Why do we age?

What are the theories of aging and why should you know them? Understanding the causes of aging is vital to staying young and healthy.Click to Tweet

This post is an overview of 10 different theories of aging.

Each theory has something in common, they can be controlled. And even a few simple changes is enough for dramatic improvement.

It appears that aging is not linear, what you do determines how fast you age. Learn what you can do and what to avoid to turn back your biological clock.

A list of 10 theories of aging

Table of Contents

  1. Expectation Theory of Aging
  2. Perception of Time and Aging
  3. Free Radical Theory of Aging
  4. Mitochondrial Theory of Aging
  5. Telomere Theory of Aging
  6. Caloric Restriction and Aging
  7. mTor Theory of Aging
  8. Resting Heart Rate and Aging
  9. Heart Rate Variability and Aging
  10. Total Load Theory of Aging



“You must unlearn what you have been programmed to believe since birth. That software no longer serves you if you want to live in a world where all things are possible.”

∼ Jacqueline E. Purcell


Why Do We Age: 10 Theories of Aging

There are three ways to think of your age: chronological, biological, and psychological. Your chronological age is the number of years since you were born. Chronological age cannot be changed, but it is the least important. Your biological and physiological age can be reversed, meaning you can grow younger!

Keep reading to learn about the theories of aging and what you can do to add more quality years.

1. Beliefs and Expectation of Aging

Even for the strong, beliefs are powerful.

If a baby elephant is tied to a stake it will soon learn its limitations. Because it is too weak to pull up the stake, it stops trying to leave the reach of the rope. When that elephant grows up and is strong enough to uproot a tree, it will still stay within its narrow range. It takes a fire for the elephant to break free from its “limits”.

Growing old and getting sick is like being tied to a stake, health and youth seem out of reach. If you believe that you are trapped, what is the fire that will motivate you to break free?


What You Believe Shapes Your World

Every moment you encounter billions of sensory inputs from your environment. Your brain can not process all this information. Instead, your brain focuses on what it considers important and filters out the rest.

What your brain gives importance to are your habitual thoughts, actions, dreams, and beliefs. Consequently, what you consistently give importance to becomes the focus of your awareness.

Your beliefs, more often than not become your reality. Because your beliefs are something for your brain to focus on, like a compass.


Your Beliefs Control Your Actions

You only consciously control about 5% of your actions, the other 95% are performed subconsciously. Therefore It is vital to use your conscious thoughts to focus on what is good.

Focus on health and longevity. Concentrate on the direction you want to go, not what you want to avoid. Forget about sickness or getting older. Focus on goals that will take a lifetime to complete.

Your brain will give you a healthy body and the habits you need to reach them. The important thing is to take control of your focus, take control of your beliefs. Your subconscious mind will take over.


Believe That You Can Heal

Every cell in your body is encoded with a blueprint of perfect health. You must believe that your body is intelligent and, under the right circumstances, can heal itself.

No doctor, drug, supplement, or therapy can cure you. Anyone who says they can heal you is a fraud. They can only help set up your body for healing.


How to Stay Young Forever

What you believe determines how you feel. Your feelings shape your thoughts and actions. Your persistent thoughts and actions form your habits. This forces your body to become more efficient with your consistent actions.

Your entire physiology adapts to your beliefs. Thereby as long as you believe you are young you will feel and act young.


Homeostasis and Your Biostat

A biostat is like a thermostat that you can use to set your biomarkers. A thermostat sets the desired temperature. When the temperature drops below the set temperature, the furnace turns on until the set temperature is reached. You can set your expectations for your biomarkers and your body, like a furnace, will work to meet that expectation.


Belief Requires Action

Faith requires action without assurance. If you want a young and healthy body, you need to train your body.

You need to act on your belief by giving your body what it needs. Your diet, exercise, your thoughts, and beliefs all need to be in harmony. You are a physical, physiological, electrical, and spiritual being. You can’t neglect any one part.

When you are not in harmony with nature your body adapts to protect itself. Instead of thriving, you go into survival mode. And the further you move from nature, the harder it is to heal. Respect the laws of nature, and you can stay young longer.

Whatever you believe, you should stop and appreciate the wonders of the universe.


2. Perception of time and Aging

Time follows a strict set of rules. Every moment is measured with the same 60 seconds.

For example, consider the time from the moment you were born to this very moment. You would need to measure this time with a specific number of years, months, days, and hours, minutes, and seconds.

