Oxidative Stress and Aging
Oxidative stress is the major pillar of the theory of aging. As a joke, we often say in the classes that we get old because we have the bad habit of spending our whole life breathing oxygen. Basically it is the oxygen that makes us live, but it is also the one that kills us little by little, that is, that makes us grow old…and what is the relationship between oxygen and aging? The answer boils down to two words: oxidative stress.Periodically, there are O2 molecules that transform into reactive oxygen species, most of which are neutralized by our antioxidant defenses. However, there are always some reactive oxygen species that can bypass our defenses and consequently can cause minor damage to some of our biomolecules. Although these damages do not have much biological significance, when evaluated isolated, as we grow older, they accumulate, and these cumulative damages begin to translate to the loss of some functionalities. Examples are loss of skin plasticity, joint stiffness, loss of sensory ability, etc.
Therefore, everything that can accelerate our metabolic rate has the potential to make us age faster because it increases the production of reactive oxygen species. In this context, the effect of emotional stress is particularly evident! For example, people who have jobs and activities of high stress, age at a much higher rate than those who have a much more relaxed life.Finally, I would like to make it clear that oxidative stress is not the only factor responsible for aging, but it is certainly one of the main ones, so if we want to age more slowly, we have to ensure an adequate balance between the pro-oxidants and the anti-oxidants.