Aging is unavoidable (for now)
When I just joined the gym as a teenager, I remember how surprised I was by the following table there:
I could not understand why our maximum pulse should decrease so steeply even at a young age. Does this decline happen even in constantly training athletes? No way! At least between ages 20 and 40, if you lead a healthy lifestyle and regularly engage in sports, you should be able to maintain your physical performance at the same level — or so I thought.
And now, more than 20 years later, I realize just how naive I was. The decline cannot be slowed down. That’s why in professional sports there are almost no 35-year-old sprinters or 40-year-old soccer players, and the peak age of swimmers is 21 years. Here is an excellent graph demonstrating the slowdown of both sprinters and long-distance runners with age:
Guaranteed decline of cardiac function with age is one of the reasons why athletes have such a short peak period. Decline in respiratory function of the lungs is another:
Almost immediately after puberty, different systems in our body begin to slowly but surely deteriorate. The following graph from Ben Best reflects only a part of that inevitable age-related degradation to which our organism is doomed:
Here is another chart from Mike Darwin’s excellent article with a couple of additional indicators. On it you can see how quickly the function of the kidneys deteriorates with age (age-related nephritis affects even most “negligibly senescent” naked-mole rats):
For me personally, the most unpleasant degradation is cognitive. Some of its aspects begin as early as at 27 years, and memory begins to deteriorate around 40 years of age. Moreover, the brain atrophies even physically — between 22 and 82 years we lose more than a third of its mass:
And a significant part of this loss is due to gray matter:
This is topped by the risk of dementia, which begins to double every 5 years after age 60.
The immune system begins to atrophy even earlier than the cognitive system. The involution of the thymus gland begins even during puberty, and between 25 and 60 years its functional parameters deteriorate 20-fold. Therefore, a simple flu that children recover from within a week without any consequences can be fatal for an elderly person. Here is a graph of age-related changes in the thymus:
Also, with age, we get weaker and weaker. Both strength and mass of our muscles begin to decrease by 1–2% per year after age 40. Fast-twitch muscle fibers begin to be replaced by slow ones as we age.
Even professional athletes cannot avoid age-related degradation of muscle strength:
Although the benefits of physical training persist for many years:
Our bones also start to atrophy after age 35:
Vision begins to deteriorate much later, but after age 70 lots of people have problems with it:
The story with hearing is even worse — its loss begins earlier and it affects a much larger number of people:
Taste and smell also deteriorate:
Although who needs them, when you only have half the teeth left?
In conclusion, aging is a chronic pathological process, a genetic disease. Its progression is programmed into our DNA, and it is a mortal threat to everyone. I strongly believe that this genetic pathology must be treated, because it is the greatest source of pain and suffering in our universe.