Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Age Is Only A Number And What It Really Means

There are many theories about age and aging. Many scientists believe that from the second of conception or, possibly, even the glimmer in a mom and dad s eyes that preceded conception you are set up with a certain amount of time in the body into which you are born. Others believe that lifespan is far less ‘programmed and far more ‘programmable, and that with the help of scientific advances in medicine and nutrition we can dramatically extend the human lifespan or at minimum the quality of life regardless of genetics.

The long and the short of it is that the average American gets to spend about 78 years alive in the body he or she inhabits. Not too shabby. A 365-day year equals 8,760 hours, which in turn equals 525,600 minutes or 31,536,000 seconds. In 78 years of life, you have about 41 million minutes, or about two and a half billion seconds.

The longest lifespan recorded in history was that of a Chinese man named Li Ching-Yuen. Chinese records say he was born in 1677 and that he died in 1933. Although Li Ching-Yuen stated in the year of his death that he was only 197, these records put him at 256 years of age. If these records are true, we can extrapolate that the human body is capable of living a minimum of 256 years. If even getting to 200 sounds completely outrageous, note that there are also many records of Indians living past 160.

Two common denominators of these extended lives are happiness and community. Happier people live longer, and longer-lived people tend not to live isolated lives. As I mentioned in the first article, happy, loving couples or partners seem to enjoy longer, healthier life. Other common denominators which appear to enhance both quality and quantity of years include diet, nutrition, healthful activities, positive thinking, and having obligations having responsibilities to fulfill, which gives people the sense that they are valued, and that they have good reason to stay alive and active. Respecting one s body and working on one s health more or less in other words, making steps taken towards good health a priority seems to give an edge in both longevity and quality of life.

So, now, let s drop all this talk about numbers. When you begin to see your life and your age as absolutes, you are limiting yourself. If you focus on the quantity of years, you forget about quality until it s too late and your health is already failing. What are you doing with this time? Are you making the most of it? Are you resigned to your genetic programming as the ultimate dictator of how well you live, or are you ready and willing to take steps to enhance and appreciate your life, now, this minute this second?

If you are accustomed to thinking of genetics as destiny, know that more research is being released every day indicating that genetics play only a very small role in your health. Lifestyle plays a much larger role. Think of your genes as an instrument that you can either play very poorly or very beautifully: the instrument is what it is, but it s what you do with it that makes it either cacophonously screech or magnificently sing.

You can have fun with this whole notion of chronological age by telling the next person who asks you your age that you ll need a moment with your calculator. (Everyone has them on their cell phones now, right?) Compute your age in seconds and give it to him or her that way. When you re asked why, just say, I m making every second count so why count in years?”

We focus a great deal on chronological age in our culture, but there s no doubt that we are happiest when we can forget the clock s relentless tick-tock and just be in the moment, where we don t even notice the time going by. What role does time really play in our existence? Many philosophers believe time is an intellectual concept that requires a metaphoric model, since time has no concrete reality. According to this mindset, time is a human theory designed to measure systems and to sequence events; to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them; and to quantify the motions of objects. This has little to do with human consciousness or the enjoyment of each second, each minute, each hour, or each day.

Our bodies do have their own ‘biological clocks systems that operate in a way that is repetitive and structured. These clocks exist in human beings, plants and animals; they tell these plants, humans and animals when to eat, procreate, sleep, and wake up. We don t need to pay attention to these clocks, and they measure not the onward march of time, but cycles that are intrinsic to human health and well-being. Biological clocks often hinge on environmental stimuli, including daily cycles of light and dark, the monthly cycles of the moon, and the yearly cycle of the seasons. When we live lives that run against these cycles trying to ignore them by staying up half the night and rising late in the morning, for examples, or by trying to live like its summer all year round our biological clocks can get confused. Greater exposure to and adherence to natural cycles such as the light/dark cycle are helpful in re-adjusting the internal clock. As long as we keep our biological clocks out of whack with a lifestyle that runs counter to or ignores natural cycles, we remain out of balance and under pressure to find that balance again.

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