Aging is inevitable, but some studies suggest the effects of aging can be reversed.
In simple terms, aging is defined as the process of becoming older, which involves a number of biological mechanisms that lead to deterioration of health - both cognitive and physical - over time.
Of course, aging is inevitable. While many of us would like to stop the clock and avoid blowing out those birthday candles - an unsubtle reminder that we are another year older - it is beyond the realms of medical science.
What may be within reach one day, however, are ways to reduce or reverse the effects of aging, and we're not talking about anti-aging face creams or cosmetic surgery.
Increasingly, studies have focused on strategies that could combat aging at its core - the cellular processes that contribute to age-related diseases and changes in our physical appearance as we become older.
In this spotlight, we explore the biological causes of aging, investigate what strategies researchers are proposing to fight the effects of aging, and look at what you can do to boost your chances of healthy aging.
The genetic aging theory
Many researchers believe the effects of aging are a result of numerous genetic and environmental factors, and these effects vary from person to person.
The genetic aging theory suggests that, just like hair color and height, our lifespan is influenced by the genes we inherit from our parents.
Such a theory may ring true; studies have shown that children of parents who have a long lifespan are more likely to live a longer life themselves.
And used to predict cancer development (resource no longer available at www.nature.com).
But what if researchers found a way to extend telomere length to protect against age-related diseases and the other effects of aging? Or what if they identified a strategy that could protect against oxidative stress?
Such approaches may not be too far from reality.
On the next page, we look at the proposed strategies to reverse the aging process, as well as what we can do to promote healthy aging.