Age-Related Decreases in Reserve Capacity

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We’ve already seen that each of us was born with a limited amount of adaptation energy. Another way of expressing this is by the use of the term reserve capacity. This reflects a decline during aging in maximal work capabilities such as our ability to breathe in and use oxygen in the performance of muscular work. Also associated with the decline in reserve capacity is the rapid increase of diseases of aging such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension, heart and kidney failure, and cancer. The increasing prevalence of these diseases leads to organ failure and a limit in lifespan while causing a great deal of human suffering.

Recent data demonstrate a nearly 60% linear decline in maximal work output between the ages of 30-70 years. The outcome of this decline is the inability of aging animals to tolerate stressful conditions that place greater demands upon the individual. As we’ve learned, disease is a mal-adaptation to stress.

The whole body decline in reserve capacity and loss of adaptation energy is largely dictated by changes at the cellular level. The primary cellular part that decays with aging is the mitochondria.

What are Mitochondria and Why Are They Important?

Mitochondria are small sub-cellular organelles of 0.5-20 microns in length found in all aerobic (oxygen using) animal cells. Mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of the body since all cells need energy. Cells depend on mitochondria and they use oxygen to generate constant amounts of energy.

Mitochondria have been shown to play a crucial role in the regulation of cell death and the maintenance of cellular redox reactions. We produce energy by breaking down metabolic fuels into smaller pieces from which we derive our energy. The general chemical reaction is a loss or gain of electrons along the chain of breaking down food sources into usable energy. Redox is an acronym for the process of oxidation and reduction of chemicals used in the production of energy.

Mitochondria are made of proteins; all the different parts you see marked in the drawing above are susceptible to a diverse range of substances that lead to mitochondrial decay and ultimately death. These dysfunctional mitochondria must be removed and aging is associated with a decreased ability to remove damaged mitochondria.

Currently there is a great deal of research available outlining the process of mitochondrial damage, yet this research is not part of medical practice. The reasons behind this are not apparent but have much to do with the structure of Establishment Medicine.

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