Mental health articles

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The process of ageing

There are various theories of ageing including the genetic, the cellular and the physiological. However, precisely why we age and how we age is not fully understood. From an evolutionary perspective, it can be considered that we age because our bodies exist to carry and exchange gametes – eggs and sperm which do not age – but that the body itself is disposable (the disposable soma theory) .

The actual mechanism of ageing seems to lie at the genetic level – while having a profound effect at the cellular and physiological level – in that there is an accumulation of faults in the replication of genes throughout life leading to faults in the synthesis of proteins which control every aspect of our lives. The longer we live, the greater the number of faults we accumulate until this becomes incompatible with survival . The origin of the faults at the genetic level is oxygen. Oxygen, while being essential for our survival, is highly toxic and we are designed to survive through a range of biochemical mechanisms which help to neutralise this threat and also to repair most of the damage that is done to our genes.

However, as we age, the survival and repair mechanisms become less efficient, faults accumulate and ageing takes place. All the organs and systems of the body, including the brain, are subject to this ageing process.

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