Why & How Some Age Faster than Others
Written by Dr. Dane Donohue, Co-Founder of 8WW
In life, any biological system gravitates toward disorder. Think about ice melting or metal rusting, or human beings aging. Things become more random and break down over time. I remember learning this in physics and the term for this was "Entropy". The natural order toward disorder. As human beings, over time, we age and become more disordered in our bodies and minds. We get weaker, our joints and bones break down, our brain becomes more chaotic and we forget things.
I like physics because it has “laws” like the law of gravity. You can't break a law, you can only break yourself against the law. In other words, you wouldn’t jump off a building and say “watch me break the law of gravity”. The only thing you would break is yourself. Laws don't care what you think.
I learned in physics that what opposes Entropy (the process of randomness and disorder) is WORK. Think of a pile of bricks on the back of a dump truck. If the dump truck unloaded them, there isn’t a great chance that they would fall off the truck and form a house or even the wall of a house. The bricks have to be arranged by a bricklayer into a house or a wall. This requires work and so work put into a system can slow down entropy, however, it can never stop entropy because entropy always moves in one direction, towards randomness, disorder, and death. Pretty morbid, I know. But what is encouraging is that we can slow down and delay the random aging process by putting work back into our bodies and minds.
Think about it, why is it that you look at one person who is 70 and they look 60 and you look at another who is 60 and they look 70? One has been affected by entropy (aging) more than the other. It has nothing to do with time (chronological age) and everything to do with opposing the natural forces of break down (biological aging). Growing older and aging is NOT optional but how fast you age is totally within your control. Human beings that age more rapidly become a burden to themselves and society because they require more work to care for.
Think about it, the person who is elderly, disabled, and in a wheelchair or the person who has dementia requires a lot more energy and work to care for. However, it’s someone else’s energy, not their own. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care for them, I’m just saying it requires more work and energy (time and money) on the part of someone else. I don’t know about you but I want to delay this as long as possible. I don’t want to burden my children or anyone else because I can’t care for myself anymore at 70.
According to Jay Olshansky, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, "You don't want to live to be over 100 years old if the last 20 years of your life are spent in pain and sickness," Olshansky said. "Ideally, you want to compress the years of decay and disease -- what I call the 'red zone' -- into as few as possible at the very end of life."
However, as a society, we are aging more rapidly biologically than chronologically. For most people, the period of disability isn’t a year or a couple of years anymore, it’s over a decade. The average life span (years we are alive) in the U. S. is 79 years but the average health span (the number of years a person can expect to live in relatively good health, free of chronic disease and disabilities of aging) in the U.S. is 66 years. That’s 13 years of poor health and disability. Have you ever wondered why there are so many “long-term” care facilities going up all over the place? It’s because A LOT of people can’t care for themselves as they age and they have to move somewhere so that someone else can care for them. But these facilities cost big bucks so you better save your money because years of disability will cost you (or someone else) tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Most people are “present biased” when it comes to their health. They only think about the present and not the future. I think about the future, how do I want to function in my 70’s, 80’s and 90’s? I have to be honest, I don’t expect to be breaking push-up records or running marathons, but I do expect to be able to care for myself in my OWN home, which I can take care of too!
If work opposes entropy and slows the aging process, then it’s time to get to work. Shopping and cooking healthy requires work. Exercising instead of sitting on the couch or computer requires work. Getting up early and meditating or praying requires work. Taking your supplements every day requires work. Delaying the instant gratification of sugar, alcohol, drugs, social media takes work. However, the sooner you accept the responsibility and get on with getting on with it, the easier it gets. Healthy habits take work and work takes commitment and energy. It’s a positive or vicious cycle. Putting work into your body slows aging, disability, and death. Not putting work into your body or worse, abusing your body accelerates aging, disability, and death. Wayne Dyer said, “Healthy habits are learned in the same way as unhealthy ones- through practice”.
Is it time to slow down entropy and aging? Is it time to get to work on yourself and your health? Only you and the mirror can answer that question. When you’re ready, we’ll be here.