How mental attitude influences the aging
Health / / December 19, 2019
Anil Anantasvami (Anil Ananthaswamy)
Journalist and popularizer of science, the author of the bestseller The Edge of Physics and The Man Who Was not There.
Calendar and biological age
In 1979, psychology professor Ellen Langer (Ellen Langer) with his students in the smallest details restored the situation in the old convent in New Hampshire, to recreate the atmosphere that existed there twenty years ago. Then they invited a group of older men aged 70-80 years to conduct the experiment. Participants were required to spend a week and live as if in the court of 1959. So Langer wanted to return the participants, at least mentally, at a time when they were young and healthy, and watch how it will affect their health.Environmental determinants of memory improvement in late adulthood. .
Every day, Langer and students met with participants and discussed the "current" events. They talked about the launch of the first American satellite and the Cuban Revolution, looked old transmission on a black and white TV and listened to on the radio Nat King Cole. All of this was supposed to move members in 1959.
When Langer analyzed the state of health of the participants at this week's immersion in the past, she found that they improve memory, eyesight and hearing. She then compared these results with those of the participants in the control group. Those, too, spent a week in these conditions, but they were not told about the experimental nature and are not asked to "live in the past." The first group in all parameters has become "younger". The researchers photographed the participants before and after the experiment and asked strangers to determine the age of men. Everyone said that the men in the pictures after the experiment looked younger.
This experiment surprisingly showed that our chronological age, which we count on your birth date, not so reliable indicator of aging.
Ellen Langer in the first place to examine how the mind influences our perception of their own age, and thus - our well-being. Other researchers have focused on the problem of determining the biological age. This term encompasses the physiological development of the organism and its extinction, as well as with relatively high accuracy can predict the risk of various diseases and lifespan. It was found that the tissues and organs are aging at different rates, so the biological age is difficult to reduce to a single digit. However, most scientists agree with the conclusions Langer: subjective perception of their age affects how quickly we age.
Biological markers of aging
Evolutionary biologists accept aging as a process of loss of ability to survive and reproduce as a result of "internal physiological wear and tear." Wear, in turn, are easier to understand by the example of the functioning of cells: the older the cells in a particular body, the more likely that they will cease to divide and die, or they will develop mutations that cause cancer. This suggests that our body still is the true biological age.
However, to define it was not so easy. First, scientists began to look for so-called biomarkers of aging - the characteristics that vary the body and that can predict the likelihood of age-related diseases or determine the duration life. Such biomarkers in different time attributed blood pressure and weight, as well as telomeres - the terminal regions of chromosomes, by protecting chromosome breaks. But all these theories have not been confirmed.
Then the attention of scientists has shifted to how quickly reduce the number of stem cells in the body, and other physiological processes. Steve Horvath (Steve Horvath), professor of genetics and biostatistics from the University of California, studied the relationship of gene expression with aging. Then he made an interesting discovery.
DNA methylation and epigenetic clock
In 2009, Horvath took up the analysis of DNA methylation levels at different sites in the human genome. DNA methylation - a process that is used to turn off genes. By cytosine, one of the four bases of which are constructed nucleotides of DNA, so-called added methyl group - a compound of one carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms. Since methylation does not change the sequence of nucleotides in the DNA, but only regulates gene expression, it is called epigenetic process. Prior to the study of Croatia and did not expect that epigenetics It can be somehow associated with aging, but the results impressed.
Horvath portion 353 identified in the human genome (epigenetic markers) that are present in the cells of all tissues and organs. He then developed algorithm for creating at these sites "epigenetic" hours - a mechanism that measures the natural levels of DNA methylation for the determination of biological tissues age.
In 2013 Horvat published the results of the analysis of 8000 samples from 51 types of healthy cells and tissuesDNA methylation age of human tissues and cell types. . And these results amazed everyone. When Horvath estimated biological age based on the average value of the levels of methylation at 353 sites, he found that this number is close to the calendar age of the person. In 50% of cases, the difference was less than 3.6 years - is the best result among the results obtained in the analysis of various biomarkers. In addition, Horvath found that middle-aged and elderly epigenetic clock starts to slow down or speed up. This is a way to determine how a person is aging: faster or slower than the reference calendar year.
