Why do we age?

The science and study of aging is called gerontology. There is no single cause for ageing and is a matter of intense research and debate. Several theories of ageing have been postulated. These are categorised in two ways; firstly that we are programmed to die at the cellular level and secondly cells die as a result to accumulation of toxic materials, waste and mutations and hence undergo senescence (a processes of deterioration).

Telomerase is an enzyme which elongates telomeres and mutations in these enzymes can lead to premature ageing. Many anti-ageing therapies have this enzyme in it. Cosmetic industries are spending millions to develop the use telomerase activating agents in anti-ageing products. Cancer cells become immortal due to increased activation of telomerase.

1. The number of times the body or somatic cells can replicate/divide are fixed. The protective telomeres present at the end of chromosomes get shorter. Chromosomes are packed form of DNA in a cell. Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes that maintain the viability of cells and when it’s lost; cells undergo apoptosis or perish. As cells divide telomeres become shorter and it can no longer protect the chromosomes. Cells also loose their ability to divide. This lack of maintenance of DNA leads to genetic instability. This leads to deterioration of organs in the body that can lead to ageing.

2. The accumulation of damage due to exposure to “reactive oxygen species” or “free radicals” during our lifetime either by intracellular source or external sources (e.g. UV) causes damage to the mitochondria (power house-generation and energy metabolism). This causes cell necrosis and loss of cell viability.

3. Its well known that smoking can cause the ageing of the skin and damage to the connective tissue (bones, cartilage) leading to accelerated ageing.

4. Buildup of mutations that cannot be suppressed is deleterious to the cell leading to its death.

5. “Antagonistic pleiotropy theory” suggests that the natural process of selection (evolution) causes mutations that makes us fit for survival at early stages of live. This is on the expense that we might not be as fit later in life. Therefore ageing is a side-effect of survival (in the early stages of our lives).

6. Enhanced long life is a trait in families. Some genes that code for proteins protects from certain diseases (such as heart diseases and Alzheimer’s) increases lifespan are inheritable.

7. In some species reproducing is related to longevity. For example, Atlantic salmon dies as soon as its reproduces.

8. Cells on its last legs are a preprogrammed cellular phenomenon for preventing cancer. Cells die as a method to prevent tumour formation (precautionary).

9. Accumulation of damaged proteins, free radicals and waste products in cells leads to ageing.

The science of ageing: We die at the cellular level. We pass away because our cells do. Cells expire because protective telomeres are lost and it can't protect the DNA. As cells die in organs (heart, digestive system, eyes etc) it begins to deteriorate and becomes less effective. We ultimately breathe our last. 

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Comments 26 comments

felinor p. regalado 9 years ago

grabe.im very curious what this all about

Mark Knowles profile image

Mark Knowles 9 years ago

Oh dear, this hub gives me another reason to quit smoking. Have you been talking to my wife?

Rudra profile image

Rudra 9 years ago Author

Mark smoking is one of the bad ones. It causes oxidation of cholesterol and uptake by cells to form foam cells. Plus the other damages in relation to ageing. Therefore consider quitting.

Ed 9 years ago

It is interesting to know that telomerases deplete as cells divide. Some of these anti-ageing creams contains telomerase activators.

drashokshyam profile image

drashokshyam 9 years ago from thane west, maharastra, india

ageing and death are not at all synonymus although both are very natural . ageing is like wearing out of a machine but then wear tear and repair are a part of the our body system and ageing is the slowing down of repair, yet death is still ill understood. how much ageing is required for death is a matter that is never raised even in scientific community. we can postulate hypothesis about death at cellular level but then there is a big blind spot in understanding of death at the level of the entire organism. we still await the answer

Abhinaya 9 years ago

Cellular damage can cause so many complications.It is really difficult to understand the involuntary activities of various cell organelles.

Kenny Wordsmith profile image

Kenny Wordsmith 9 years ago from Chennai

Points to ponder. Good hub for that reason. Now please write a positive hub as to how to increase longevity.

JazLive profile image

JazLive 8 years ago from Decatur

I remember a question from Junior High (early 70s) -- the instructor told the class that we were at a baseball game and consumed: a hotdog with catsup, mustard and relish; some chips and a soda --- then asked us how many preservatives we consumed -- the most popular answer was 5 - the correct answer was 7.

Then we were informed that the medical society did not know what any one of the seven preservatives would do to our bodies over a long period of time. The instructor shared that manufacturers did not use the same preservatives and their choice would be the cheapest in order to get their product(s) to market.

Now that foods are "genetically engineered" like "fish genes in tomatoes" -- I wonder what altered foods will do to future generations.

bmorganfit profile image

bmorganfit 8 years ago

If trying to increase longevity, exercise is your best bet. A study published in 2007 found that healthy seniors managed to rejuvenate muscle tissue with resistance training (strength training).

