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The Big Idea - Why do people get old?

Updated: Jan 24

You little factory, you!

Ageing is a natural process, primarily driven by the gradual decline in the effectiveness of our cellular functions. Cells, the most fundamental units of life, orchestrate all biological processes within our bodies. From the moment of conception to our last breath, cells divide, grow, and function to maintain our physiological integrity.

People get old because our cells stop reproducing effectively. Cells are the tiniest pieces of us that make everything. It’s that simple. When you were a baby, you were made of simple cells bunched together like grapes on a vine. You’re still made of simple cells bunched together. Every single part of you is. These cells are like tiny factories inside your body and each of them has a factory - a mitochondria. It generates energy for the cell to function. In the nucleus, you can find the instructions (your DNA) on how to make YOU! Right now, as you read this, it has the instructions of how you will grow and what will happen to your biology (your body). This means that (sorry, boys) it will make sure that your armpits get hairy, your voice gets deeper, and you’ll grow wings like a pigeon!!! Okay, perhaps not the last one. This process isn’t perfect, however, because as you replicate cells, the protective caps on your chromosomes - called telomeres - shorten and your DNA starts to malfunction. This is seen as ageing.

This one needs replacing…

Your cells completely reproduce every 7 years. That means that if you are 8 years old, every single cell in your body has changed once. Your brain, your bones, and your butt are all new. This keeps happening every 7 years. You’ll never notice it happening, so don’t worry about waking up with giant feet one day or a beard. Your body is just like a car - it works every day and you never really need to think about how. However, when a car breaks down, you start to wonder.  Cells are like a car. Over time, they stop working as well. Mitochondria, often referred to as the powerhouses of cells, play a pivotal role in this. They are not only responsible for producing energy but also regulate cellular metabolism and apoptosis (programmed cell death). Mitochondrial dysfunction, resulting from genetic mutations or oxidative stress, contributes significantly to the ageing process. Essentially, when the engine in your cells starts to sputter and splutter, the whole cell becomes weaker. You’ll start to see this damage in things like wrinkles on people’s faces and when cells, and thus, bones and organs become less effective. Thus, the older you become, the more damaged cells you have.


If your body and DNA is like an old car, which parts of your body do you think might start to malfunction more quickly? Where will most of the cell damage occur? Think about what humans do in their daily lives and how we help/hinder our bodies. Our daily habits significantly impact the rate at which our cells age. Factors such as diet, exercise, exposure to toxins, and stress levels can either accelerate or decelerate cellular ageing. Organs like the skin, heart, and brain are particularly susceptible to lifestyle-induced damage. Therefore, a balanced diet, regular physical activity, avoiding harmful substances, and managing stress are vital for slowing the ageing process and maintaining overall health. Be kind to your body and you can SLOW down ageing, but not stop it. So, that sucks.

List the 3 most detrimental things you can do for your cells!

1st place: ____________________________________________________________________

2nd place: ____________________________________________________________________

3rd place: ____________________________________________________________________

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