Aging Forces: Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Mitochondria are the energy producing structures inside our cells. They are traditionally referred to as the “powerhouse of the cell”. Think of mitochondria as small furnaces inside our cells that burn food to produce cell energy. The cell energy produced is called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

All cells vary in the number of mitochondria they contain. Amazing as it is, inside the trillions of cells in our body are located anywhere from 50 to 2500 mitochondria per cell. Ninety-five percent of cell energy produced occurs in the mitochondria. The high energy producing cells of the heart and brain contain the highest density of mitochondria.

Optimal mitochondrial function translates into better energy levels, enhanced metabolism, improved brain and heart function, and improved health and longevity.

Mitochondrial dysfunction translates into fatigue, weight gain, decreased concentration, poor exercise stamina, diminished health, and other signs of accelerated aging.

A key anti-aging strategy focuses on what we can do to protect and optimize mitochondrial function as well as to encourage healthy mitochondrial production.

Mitochondrial dysfunction that occurs with aging increases the risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction plays a pivotal role in the development of most age-related diseases and is a key biomarker of aging.

When we are young we have minimal, if any, mitochondrial dysfunction. As we age the number of unhealthy mitochondria increases and cell function suffers. Having an anti-aging strategy that supports mitochondria is imperative if we want to slow aging and optimize organ function throughout the body.

What contributes to mitochondrial dysfunction?

Glycation: elevated blood sugar levels produce excessive binding of sugar to mitochondrial structures (AGE’s) injuring mitochondria.

Oxidation: mitochondrial cell energy production is a major source of free radical production in the body. As the mitochondria produce energy they are most vulnerable to injury from oxidative stress. Free radicals attack the mitochondrial membrane and the mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA injury leads to mitochondrial dysfunction.

A vicious cycle develops because glycation and oxidation lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, and mitochondrial dysfunction leads to more oxidative stress.

Inflammation: chronic inflammation impairs cell function and induces mitochondrial dysfunction.

Nutrient deficiencies: optimal nutrients support mitochondrial function, offer much-needed anti-oxidant protection to mitochondria, and encourage production of  new mitochondria. With nutrient-poor diets we neglect our mitochondrial health. In addition, some medications lower nutrient levels negatively impacting mitochondrial status. Statins used to lower cholesterol are a common culprit. Statins lower CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) levels in the body impairing mitochondrial function. If you are on a statin medication it is imperative that you supplement with CoQ10.

Hormone imbalances: hormones in balance lower oxidation, lower inflammation, and improve mitochondrial efficiency. People with hormone imbalances often complain of low energy levels, weight-gain and difficulty losing weight.

Sedentary lifestyle: when we are sedentary both the quantity and quality of our mitochondria diminish.

Smoking/toxins: impair mitochondrial function.

Anti-aging lifestyle to reverse mitochondrial decay and dysfunction:

1) Nutrient-dense, low-glycemic diet composed of  high-quality protein, fats, whole fruits, and non-starchy vegetables; provide anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-glycation protection to the mitochondria. In addition, our diet supplies pivotal nutrients utilized by the mitochondria to produce ATP.

2) Mitochondrial-targeted supplements such as CoQ10, L-carnitine, acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, carnosine, B-vitamins, and arginine,  optimize mitochondrial function, production and protection.

3) Exercise stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, the process from which new mitochondria are formed. Since excessive exercise leads to oxidative stress and mitochondrial injury, we obtain better results with high-intensity, short-duration exercise programs. Much of the fat-burning benefits of exercise are the direct result of healthy mitochondrial biogenesis.

4) Hormone therapy with bio-identical estrogen, testosterone , as well as thyroid to maximize mitochondrial biogenesis, efficiency and protection. In addition, we balance cortisol hormone with stress-reduction programs. We balance insulin hormone with our diet, exercise and supplement programs.

When we combine our diet, supplements, exercise, hormone therapy, and stress reduction, we  synergistically support and protect existing mitochondria as well as stimulate the production of new mitochondria.

Our anti-aging lifestyle improves mitochondrial function, slows our rate of aging and decreases the risk of dementia, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.

Tap into mitochondrial power to improve your energy, metabolism, and health.

Author: frankcomstock

I am a physician with an anti-aging medical practice in Tucson called Lifestyle Spectrum. I am the author of ANTIAGING 101: Course Manual

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