How and Why You Age

Health Alert 30

Today’s message is the first in a series to broadcast every Monday on Anti-aging. Anti-aging is the newest and fastest growing branch of medicine.

When I lecture on Anti-aging, I have learned from the audience to clarify one thing first. Anti-aging is not the same thing as life extension. That would make it anti-death. But aging and death are two different things.

Aging is the process by which you gradually weaken and lose function. Anti-aging seeks to understand this process and intervene to preserve youthful characteristics. The recently discovered genetic control of aging has opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

*The most important medical discovery of all time*

History may mark the beginning of the 21st century as the time when we finally unlocked the secrets of aging…and learned how to stop the process. It will change the course of human history.

Your body is constantly renewing, rebuilding, and repairing itself throughout your live. With all this constant renewal, you should stay young forever. But you don’t. We all age. Even newly minted cells from an 80-year old are readily recognizable as cells from an aging body. These brand-new cells look and act older than cells from a younger person. How can this be?

In 1990, Nature published a groundbreaking article based on something called the telomere. It changed forever our understanding of the aging process.

Previous theories of aging, such as free radical damage, glycosylation, collagen cross-linking or other proposed mechanisms, now appear to be simply features of the aging process but not the true cause.

To say that we age because of free radical damage is analogous to the FAA announcing that the cause of a plane crash was gravity. Clearly, the force of gravity pulled the plane to the ground. But gravity exerts equal force on every plane in the sky, most of which safely reach their destination.

In the same way, our bodies are assaulted by free radicals from the day we are born. We have mechanisms that effectively quench free radicals and correct the damage. We must understand why they stop.

The story begins with Leonard Hayflick’s accidental discovery that cells divide about 80 times and then slow down and stop. This is now known as the “Hayflick Limit.”

We now know why our cells stop dividing. It turns out that there is a mechanism built into each cell, a sort of clock that limits the number of times a cell can divide. It is controlled by the telomere, a stretch of DNA at the end of every chromosome.

*Every Time Your Cells Divide, The Clock Is Running Down*

Most of the cells in your body have the ability to reproduce at will. But, contrary to a century of scientific doctrine, we now know that each daughter cell does not receive a complete copy of the parent cell’s DNA. Each time a cell divides, a tiny portion of the DNA, a portion of the telomere at the end of the chromosome—is lost.

Each new generation of cells have slightly shorter telomeres than their parents. In fact, you can judge the age of a cell by measuring the length of its telomere. When the telomere gets sufficiently short, the cell is commanded to die.

So the telomere serves as a counter, or clock, for the cell. But the telomere does more than just tell time. As the telomere shortens, it changes the behavior of the cell. Cells with shorter telomeres begin to slow down. The signals that control hormone output and immune function become weaker. They start to act old.

When enough cells act old, they create a ripple effect. Eventually, the damage progresses to the point that your body can no longer defend itself and succumbs to disease.

There are strategies that you can put into play today that will help slow the shortening of your telomeres, thus slowing the actual aging process

*Keep your homocysteine level in a healthy range*

Homocysteine is an amino acid that accumulates in the. If you have high levels of this dangerous substance in your bloodstream, you greatly increase your risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and impotence.

It’s no coincidence that homocysteine levels have been correlated with the most common degenerative diseases of aging. Researchers have discovered that high homocysteine tripled the amount of telomere length that was lost during cell division. This is tripling the speed at which your body is aging.

There is more reason than ever to closely monitor and correct high homocysteine levels in the blood. Your doctor can measure homocysteine with a simple blood test. It is very easy and inexpensive to correct high homocysteine levels with the following nutrient protocol. You can get these nutrients at any health food store.

Vitamin B12 500 mcg

Folic Acid 800 mcg

Vitamin B6 25 mg

Riboflavin (B2) 25mg

TMG (trimethylglycine) 500mg

Al Sears, M.D.


Fossel M “Telomerase and the aging cell: implications for human health” Journal of the American Medical Association June 3, 1998, pp. 1732-5

Xu et al. “Homocysteine accelerates endothelial cell senescence,” FEBS Letters 2000, vol 470, pp. 20-24.

Zglinicki T, “Telomeres influencing the rate of aging.” Annals of the New York Academy of Science Nov 20, 1998, vol 854, pp. 318-27.