Monday, September 09, 2013

Body & Mind –> Younger Next Year

In their book “Younger Next Year,” Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge make the case that much of what we think of as aging is simply the fact that we have allow our human bodies to gain a layer of rust.  In their minds, the human body pretty well takes care of itself up to around age 40, then suddenly, you need to go into maintenance mode.

I will use the analogy that if you buy car fresh from the lot, everything goes pretty well.  The tires are new.  The oil is fresh.  The water pump works.  Everything is great.  Now if you don’t do anything to the car, it will start to fall apart.  I have lived off of this principle for quite a while.  A lot of people start to think about selling their car when it gets to around 50,000 miles because they think the car will start to break down.  However, in reality, cars that are properly taken care of can last 200,000 to 300,000 miles or beyond.  Sure some things will need to be replaced, but this is just part of making sure that the car runs well as it ages.

All of us only have one body, thus the need to maintain that body is something that we need to take care of.  Similar to a car, it is much better to get on top of the problem before something really goes wrong.  The problem with our bodies is that if they are neglected, they get themselves into situations that are much harder to repair.

The book does a nice job of pointing out how you maintain your body.  The principle is one of stress-repair-stress.  If you have any background in exercise physiology, you will understand what I am talking about.  However, to recap this principle, you need to understand that continual resting is the enemy of getting stronger.  We all know this because we all know that somebody that is confined to bed rest gets very, very weak.

To build a stronger anything, you need to first start by tearing down that anything.  In the case of weightlifting, to make a stronger muscle, you must put enough stress on that muscle to exhaust the muscle and create tiny little microtears in your muscle fibers.  This damage signals to your body that you need to kick-off a repair process, and this repair process makes the muscle stronger than the original state.

The medical part of the authorship team, Henry Lodge, points this out.  In essence,   the body has a series of messengers called cytokines.  Now there is some debate if some cytokines should simply be called a signaling molecule or if they really should be called a hormone.  For us it really doesn’t matter.  These cytokines, which are types of protein molecules such as interleukin and interferon,  are the things that kick off our ability to get stronger and repair our body.

Our body is normally in one of two states:  anabolic or catabolic.  This is an output of our metabolism pathways, which is the way that our bodies function.  Both of these process are required for good health.  However, we generally allow the catabolic pathway to get out of whack in our modern world.  The catabolic pathway is the process of breaking down more complex structure to release energy.  The problem happens when the body breaks down things and never repairs things.  As mentioned before in this blog, Robert Sapolsky covers the stress hormone glucocorticoid, the action of which tends to burn the body out.  They are great things to have at the right time, but horrible thing to have all the time.  Unfortunately, our modern environment keys us toward an overabundance of these negative chemicals.

The authors go on to vastly oversimplify a chemical cascade in what they simply refer to as the C6 and C10 cycle.  (While there are many other chemical pathways involved, including C-Reactive Proteins, I will repeat the simplified version here.)   In essence, they point out that we need a big boost of C6, which gets generated during aerobic exercise, to cause a big boost of C10, the chemical signal to rebuild, to take place.  If you cannot create a big surge of C6, you never get the right stuff to make sure that your body is maintained. 

This is only the first part of the book, and we’ll come back to this later to understand what the author points will be in a later blog post.  However, I hope that even this short version will cause you to start thinking about preparing for the future.

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