Ageing Antiageing

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Dimitrije E. Panfilov

Simone de Beauvoir wrote in her autobiography: "I hate my reflection in the mirror, a cap over my eyes, bags under them, the face too full, the mouth sadly tugged down, creating wrinkles. People who meet me see, perhaps, only a fifty-year-old, neither well nor badly preserved. She just has the age that she has. But I see my earlier face. Attacked by a plague from which I will never recover."

Levy Strauss discovered that Nambiquara Indians have just one and the same word for "young" and "beautiful" and another one for "old" meaning at the same time "ugly". They just identify those two opposite terms.

There is the fact that one expects more beauty and youth from women and less from men. It is also much more frequent that younger women pair with older men. Why is that so? Science has proven that more beautiful women have more chances of becoming fertilized than less attractive ones. Fertility of women decreases much faster than that of men. A woman of 30-34 years of age has only 85% of the fertility she had when she was 20-24 years old, between 40 and 44 years of age this reduces to 35% of the initial fertility, and at 50 years of age almost all women have lost their fertility. In contrast to this, men of 45-50 years still have 90% of their initial fertility and at 55 years they still have 80%!

Men have developed the social dominance in their midlife and are still fertile. That means that they can produce children and facilitate their growth, education, etc. This is why such pairs - older man and younger woman - have given their genetic code to the next generations and have become the usual combination. And this is also the reason why women ask more often in our offices for rejuvenative procedures than men. Intuitively, they want to keep their partners or want to be able to attract partners by the subconscious statement - I am still a reproductive, fertile, that means desirable woman!

"The heart has no wrinkles." This aphorism by the Marquis de Sevigne points out that one can have joy in living, even in old age. Salvador Dali also considered it better "to be 70 years young than 30 years old." The writer Robert Musil concluded from this: "No

Fig. 6.1. Jeva Grantina shows convincingly the metamorphosis from a young girl to an old woman

boundaries tempt one into smuggling more than the boundary imposed by age."

Biologically speaking, mammals are calibrated to about one billion heartbeats in a lifetime. Because the various animal species each have a different number of beats per minute, their lifespan is also different. The heart of a mouse, for example, beats 550 times per minute and the mouse lives for 3.5 years. The heart of an elephant beats at a slower rate: 28 times per minute. The elephant therefore lives for 70 years. The American biologist Jay Gould discovered that this magic number - one billion - is roughly the same for all mammals, such as rabbits, kangaroos, or dogs.

Only man has broken through this barrier: at 75 years of age his heart has beaten three billion times and at 100 years four billion times. The oldest recorded age of a human being was 118 years, although even older persons are presumed to exist whose age cannot be proven. On this earth, only the tortoise lives longer than man.

What requirements are necessary for becoming old? All very old people have worked hard all their life, physically or mentally (or both), they avoided extremes in their life, did not move house, took care therefore of their roots, and ate onions more frequently.

The American molecular biologist Leonard Hay-flick has discovered that the life expectancy of every creature depends on the maximum ability of its cells to divide. He discovered that the human cell is able to divide 40-60 times. After that our biological clock "runs down." For mice, for example, this number is 28, and for tortoises it is 120. The only cells which do not obey this rule are cancer cells. Will we learn how to prolong life from cancer cells?

On a molecular level, man renews himself every 11 months. Materially speaking, only the genetic memory of the physical framework is what remains of the previous being.

The outward physical signs of ageing are seen on the skin. The eyelids and the face sag, the nose "grows" from the 17th year of life by 1 cm, that is, by 20% of its original length. It does not in fact grow, it droops over the preformed skeleton. The ears also migrate downwards and grow longer. The white of the upper lip becomes longer and the red of the lips become narrower. In the literature, narrow lips are often wrongly regarded as a sign of negative personality traits, which is why upper-lip augmentation is particularly popular amongst women, giving the lips a more sensuous effect. It remains a fact, however, that all these signs of ageing are to be read from a face which cannot be hidden, prompting Elisabeth Taylor to say: "If God decided to give women wrinkles, then why not on the soles of their feet?"

The most beautiful lips, breasts, and hips in each female are at the age of 24.8 years. This is when the level of oestrogen is highest.

Not only the face becomes wrinkled in advanced age, but also the neck, sometimes even more markedly than the face. The scrutinizing look in the mirror evokes the anxious question: "If others also notice these wrinkles, they will think I'm not so capable as I used to be." A vicious circle is set in motion with this look in the mirror which leads to a mental crisis -sometimes called the midlife crisis. Professional, sexual, and partner-related problems arise, not as a result of a few little wrinkles, but from a lowered self-confidence. One expects less and less of oneself, and consequently the accustomed efficiency indeed melts away.

Aesthetic plastic surgery can move mountains here. The lifted skin gives the person a fresh appearance, not just out of reasons of vanity: the inner energy is no longer concealed - Look, here I am!

The French writer, philosopher, and critic André Maurois jokes: "You're in your prime years when you've left your good years behind." The Swiss writer John Knittel describes this phenomenon ironically yet charmingly when he says: "You're old when you find more joy in thinking about the past than about the future." In this patriarchal institutionalized world it is perfectly all right for a man to get older: his interesting life can be read from his face. When women grow old, however, others treat them as if they had no right to. The old woman-hater and philosopher Arthur Schoppenhauer wrote: "Outside these years [from 18 to 28], however, we find no woman attractive Youth without beauty still maintains its attraction; beauty without youth has none.". The poet Du-san Radovic also admits in his book Good Morning, Belgrade: "The ugly are to be envied - when they grow old, nobody will say of them that they were once beautiful." It should be regarded as an injustice, even as chauvinism, to demand of women that they must look both young and beautiful. This is why they go to a plastic surgeon eight to nine times more often than men do. A female patient once said to me "When women wither, men scatter." Such arguments also play a certain role in our civilization.

The traces of time are also identifiable on other organs apart from the skin. Hair turns white and falls out, the lens of the eye loses its elasticity, the senses of sight and hearing weaken, some of the pulmonary alveoli disappear, there is a build-up of plaque on the inner walls of the vessels, joints lose cartilage, bones lose calcium, muscle fibres are partially replaced by fat. Physical power is reduced, the energy of existence seems to be exhausted.

"Ageing is not very pleasant, but it is the only known way to live longer" is an aphorism by Sent Beuve. Apart from energy and productivity, memory and mental concentration also dwindle in old age. The state of health deteriorates altogether because the human immune system can no longer distinguish self from foreign. This gives rise to autoimmune reactions; disarray prevails in the organism like a kind of "civil war." A cynical gerontologist once said that age "is the only disease from which you cannot expect to recover."

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