Time may be constant, but your perception of time is not. Your perception of time sets your biological clock.

Think about some of the moments that time seemed to stand still. You felt like they would never end. Now think about those moments that time seemed to fly.

You may know someone who had the opposite experience. They perceived that moment differently. They either sped up or slowed down time and aging relative to your experiece.

You have the ability to escape time in your mind. You can stop our experience of time through:

  • meditation
  • playing a fun game
  • getting lost in a book
  • creating or admiring a work of art
  • falling in love
  • experiencing beauty in nature.

The experience of escaping time in your mind is called the timeless mind. Mind and body are inseparable, when you experience a timeless mind you experience a timeless body.

Your biological clock follows your experience of time, and your experience of time is subjective. You must learn how to control your experience of time to stay young.

3. The Free Radical Theory of Aging

The Free Radical Theory of Aging started in 1945 when chemist Denham Harman proposed that aging way caused by free radicals. Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules that are produced when oxygen loses an electron. They are a normal by-product of cellular metabolism and the oxygenation of hemoglobin to Methemoglobin. Additionally, free radicals can come from exposure to radiation or toxins in the environment.

Highly reactive oxygen species (ROS) of free radicals can damage biologically vital molecules such as DNA, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates.

Free radical damage tends to increase with age. At the same time, free radicals can speed up the aging process. Genetics play a role as well. But age and genetics are out of our control.

Fortunately, you can limit your accumulation of free radicals and neutralize them with antioxidants.

Learn more about this theory and what you can do in What Are Free Radicals and How Can We Fight Them?

4. The Mitochondrial Theory of Aging

The Mitochondrial theory of aging proposes that accumulated damage to the mitochondrial DNA(mtDNA) causes aging. Mitochondria are cellular organelles that synthesize most of the ATP in the cell. Simply, they are responsible for energy production.

Mitochondrial DNA may be more vulnerable to oxidative damage from free radicals than the DNA  found in the nucleus. Antioxidants can’t penetrate the mitochondrial membrane to enter and protect the mitochondria.

The antioxidants you get food do not directly protect the mitochondria. Instead, your body produces superoxide dismutase (SOD), a detoxifying enzyme within your mitochondria.

This enzyme neutralizes superoxides by converting them back into oxygen. They are so effective that they can neutralize free radicals on contact. Because of its ability to neutralize free radicals, SOD is believed to have anti-aging, anti-dementia, and anti-cancer properties.

Interestingly, the reason women have longer lifespans than men may be because they have superior superoxide dismutase gene expression. How can you increase this gene’s activity?

Learn more in the post: Mitochondria Is the Powerhouse of the Cell. Why?

5. The Telomere Theory of Aging

Telomeres are the end caps at the end of each chromosome strand that protect your DNA from unraveling or fraying. You have 46 strands of DNA in every cell, coiled in chromosomes.

You are constantly losing and gaining cells. Telomeres shorten every time a cell divides. When the telomere is completely gone the cell stops dividing or dies. Theoretically, if you slow down the shortening of our telomeres you can slow down aging.

What can you do to protect or even lengthen our telomeres? Exercising regularly, eating a plant-based diet, and stress reduction can all help to protect and even lengthen out telomeres!

Learn more in the post: How to Regrow Telomeres

6. Caloric Restriction Theory of Aging

Caloric restriction slows (ref) down growth and aging and one reason may be through its inhibition of mTOR.

mTOR appears to be activated (ref) by a complex mechanism involving Glutamine binding to Pib2. Glutamine is one of 20 amino acids found in the diet used to make proteins. When glutamine is available, cells grow, but when it is unavailable, cells start the process of autophagy.


Autophagy and Aging

Autophagy is a Greek word, auto meaning “self” and phagy meaning “to eat”. Autophagy literally means to eat oneself. When your body determines that there isn’t enough food it starts searching your cells for anything you don’t need.

Your body uses damaged or useless cells to renew or build new cells. You get the benefit of getting rid of useless or harmful waste and gaining new healthy cells.

Caloric restriction has been praised as a fountain of youth. CR has shown to extend (ref) the human lifespan by up to five years.

You can get many of the benefits of caloric restriction with a plant-based diet. Learn more in the mTOR Theory of Aging.

7. mTOR Theory of Aging

mTOR (TOR), which stands for  “target of rapamycin”, is (ref) an enzyme that may play (ref) a key role in determining lifespan and aging.  Aging is (ref) like a speeding car without brakes.

