Ours is a culture that values youth and childlike beauty above anything else, even to the point of neglecting our elderly population. Not only do we covet the strength and flexibility of a spry body, but we obsess over youthful beauty and go to inordinate lengths to maintain it well into aging. Well, forget about plastic surgery and face creams – what if there were a way to not only live longer and look younger, but to actually stay young throughout your life?
We aren’t making any promises, but Nature science journal recently published findings linking the activities of the hypothalamus to the process of aging. Early trials have been conducted on mice, but if applied to humans it could change the way doctors approach age-related illness and measures for increasing longevity. The study has discovered correlations between inflammation, stress responses, and aging all localized in the hypothalamus, which could suggest that reducing the one would alleviate the other, etc.
The hypothalamus is a region of the brain that regulates hormones associated with temperature, sleep, hunger, blood pressure, sex drive, and moods, as well as the release of hormones from various glands, including the pituitary gland. The complex nature of the brain is such that we can’t draw a simple line between stress and aging or even inflammation and aging, when a host of hormones and neurological factors are at play. Several things can be said, though, about the effects of stress on the body, which meditation and other mind-calming techniques have been shown to help alleviate.
Stress can increase blood pressure, slow digestion, increase heart rate, and cause muscle to tense, along with other problems. And the latest research on meditation, the brain, and overall health suggests that the practice may reduce these stress-related effects, as well as improve the immune system, cognitive function, and control of the nervous system.
We look forward to further research on this subject! We hope that in the near future much will be uncovered about the potential to reduce age-related suffering, whether through mindfulness practices like meditation, or even through manipulating hormones in the hypothalamus. After all, wrinkles and grey hair are marks of wisdom and rich life experience, but we could just as soon do without the pain and illness that often goes along with aging.
What do you think? Take a look at the studies on your own and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!