Sixty plus or seventy plus, age is a number that increases with the passage of time since our birth. How happy, healthy we are has very little to do with this number; we can do nothing about it. However, there is another “counting” goes on in our body that is rather more important; we can, perhaps, slow down the process. Look around your surroundings, whatever you see in the universe is changing. Sometimes the changes are obvious and visible and sometimes subtle and less visible. But the change is only the”unchangeable”. The basic principle is to change from orderliness to disorder, what the scientists call as an increase in entropy. Universal entropy continuously increases. It means we are continuously getting disorganized or randomized.
The second basic principle is related to energy. Wherever the energy is stored, it will dissipate with time. When you connect a device to a battery the energy in the battery gets utilized. Even if you do not use it over a period of time, the battery gets discharged. The basic point is that the high-energy state would dissipate and reach the low-energy state with time.
The third basic principle is oxidation. Any material, if oxidizable, will be oxidized with time. A very well known example is iron left out that would rust with time. This principle operates on the human being as well. Any material, living or non-living, will get oxidized, loses energy and eventually gets randomized.
Amino acids are small molecules which contain amino group as well as an acid group. Freely moving amino acids are joined together to make proteins. That is creating orderliness from randomness; against the natural tendency. Biological ‘cells’ are built with these proteins and several other biological molecules, cells come together to make tissues, tissues make organs and organs make our body. Obviously, this is a very well ordered structure. With time this order has to get randomized. Our body, however, tries to keep it in this stage by periodically replacing required molecules and cells. One cell can divide into two which in turn can divide into four and the process can continue. However, there is a limitation on how many times a cell can divide. After this number is achieved, cells no longer divide and they start dying. Record of how many times the cell is dividing is kept in structures called telomeres which are at the ends of our chromosomes.
Use or lose; if we do not use a muscle, its cells start degenerating. Once the cells degenerate, regeneration is difficult.The simple and routine exercises will keep the muscles active. Muscle fibers will grow in size without increasing the number of muscle cells. As we age, we start realizing how many things we cannot do which we were doing with ease earlier. In order to keep this number low, we need to continue to keep the body moving and in balance.
Slightly digressing, I believe our times are characterized by unlimited faith in science and technology, unlimited trust in the new market economy and the loss of ethical foundation. Our popular wisdom, gathered largely through media, says that we should not eat ghee (clarified butter), should not eat rice, sweets etc. The basic principle again is to maintain the balance. We must eat all components of food that include proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins.
Many foods do contain some amount of salt and fat. Hence additional consumption of fat and salt might not be essential. However, stopping these completely is not advisable. Our body needs fat. Electric wires are always insulated with aplastic coating. Likewise nerve fibers in our body need to be coated with a waxy material to prevent short circuiting. If you want to live long and healthy life, one of the most important ingredients is happiness. To be happy you must do what you like to do; maybe painting, music, dancing, playing, travel around and spend time with near and dear ones.
Balanced food and physical activity, along with some anti-oxidants would certainly help us keep our body in shape for a longer period.
—-Dr Ch Mohan Rao, former Director, CCMB, Hyderabad