In childhood, mTOR is an engine of growth. But in adulthood, TOR is an engine of aging. You start your life racing through the aging process to reach reproductive age. But then aging speeds past development causing your body to break down.

Theoretically, the over-activation of the mTOR pathway causes aging. Aging damages organs and DNA, eventually leading to death.

The benefits of caloric restriction may come from protein restriction. A study of dietary restriction found that the proportion of protein intake is (ref) a better indicator or life extension than the degree of caloric restriction.

Protein restriction is easier to sustain because you don’t have to limit your total food intake. It may be (9) even more effective than dietary restriction because it suppresses both TOR and IGF-1. These are the two factors thought to be responsible for the longevity benefits of caloric restriction.

But not all proteins have the same effect. Which proteins speed up the aging process? And how can you slow down mTOR, the engine of aging?

Learn more in the post: How Can You Slow Down Aging? mTOR 


8. Resting Heart Rate and Aging

The total number of heartbeats per lifetime is surprisingly similar across all mammals.

For instance, a mouse has a heart rate of 500 to 600 bpm lives for less than two years. Compare this to a Galapagos tortoise with a heart rate of about 6 bpm and a life expectancy of 177 years.

A mouse’s heart beats 100 times faster than a turtle, but a turtle lives 100 times longer than a mouse. Humans, on the other hand, have about 6 bpm and about 3 billion heartbeats per lifetime.

Having a high resting heart rate is associated with a shorter life expectancy and a greater risk for heart disease. Resting heart rate is how fast our heart beats while sitting at rest. If you slow down your resting heart rate you may be able to slow down aging.

You can lower your resting heart rate with diet and exercise. Regular aerobic exercise can significantly lower your resting heart rate. Also, eating beans every day is just as effective at lowering resting heart rate as exercise. Why not try both?

Learn more in the post: What is a Good Resting Heart Rate for my Age?

9. Heart Rate Variability and Aging

Heart rate variability (HRV) is a measure of the variation in the time between successive heartbeats. Alternatively, it is a measurement of the control our nerves have over your heart.

Your HRV can be thought of like your heart’s ability to adapt to different situations. Your heart needs to speed up or slow down depending on your body’s real-time needs. HRV is a good predictor of your body’s ability to both deal with and recover from stressful situations.

Having A high HRV means that your body is efficient at changing your heart rate in response to your environment. The better you can adapt to your environment, the better your chances of survival. Having a high HRV is associated with exceptional health, resiliency, and longevity.

Aerobic exercise increases resting HRV by raising your active heart rate and lowering your resting heart rate.

Learn more in What is a Good Heart Rate Variability?

10. Total Load Theory of Aging

The Total Load Theory uses the analogy of a bridge to illustrate how the human body breaks down.

When a bridge collapses, who or what caused its demise? Was the weight limit exceeded, was it the weather, or was it the structure itself? Total Load Theory argues that it was the cumulative effect of all these factors.

Like a bridge, each person has a unique load limit. The factors that can break down the human body are many. Some of the stressors that contribute to your load include toxic chemicals, heavy metals, nutrient deficiencies, and immune system stressors.

Some areas of your body or genetics are weaker than others. Pay attention, their breakdown is an early warning sign of more serious problems to come.

When you are at or near your toxic threshold it doesn’t take much to get sick. Your body’s priority is protecting you vital organs. It will put most of its energy into making sure your vital systems are optimal. Your body will have less energy available for healing all the stresses and injuries that you encounter on a daily basis.

Your cells, mitochondria, telomeres, and DNA will age faster and so will you.

Conclusion: Theories of Aging

Which theory of aging is correct? I think they all have some merit. They have a common theme, you need to live in harmony with nature if you want to stay young and healthy. The things you can do to stay young are also good for your overall health.

The keys to mastering longevity appear to be:

  • Eating a whole food, plant-based diet
  • Eating antioxidant-rich foods
  • Exercising regularly
  • Eliminating or neutralizing toxins
  • Reducing stress
  • Eating a little less

I update this post as I learn. Come back soon to learn more about the theories of aging.

If you like this article, please share or leave a comment. What theory of aging interests you and why?


Sources Cited

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21157483
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180502094652.htm
  3. http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=24485#.UypXGccnxn1
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16226298
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1102508
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23325216
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22268691
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20395504

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