The Process of Aging

No matter how old you are, you've probably asked yourself some version of the questions, "How long will I live?" or "How long will I live well?" Interestingly, there has been an effort for some time now to document the oldest people on earth. And when you look at today's centenarians—people over the age of 100—the numbers are very, very small. Realistically, the focus should be on what it takes to reach your individual maximum life expectancy and, most importantly, assuring that you arrive there with optimal quality of life.

The Process of Aging
As our bodies age, they naturally deteriorate. In the later years, many essential functions begin operating at a suboptimal level. There are three main factors that influence the body's aging process.

First, as we grow older, the number of mistakes incurred by daily cellular reproduction increases. The body actually creates nonfunctional cells, leading to more rapid deterioration of the body's functions. With advancing age, a larger percentage of our cells, even though they're present, are useless. And worse yet, these nonfunctional cells sometimes interfere with normal cellular processes.

The second part of the aging process relates to cellular damage that causes the shortening of DNA, eventually triggering a process called apoptosis or "programmed cell death." This is particularly important when we realize that there are DNA fragments in each of our cells' many mitochondria compartments. When these mitochondria serve as energy generators during normal cell functions, oxygen free radical by-products are produced, and damage can occur to healthy DNA, creating DNA fragments and triggering cell apoptosis. As time passes, increased damage to healthy DNA leads to accelerated cell death, and our old bodies simply cannot generate cells fast enough to compensate for the loss. This process is most visible and obvious in our skin—the older we get, the thinner our skin becomes.

The third part of the aging process involves the cellular down-regulation of our natural oxidative enzymes such as superoxide dismutase and catalase and glutathione perxoidase, making our antioxidant defenses less efficient with age.

Free Radical Theory of Aging
So how do we age? The most prominent theory accepted by the scientific community has been termed the Free Radical Theory of Aging. Free radicals are mostly oxygencontaining molecules with single electrons in the outermost orbital that are very eager to pair up with anything else that has electrons. These short-lived molecules, with an average life span of one-millionth of a second, are very potent toxins that afflict our bodies. By attacking the cell's DNA, free radicals destroy the cell, causing healthy cells to die prematurely. When we're young, our natural antioxidant defense system functions well by "mopping up" free radicals before they can cause damage. However, as we age, the antioxidant defense system becomes less efficient through down-regulation of oxidative enzymes. The increase in free radical damage impairs cellular regulation and functioning and triggers aging symptoms as well as many diseases.

Why do cells become susceptible to free radical damage? First, the daily energy production by the cell's mitochondria generates increased numbers of free radicals as by-products. The second reason is due to the constant access and utilization of nucleus DNA to make mRNA for production of functional protein, followed by repairing and rewinding the DNA back into chromosomes. These activities often cause a fault in the repair process, damaging DNA. The third reason is external free radical assault. This assault comes from sunlight (including UVA and UVB rays), pollution, stress, smoking, etc. Smoking a single cigarette generates trillions of free radicals.

Skin Aging
You may be surprised to know that every day, each skin cell can be exposed to more than 73,000 damaging assaults. Our skin cells experience even heavier damage because they're a part of an external organ and are exposed to even more harmful elements.

The Free Radical Theory of Aging is particularly relevant to skin cells. The unstable free radical molecules vibrate in the skin, literally poking holes in the collagen fibers (the skin's support structure) of the dermis. After years of this free radical assault, the collagen, which is a critical structural element of skin, becomes weaker and eventually causes the skin to collapse and form wrinkles. The rapid rate at which skin cells divide causes a shorter life span for the cell, and as we mature, the number of skin cells in our bodies decreases. Over time, the process results in our skin becoming thinner and thinner. Essentially, the more skin cells in your body and the thicker these cells are, the healthier your skin will be and the less wrinkles you will have.

Slowing Down the Aging Process
Now, how do we slow down aging? Scientists have come to a realization through many years of study that to prevent accelerated aging and to keep your skin from getting old and wrinkled, you need to protect your DNA from both outside and inside aggressors.

So, if you want to live to 100—or at least improve your quality of life on the way to 100—I have a formula for you. Here's my "inside out" approach to a lifetime of health and beauty: Change to a healthier lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a positive attitude. Along with a healthy diet, add daily supplements such as Pharmanex® LifePak® and Te -green 97® to strengthen your antioxidant defense on the inside. Protect skin from outside oxidative damage by including the newest generation of antioxidant ingredients such as polyhydroxy acids and alpha lipoic acid, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.

Michael N. Chang

Ph.D., Pharmaceutical Science Advisor

Dr. Chang, chief scientific advisor to Nu Skin Enterprises, has championed the merging of skin care and nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, he brings a unique vision to skin care, focusing on nourishing the skin from both the inside and the outside. Dr. Chang is an expert in supplement development and brings vast experience to his role as vice president of research and development for Pharmanex. Prior to his work with Nu Skin Enterprises, Dr. Chang served as director of medical chemistry at Rhone-Poulenc Rorer and as deputy director of medicinal chemistry at Merck. His research has resulted in 35 patents and has been the topic of more than 60 articles published in peer-review journals.