Since the unraveling of the human genome project concluded in 2003, genetic scientists and researchers have been studying human genes to determine how we age. The fact is, our cells age, and they begin to age from just moments after we are born. After 30 years or so, our cells begin to produce physical signs of aging such as graying hair and wrinkling of skin.

Consumers are constantly seeking ways to slow down this aging process. The sale of creams and pills to reduce the physical signs of aging has created a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone. We have become obsessed with trying to remain younger looking. We dye our graying hair. We spread creams on our skin. We have skilled surgeons alter our physical appearance with tummy tucks, liposuction, and facelifts: all in a frantic attempt to maintain that youthful appearance just a little longer.

All of these attempts to regain our youth are missing the vital point towards which real science is pointing us. The National Institute on Aging advocates diet and exercise and other natural ways to slow the aging process.

Due to advances in the science of genomics, we are beginning to learn how genes affect the aging process. The theory is to identify the gene, or genes, that affect aging and study them to see what genetic pathways they follow. Then by altering either the gene itself, or its genetic pathway, or both, we can actually change the way the body looks and acts.

Professor Judith Campisi of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging is one of those studying the role of genes on the aging process. She notes that the process of doing nothing more than breathing causes genetic damage. We breathe in pollutants in parts per million that damage our genes every day. We eat foods that are altered by chemicals that damage our genes. Further, cells can simply “make mistakes” when they divide all on their own. We have lots of cells in our bodies, so mistakes happen.

There are several estimates on the number of cells we have in our bodies. Depending upon whether we measure by volume or weight the estimate is either 15 trillion or 70 trillion cells. So, let’s assume that we have around 37.5 trillion. To put this in perspective, the population of the entire world is currently 7.3 billion. So doing the math, one human body has the same number of cells equal to 5,137 times the population of the entire world!

Science is now realizing that if we treat our genes well, we can extend their lives. Healthy genes mean a healthy body.

So, here’s what we can do: eat fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains, and foods that are high in healthy fats, like fish which is high in omega 3 fatty oils as well as anti-oxidants. Avoid sugar, and “junk” or processed foods. Avoid smoking, drinking, and drugs. Exercise regularly by walking to increase blood circulation. Get at least 7 hours of sleep and take time to relax every day.

Smile and be happy. Your genes are counting on you to take care of them.

Dr. Clair is founder and medical director of Vibrance Rejuvenation Center in Rancho Mirage and can be reached at (760) 324.4872.

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