Antiageing

The phenomenon of the "fountain of youth" is a symbol of the mythical wish for eternal youth. The attempt by alchemists to create gold powder from sand resembled the illusion of the philosophers' stone. The present-day pharmaceutical industry invests billions of dollars in the attempt to prolong life by molecular means. Will we be able to buy this prolongation at pharmacies some time?

Cambridge geneticist Aubrey de Grey expects that life expectancy will soon extend dramatically. He worked out a very detailed plan to repair all the types of molecular and cellular damage that happen to us over time. Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) is project to prevent and cure ageing. They should be fully working in mice within just 10 years and it might take only another 10 years to get them all working in humans. The unbelievable legend of Methuselah's age could become true!

Growth of the human body goes into reverse at the age of 36 in women and 28 in men. Lifestyle, nutrition, sleep, fitness, and stress determine two thirds of the process of ageing and are under our control. Only one third is predetermined by genetics. There is a rule in our civilization: vitality means attractiveness.

Scientists have discovered that the process of ageing is accelerated in the body by "oxidative stress" in the form of free radicals. These are produced by UV rays, cigarette smoke, smog, ozone, and excessive competitive sports. Too much sun or use of sunbeds, nicotine, and alcohol (e.g. more than 0.4 l of wine per day) cause the worst damage to the skin.

The American physician Kenneth H. Cooper recommends antioxidants as a remedy against free radicals. Vitamins C and E, b-carotene, and the trace element selenium are examples of antioxidants. a combination of these agents is available over the counter in capsule form. A diet which includes a lot of fruit, vegetables, wholemeal products, and low-fat milk products helps against free radicals.

Hormonal changes of the face grow between the sexes after puberty at adolescence at the fastest speed parallel with levels of oestrogen and androgen hormones. At old age, when the levels of these hormones decrease, the facial appearance of men and women converges. Among children and old people unisexual appearance rules - another reason why older women want to look feminine again.

Fig. 6.2. a-c Rembrandt van Rijn made 2,500 oil paintings and 60 self-portraits, among them these at the ages of 23, 44, and 63 years. In his last picture he looks somewhat femininized. d Film actress in old age shows more masculine features
Fig. 6.3 a,b. Alternations of the face with age. a Young, well-proportioned, and wrinkle-free face. b Fat deposits with gravity lines and lines of facial expression with advancing age

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