3. Aging Happens from Both the Inside Out and the Outside In
Many of us like to think that aging is a magical process that happens deep within our bodies; that some so-called gremlins of gerontology ratchet down our cells and our systems so we grow old. You'll learn in this book that aging is not only about those cellular processes, but, more important, it's how you respond, adapt to, and deal with the stressors that affect you from the outside?things like sun and stress and slippery sidewalks. What does that mean? It means that aging is really about the rate of aging?specifically, how the outside and inside factors accelerate or decelerate your aging. Here's the big secret about aging: Your rate of aging doubles every eight years. So, if we were able to maintain a forty-year-old's rate of aging for the rest of our lives, we would live past age one hundred twenty and "die of old age." While inside out and outside in both play a role?and both influence each other?your job is to try to manage both forms, so that you slow the real culprit in growing old: the rate of aging.
4. Aging Is Not About Individual Problems but Compounded Ones
Spend any time at a deli counter, and you know that Swiss cheese has two different looks. Big holes or small holes, all in random order and patterns. A good way to think about aging is to imagine yourself looking through a dozen slices of stacked-up Swiss cheese (see Figure Intro 2, page 14). If the holes are small and the slices are thick, you can't see through the stack. Now pretend that each of these Swiss cheese slices represents a layer of protection that your body provides to prevent aging. People who are vibrant and strong may have small holes in their system?stuff that lets through a few problems, but nothing too major. Maybe they've got a little hole in their slice of heart health, and a few little holes in their slice of brain health, and a medium-sized hole in their slice of chromosome health. Nothing major lets you see through the stack.
As aging takes effect, however, those holes can get a little bigger, or the cheese can get a little thinner. When big holes from one slice perfectly align with big holes from another slice, then, in effect, you've got big problems. That's a little bit what aging is like: The small problems may not have a big effect here and there, but when they grow, and when they interact with other problems, then you've created what we like to call a (cue scary orchestra music) web of causality. That's when seemingly small health problems spiral into bigger ones?all possibly triggered by several different causes.
5. Aging Is Reversible?All You Need Is a Nudge
Most people think aging is a landslide of a process, that we're destined to use walkers and hearing aids and thick glasses no matter what. And while we're not saying that you will absolutely avoid all the bumps (big and small) along the way, we are saying that aging isn't as inevitable as a morning trip to the bathroom.