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Reality is knocking at the door. In the physiological sense, growing up means little more than the beginning of thedownslide. There is no point in time when the pinnacle of mature adulthood is reached. . . and stands still. From birth to death, a long-term status quo is never achieved. In fact, in the average life span of nearly fourscore years, we spend the last sixty undoing the first twenty. This doesn't refer to the oddity of the professional athlete truly wearing out the ligaments and cartilage of his back and knees and elbows from excessive and unnatural wear and tear. At age thirty, Boris Becker reached the end of the line in big-time tennis. The "clean living" abuse to his body has accelerated the skeletal aging process beyond competitive tolerance. This, of course, is an exceptional case, but it makes the point. There is a finite life span inherent in the genetic code of human tissues. A predetermined number of cell turnovers, repairs, and replications can take place before breakdown, disease, and ultimately shutdown begin. This gloomy fact has led the scientific community to many interesting approaches to individual tissue and ultimately whole-body longevity. Studies of genetics and cellular biology have identified the areas susceptible to wearing out and are on the verge of controlling theprocess. Though all this is tomorrow's news, it has profound application to today's living.
The lesson is that even when cellular longevity can be achieved, it cannot undo failed systems. For the most part, when the damage is done, the damage is done. After a certain level of destruction, organs cannot regenerate. The more critical the organ,the greater effect on the body as a whole. For today, the philosophy is to protect what you have. This applies to the body as a whole, although the effect of aging processes upon the skin may in some measure be reversible. Most of the issues we will explore pertain to the skin in particular, as that is the mirror of the aging process and the indelible evidence that we must face. However, it is imperative to understand that the skin is, in many ways, a reflection of the general health of the body as a whole. Though many conditions and situations exist which affect the aging process of the skin alone, one should not minimize the importance of overall good health, or its absence. Systemic illnesses have enormous impact on the aging process, and therefore on one's appearance. For example, the hormone insulin is manufactured in the pancreas, and is largely responsible for sugar metabolism. Diminished quantities of insulin result in the metabolic disease known as diabetes. Therefore, sugar intolerance has become synonymous with diabetes. Numerous other aspects of the disease are also well known, among them the causal relationship between diabetes and impaired small vessel blood flow, and its effects are far-reaching, sparing no system. Among the least threatening of these possibilities is the effect of diabetes upon the small blood vessels nourishing the skin, but this illustrates an important point. Reduced blood flow through the small vessels of the skin results in reduced nutrient supply to the tissue and impaired removal of metabolic wastes, contributing to loss of elasticity, thinning of the basal cell layer, oxidation and thinning of the collagen layer, and wrinkling. In other words, diabetes causes premature aging of the skin.Obviously, this is not the most worrisome effect of diabetes, but it serves to illustrate how important the overall state of health is in determining how one's skin, and therefore one's appearance, will fare over the years.
Most of the external forces responsible for the acceleration of visible aging are those that act directly on the skin itself. These are important and obvious, and we must be certain not to underestimate the importance of both one's general health and those specific circumstances which exert significant influence upon one's appearance. In many ways the state of aging is a manifestation of the general condition of the individual, and we will pay proper respect and attention here, even while we concentrate on maximizing one's outward appearance and the control and reversal of the signs of aging.
Copyright ) 1998 by Gerald Imber