Specifically, their mitochondrial function reversed to levels typical of young adults. The mitochondria are referred to as the "powerhouse" of cells and a decline in their function is associated with loss of muscle tissue and physical function.

Exercise, specifically resistance training is one of your best bets to live longer and avoid a loss of mobility.

It's sure worked for Jack LaLanne.


SAGE 8 years ago

We are not programmed to die. We were created to live forever. What is causing us to grow old and die? One word, Sin. Sin is any thought, action or speech that causes another sentient being to suffer. When a person sins, this causes a substance known to this world as negative-karma to come into existance. This negative Karma then attaches itself to the Human body. The process of Death begins. Only through the ransome sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ will this negative Karma be cleansed.

This universe is a positve based universe and the Law of Karma, just like the Law of Gravity remains forever. The science behind what I have written is understood by the writer, however I am currently unable to explain it in words. When the Kingdom of God is established on our planet, death will be taken out of this collective reality and yes, people will live forever as we were originally intended to. Read the Hebrew and Greek scriptures, pray for the Holy Spirit and you will learn the truth as I have. Don't be fooled, death is not natural! A person reaps what they sow. Lesson to be learned, don't cause yourself or others to suffer.

Jerrico Usher profile image

Jerrico Usher 8 years ago from Bend, Oregon

This was a very fascinating hub! wow.. good work! You sound incredibly intelligent just in the way that you word your sentences and consolidate complex facts into such small but potent paragraphs.. I look forward to reading more of your work (if I can find time between writing my blogs and "recreational" hubs :)

prasadjain profile image

prasadjain 8 years ago from Tumkur

Good information Rudra. Thanks. But to this question, my answer is simple-we age because, we worry!

Do you agree, atleast partially?


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

According to Vedas the age of person is pre determined by the number of breaths one will take in a single lifespan. Hence by doing yogic practices like pranayam one who takes less breathes I.e., single breath lasting for more than a minute or so leads to longer lifespan.

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

I am very glad I quit smoking many years back! Interesting hub!

terenceyap07 profile image

terenceyap07 8 years ago from Singapore


It looks like I'll have to quit smoking, too.


AgaintsSage 8 years ago

Sage, you're very arrogant. God is not real, one single being dictating right and wrong is not viable. The ideals of god have been warped by humanity to serve our own good. We have abused this "idea" of a higher person to achieve whatever we wanted. Its arrogant and ignorant to the real experience that is living. How can you possibly experience anything in life if you have to live by a set of rules and directions. Enjoy life, be your own person and stop listening to what people of the past have been trying to tell you. I'm am happy and don't believe in god...how could this be possible? Simple, happiness is found in you, not in god.

AEvans profile image

AEvans 7 years ago from SomeWhere Out There

I am impressed that you clearly understand the aging process, I am looking forward to more articles of interest.:)

LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I think picking the right parents is important - genes seem to play a big role.

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

really nice hubs Now I know why I am getting older

Bennyboy 7 years ago

What about a Rabbit? it eats nothing but veggies, no meat, pretty sure they dont smoke. I think we are programmed in our DNA to grow grow grow then stop! like a tree.

Craig 7 years ago

Responding to: AgaintsSage,

You are a perfect example of what Satan and his associates have been trying to do for thousands of years since the birth of man. Simply, convince people like yourself that God does not exist. And, happiness is only found in you, not in God. And so, do whatever it takes to accomplish this.

Andrew 7 years ago

Scientific law states that every effect requires an equal or greater cause. We living beings exist, therefore a living creator must exist. Try to wrap your pea-sized brain around infinity, because if this universe is finite, then it never would have existed in the first place.

h4mx0r 7 years ago

Of course if air affects metal to make rust you can't say air is a creator it is merely a catalyst. If such a "creator" exists it is either unsentient or not willing to take credit so you can quit thrusting it upon them please. Ty Andrew.

Confused 5 years ago

With so many gramatical errors in your post, it is difficult to trust the information contained within it.

Joy-Ann 5 years ago

FACT: Death begins in the colon. Internal parasites and toxins kill us, as does sin. Never sit and strain on a toilet to poop. Use 'squat position' to poop, like in primitive times. Eat nourishing foods that God intended for us to eat and be grateful He provided then. Avoid foods and beverages that your great-grandparents wouldn't recognize. Live a clean and healthy life-style. Help others whenever you can. Love animals and talk lovingly to them. Give to others without expecting praise or anything in return. Live by the '10 Commandments'. If God would disapprove -- don't think it and don't do it. Pray. Radiate love. Do this and don't die and wind up in Hell. Hell is real -- Billions of people go there. Google -- billions of people go to Hell OR Most people go to Hell when they die.

IntegrityYes 4 years ago

That is great and I definitely voted up.

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