Despite this, Croatia believes that the concept of biological age is more applicable than the entire body as a whole and to specific tissues and organs. The difference between biological and calendar age can be negative, zero or positive. Negative deviation means that the tissue or organ under the expected, zero - aging occurs in a normal pace, the positive - the tissue or organ is older than their chronological suggests (calendar) age.
As a rule, aging accelerate various diseases, it is particularly evident in patients with Down syndrome or infected with HIV. Obesity leads to rapid aging of the liver. Studies have died from Alzheimer's disease indicate that the prefrontal cortex of such patients is also subjected to accelerated aging.
Despite the wealth of data, we still know very little about the relationship between methylation markers and biological age. "The lack of epigenetic hours that we simply do not understand exactly how they work at the molecular level," - says Horvath.
But even without a precise understanding of the principles of operation of this mechanism, researchers can test the procedure, slowing down the aging process. Sam Horvath are now exploring the possibility of hormone therapy.
The influence of the subjective notions of age on physiological processes
The experiment was conducted by Ellen Langer, in 1979, it suggests that we can affect your body with the mind. According to Langer, the mind and the body are interrelated. So she wondered whether a subjective mental state affect such an objective description of how the blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetesBlood sugar level follows perceived time rather than actual time in people with type 2 diabetes. .
Members of a new study conducted by Langer must have been over 90 minutes playing computer games. On the table next to them have set the clock. Every 15 minutes, the participants had to change the play. Researchers have previously changed the speed of the clock: one-third of the participants they walked slowly to the other - faster and for the latter - at normal speed.
"We wanted to know how it will change in the blood sugar level: in accordance with the present or the subjective time - says Langer. - It turned out that with the subjective. " This surprisingly demonstrated that psychological processes may affect the metabolic processes.
While Langer was not engaged in the study of the connection between mind and epigenetic changes, other scientists believe that such a link exists. In 2013, Richard Davidson (Richard Davidson) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison published findings of its study, according to which even a single day conscious meditation may influence the expression of genesRapid changes in histone deacetylases and inflammatory gene expression in expert meditators. . In the study, Davidson and his colleagues watched the 19 experienced "meditators" before and after a day of intense meditation. For comparison, the researchers also observed a group of people who have spent the entire day idle. At the end of the day those who meditated had reduced levels of activity of inflammatory genes - the same effect can be observed when taking anti-inflammatory drugs. So, mental attitude can have an epigenetic effect.
All of these studies explain why a week-long stay "in the past" (the first experiment Langer) so affected some age-related characteristics of the older men. Due to the fact that their intelligence was transferred at a time when they were younger, the body also "return" at the time, and thanks to improved hearing, vision and memory.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that biological aging is inevitable and sooner or later there comes a time when no positive thoughts do not slow down the process. Yet Ellen Langer believes that, as we age, largely due to our understanding of old age. And it is often reinforced by the widespread in society stereotypes.
Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology
When we are surrounded by people who expect from us a certain behavior, we usually try to meet these expectations.
Most of us submits to his calendar age and behave in accordance with it. For example, young people tend to take active steps to recover quickly even after a minor injury. And those who are over 80, often simply resign themselves to the pain and say, "Well, what do you want, Getting On." They do not take care of themselves, and their belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Subjective view of the age is very different in different groups of people. People aged 40 to 80 years, for example, usually it seems that they are younger. Sixty years old may say they feel 50 or 55 years, sometimes even 45. Very few people would say that he feels older. At twenty years of age often subjective coincides with the calendar or even a bit of getting ahead.
Scientists have discovered that the subjective age is associated with some physiological markers of aging, such as at a rate of walk, vital capacity of the lungs, and even with C-reactive protein levels in the blood (it indicates inflammation in the body). The younger you feel, the better these figures: you go faster, you have more vital capacity of the lungs and less inflammation.
Of course, this does not guarantee that only the subjective feeling of youth will make you healthier.
But the conclusion of all these studies is obvious: calendar age - it's just a number.
"If people think that with age, they are doomed to idleness, if they break off all ties and have a negative attitude to life, they are reducing their opportunities - scientists say. - A positive outlook on life, dialogue and open-mindedness can definitely have a positive effect. "