The Science Behind: Aging
Cover - Ishita Aggarwal
Argh! My back! Argh! My hip! Argh! My foot!
These are some phrases you can expect to hear from a majority of the elderly. But what does getting older mean? Well, it's a change both inside and out. Your mindset matures, and your body faces some physical changes such as gray hair, wrinkles, and brittle bones. The question is, how do we experience these physical changes? Why does our skin begin to wrinkle, our hair begins to dull, and our bones begin to be more tender? Why do we get older?
Why We Age:
First of all, why do we age in the first place? Well, there are multiple theories on why we age. One theory states that our mitochondria have something to do with aging. Mitochondria are certain organelles found in cells. They help produce energy for your body. Mitochondria also contain parts of your DNA. Scientists call this "mtDNA". As the mitochondria produce more energy for your body, they also produce ROS (reactive oxygen species). The thing about ROS is that it can damage mtDNA. The idea with this is that if the mtDNA is damaged, the mitochondria become more and more dysfunctional and as a result, produce less energy. Another theory suggests that our genes are programmed in a way that predicts how long we will live. If the gene is altered, your lifespan could potentially alter as well. One last theory says that our DNA is damaged till the point where we can no longer properly function (death).
Our wrinkles originate from places where our skin folds due to facial expression (smiling, laughing, frowning, etc.). Wrinkles also appear on parts of the body that are exposed to more sun. When people age, their skin becomes drier, thinner, and less elastic which means it can't protect itself from damage, like from the rays of the sun. This ultimately leads to wrinkles and creases. With age, the skin loses flexibility and it becomes harder for it to "spring back" to normal shape. So, the wrinkles become permanent.
Hair follicles (tunnel-like structures in the outer layer of skin) are connected to melanin-producing cells that make our hair different colors. Aging causes the melanin-producing cells to fail. All that remains are white, uncolored proteins. These proteins take the place of normal pigments and slowly change your hair color to white or gray.
Bones and Joints:
When people age, they don't only lose cells, they lose minerals and calcium as well. This causes bones to lose mass and density. That leads to the bones becoming more brittle. Another painful side effect of aging involves the minerals people have left depositing and sitting around some joints, causing the joints to become less flexible.