This is the first article in a new series on natural approaches to the Syndrome of aging.  Yes, aging may be described as a disease, or perhaps a group of disorders with their related signs and symptoms, associated with aging.  The syndrome is as individual as our fingerprints.  We all experience our own individual versions of this syndrome.  There is hope that this syndrome of aging is on the verge of becoming a syndrome, or perhaps a plague, of the past. 

The information contained in this article is backed by research which is available upon request.


            The conventional approach to treatment of disorders associated with aging tends to focus on treatment of symptoms, rather than correction of underlying causal factors.  The issues of physiological and cognitive decline, Alzheimer's disease (Alzheimer's), and dementia are of prime importance in the elderly.  As of 2010, the number of individuals afflicted with dementia was in excess of 24 million, expected to double in 20 years. 

            Dementia is one of the more obvious characteristics of Alzheimer's, which is responsible for 60 to 70 percent of dementia cases.  However, dementia does not necessarily indicate that an individual has Alzheimer's, since vascular dementia is generally considered the second leading cause.  A combination of the two, called mixed dementia, may actually be the most common form at 53 percent of the cases of dementia. 

            By addressing the underlying causes, natural preventative solutions to treatment of the disorders associated with aging could go a long way toward the reduction of both the personal and the public healthcare costs.  These costs include the high costs of care and the drugs used conventionally for the treatment of dementia, Alzheimer's, and the physiological and cognitive decline that may occur with aging.  The following article will explore the underlying causal factors, as well as potential natural treatments for disorders associated with aging.

Understanding the Causes of Brain and Body Aging

            A range of hypotheses on the underlying causes of dementia and Alzheimer's may be processed through a nutritional filter.  A combination of genetic, environmental, vascular (hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, or diabetes), inflammatory, and psychosocial factors may be involved.  Additionally, the chances of late-life dementia, Alzheimer's, and declining cognitive function increase as total cholesterol declines after midlife (inversely proportional), yet elevated cholesterol going into midlife also increases the likelihood of cognitive decline, Alzheimer's, and dementia late in life. 

            In the elderly, malnutrition and weight loss may manifest as a loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) correlated with dementia, yet which comes first (sarcopenia or dementia) is unclear.  It is possible that the inability to recognize, taste, or prepare food, or even remember how to eat, may result in malnutrition and eventually sarcopenia.  Elderly nutrition and diet may lead to deficiencies correlated to disorders such as Parkinson's, dysphagia (inability to swallow), sarcopenia, and dementia.  

            At least one of the mechanisms of damage for dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment, as well as neurological disorders, is oxidative damage produced by free radicals that strip electrons from molecules throughout the human body.  The free radicals result from exposure of human beings to a plethora of environmental toxins, nutritional deficiencies resulting in a lack of antioxidants, and primarily from normal metabolic processes related to mitochondrial activity.  Mitochondria are our tiny energy factories inside our cells, involved in processes such as cellular respiration.  Free radicalsdamage cell membrane lipids, DNA, and proteins in the brain and throughout the body. 

            Additionally, the process of methylation takes part in the creation of neurotransmitters, derivation of methionine from homocysteine, and production of cell membranes.  In fact, a direct correlation between homocysteine levels and cognitive dysfunction has been confirmed.  Cardiovascular function is also negatively affected by elevated homocysteine levels, which may cause inflammatory processes that lead to pathology when elevated. 

            Aging is also established partly by the lengths of telomeres, the base material at the end of DNA (chromosomes) that is involved in cellular replication.  Telomere length shortens over time with each cycle of replication, reducing mitochondrial activity with each cycle, until the material is gone and cell death occurs.  Natural approaches to halt or reverse this activity may be included as part of an anti-aging protocol, which will be discussed in the next few articles in this series.

© November 15, 2015 by Dr. Christopher Jackson, PhD, DOM