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Age is Just a Number: How to Live Long and Healthy

by Rajgopal Nidamboor(more info)

listed in ageing, originally published in issue 287 - June 2023

Originally published in:


Ageing is inevitable, albeit its cadence is not. As the American writer Betty Friedan rightly said, "Aging is not lost youth, but a new stage of opportunity and strength." While we all know that our bodies age, the whole internal experience smacks of ambiguity, also mystery – although new research explains the ageing process better than ever before. It surmises that chronological age has little, or no real, bearing on biological age. Picture this – the number of candles adorning your birthday cake only serves as a metaphor of time. It never speaks, reports, analyses, or lights, a glow about your health and well-being.

Age is just a number

Senior citizens basking in the sun in Madhyapur Thimi-5, Bhaktapur on Friday, February 5, 2016. Photo RSS


Age-related physical changes are obvious. The most visibly decipherable markers of ageing are additional laugh lines, greying, or loss of hair, extra weight around the waist, among others. Add to this 'hazy' vision, 'thinning' skin, or brittle tissue, and you've the anatomy of ageing sequentially told.

Your heart slows down too, and it shows up as fatigue – this results in less blood being circulated, leading to reduced bustle of nutrients through your body. Besides, the nutrients, that 'power' the functional 'engines' of our metabolism, are also less available.

Though this is normal, it shows how enormously interrelated, or interconnected, every part of us is.

These are, of course, clear changes – but, there are a host of alterations, such as the steady loss of bone tissue and reduced elasticity of blood vessels that go unobserved, for decades, before the signs of ageing set in. 'Seeing' is, sometimes, not 'believing' in masquerade – we are all physiologically 'engaged' in the ageing process, yet we think that it is not happening at all.

There is also a growing paradox, thanks to our augmented lifespan and life expectancy in the 21st century.

The ageing process is redefining new treatment modalities, especially in individuals surviving into ripe old age with chronic illnesses. This is a huge challenge, because coping with chronic conditions is not easy. It never ever was.

Studies suggest that by the year 2050, about 2-3 million people are expected to have lived 100 years, or more. It is, therefore, imperative that the management and treatment of chronic illnesses would require optimization of the ageing process. This holds the key to amplifying our quality of life and daily functional capacity – two fundamental elements for the best possible maintenance of health and also the ageing process.

It is established that a decline in physiological function begins after age 30, when our physical and emotional performance reaches the zenith. The rate, of course, varies depending on one’s lifestyle – the prospects of slow ageing are better with people who are active than folks who lead sedentary and 'flabby' lives. Yet, the fact is nobody can 'stall' the tide of time. Not even 'super-fit' athletes.

While most physiological functions remain satisfactory for healthy individuals surviving, or living, into old age, beyond the 'nervous' nineties, it is actually disease and disuse, not normal ageing, that accounts for the larger part of functional slowdown in one's mid-80s. Besides, one cannot discount the possibility of drug-interactions, or unpleasant effects of environmental pollution, donning the 'killjoy' role in healthy ageing. While the most fundamental process of ageing is the destruction of cell membrane permeability, what also 'triggers' dysfunction is not only cellular communication glitch, but also consequential functional decline. The effects are collective – oxidative stress, metabolic syndromes, chronic inflammation, imbalanced reactions, chronic stress response, lipid surges, impaired detoxification, poor immune function, hormonal inequity, including physical and mental sluggishness.

The presence, or progression, of one, or all, such processes in ageing is not predestined. It is a vital, unalterable exemplar – a predictable 'shortfall' experienced by all of us.

There is a profound emphasis on new technologies, more so in the area of human genomics and stem cell research, today. The premise is to provide greater precision about genetic and cellular ageing mechanisms and treatment. Studies suggest that optimal lifestyle behaviours could prolong life expectancy by ten years. A multicentre study, for example, among elderly adults across Europe showed that a modified Mediterranean diet was associated with longer survival rates. On the other hand, studies estimate that 30-40 per cent of deaths, in the US alone, are the outcome of undesirable individual health (mis)demeanours.

Research has identified the effects of natural ageing that is 'free' of illness as distinctive from the development of age-related illnesses, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and cancer, not to speak of Alzheimer's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that leads to memory loss. Some studies, likewise, suggest that the effects of ageing are extremely 'plastic' – it tends to vary from one individual to another. It is as characteristic as your fingerprint, or signature. In simple terms, it suggests that each individual's 'autograph' of ageing is a consequence of numerous interactions – right from one's genetics and lifestyle to environmental challenges.

What, therefore, holds a dazzling prospect is the 'seamless' integration and evaluation of cumulative physiological and psychological, or emotional, challenges over our lifespan and medical science's response to new challenges – while determining how 'well' a particular individual is ageing and how to customise treatment programmes to reducing the effect of chronic illness.

You'd call it 'bespoke medicine' – analysing 'you' as a distinct individual, tapping and mapping your unique, personalised responses in health and illness from the point-of-view of treatment.

This also offers a supplementary advantage – preventing processes that may 'activate' chronic ailments in old age.

Acknowledgement Citation

Originally published in:

A version of this article appears in the print on March 10, 2022, of The Himalayan Times.


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About Rajgopal Nidamboor

Rajgopal Nidamboor PhD FCCP M-CAM is a Board-Certified wellness physician, Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians (FCCP), Member of the Center of Applied Medicine (M-CAM), writer-editor, commentator, critic, columnist, author, and publisher. His special interests include natural health and wellness, mind-body/integrative medicine, nutritional medicine, psychology, philosophy, and spirituality. His focus areas also encompass contemporary research and dissemination of dependable information for people concerned about their health. He feels that it is increasingly gratifying to see most individuals, including physicians, thinking outside the box – especially in areas such as natural health, where the body knows best to heal itself from the inside out. His published work includes hundreds of newspaper, magazine, Web articles, four books on natural health, two coffee-table books, a handful of E-books, a primer on therapeutics, and, most recently, Cricket Odyssey. He’s Chief Wellness Officer, Docco360, a mobile health application/platform, connecting patients with Ayurveda, homeopathic, Unani physicians, and nutrition therapists, among others, from the comfort of their home — and, Editor-in-Chief, ThinkWellness360.  Rajgopal Nidamboor lives in Navi Mumbai, India. He may be contacted via 

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