last day on earth (or Mars).
Certain genes, like apolipoprotein, literally program our doomsday should we outlive other traumas. I find it comforting knowing that major events in our lives are likely out of our control.
Stochastic theory of aging deals with randomness of damage to our bodies. At the cellular level.
These insults accumulate over time, which leads to functional decline.
The knife fight is at the DNA level. DNA in the cells undergo spontaneous mutation or can be damaged by the environment. Instead of things being predestined, there is an opportunity for our experiences to shape how things will end.
Neuroendocrine theory of aging fixates on the hormones.
Specifically, the brain communicates with all of our organs in our body through hormones which dictate our development and growth. Over time, the signals start to decrease.
Vascular theory of aging focuses on our blood vessels. Specifically the cells that line the vessels undergo changes over time. Since no organ can survive without a blood conduit, the body shuts down slowly.
Immunological theory of aging deals most with issues faced in modern medicine. The immune system alters over time, which makes you more susceptible to disease. Significant illnesses can take you down or make it very hard to live with.
The bus arrives and the man leaves me with a tip: “Don’t get old.”
The storage guy comes rushing towards me with a key. “Man, this traffic nearly killed me.”
I walk away with my boots sloshing along the cracked sidewalk and the crisp air circulating under my umbrella. I hope I have many more days like this.
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