How to Be a Super Ager: Could zombie cells be the key?
PITTSBURGH, Pa. (WALB) - We’ve heard the sayings before – “you’re only as old as you feel” and “age is just a number,” right?
Scientists who study aging say there is something to it. Some researchers are working to precisely determine a person’s biological age or how an individual body responds as people get older. There are steps we all can do right now to become “Super Agers.”
Why are people happy and spry as they add years to their lives and others struggle with sickness and disease?
It’s a question that has nagged researcher Aditi Gurkar, Ph.D., cell biologist and aging expert at the University of Pittsburgh, for years. Her grandparents lived with them growing up. She calls her grandfather a superhero.
“He could walk up three flights upstairs, he’s in his eighties, washed his own clothes, you know, pick me up from school,” Gurkar said.
Her grandmother was the same age, yet she struggled.
“Since she was in her 60s she was constantly getting one disease or the other.” Gurkar said.
These days, this cell biologist is looking to answer the question of why some people are super agers, seemingly avoiding disease and disability, and others are early agers.
“As we age, we kind of have these funky looking cells in us called zombie cells. In actual science they’re called senescent cells,” Gurkar said.
Those zombie, or senescent cells, release inflammation into the surrounding tissue. Inflammation is thought to increase the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
While researchers work to find ways to rid our bodies of zombie cells, Gurkar says prevention is the key. She says a little exercise goes a long way. Keep a positive attitude. Your mind will tell your body what to do. And eat a healthy diet.
“If we take small steps today, we may have a healthier tomorrow,” Gurkar said.
Researchers also say it’s important to maintain an active social life. People who keep strong relationships and friendships tend to live well into their eighties or nineties.
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