David A. Sinclair, PhD aptly uses the metaphor that aging occurs when a cell “loses its identity”.
Here’s a simplified summary of what this means:
Epigenetic factors manage genetic expression and have a dual function of DNA repair.
When wear and tear from our lifestyle is detected, these epigenetic factors leave the genome to repair DNA.
When this has to happen too often, the home genome begins to express itself as incomplete as less and less epigenetic regulation is present. This allows a compounding symphony of errors. Some things that cause this to happen too often are:
- Overconsumption of meat
- Overconsumption of food in general
- Over Consumption of processed foods and sugar
- Using plastic in the microwave, and just using the microwave too often in general (every now and then with glass containers is okay)
- Overexposure to radiation
- Underexposure to physiological and environmental extremes
- Not getting regular, high-quality sleep
If your heart rate never goes up (from exercise) and down (from meditation for example) as well as body temperature (from sauna/cold shower), you are generally not experiencing these healthy extremes.
This is comparable to a pianist who is progressively distracted to greater and greater degrees from their sheet music to the point of being unable to play the song and eventually giving up. The pianist is the epigenome, the piano is the genome.
Here’s another takeaway from this information that I really like:
Studies on centenarians (those who live to be 100) find that one of the common characteristics across the board is they led meaningful lives, they felt needed, and that they had a purpose.
In other words, they had a stable, healthy, sustainable identity.
For me this has been a sign to give up some of the things in life that lean more towards the categories of meaningless and distracting and replacing them with nourishing and meaningful counterparts.
Figure out what is truly meaningful to you, and while you’re at it, help your cells do the same!
Mitigate cellular identity-crisis so your sirtuins don’t get too distracted, either (see the previous summary blog for some tips).