What is ageing?
We now recognise that ageing is a process which can be subject to medical intervention just like cancer or diabetes. This has led to global interest in developing therapies to treat and improve ageing-related conditions.
In scientific terms ageing is a progressive degeneration of the body over time. Ageing results in cells, tissues and vital organs beginning to work less well.
Research has shown that there are a range of factors that affect us as we age. These include changes in body composition and metabolism, the deterioration of genetic information systems, immune systems, plus our neural and endocrine systems.
It can result in:
- Bone weakness
- Cardiovascular decline
- Cognitive decline
- Live fat accumulation
- Muscle weakness
- Respiratory decline
- Sensorary decline
- Skin thinning
It’s a complex process driven by the body’s molecular and cellular mechanisms, many of which are yet to be fully understood by researchers.
Impact of ageing on chronic diseases
Ageing has been shown to be a central risk factor for many chronic diseases.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and cancer all increase with age. These diseases can arise from the biological process of ageing and the body’s cellular degeneration, dysfunction and decline.
We know that the incidence of cancers increases as our cells become damaged over time. Similarly, it is likely that chronic or long-term inflammation due to ageing also contributes to a wide-range of devastating diseases. It is well understood that the incidence and prevalence of cardiovascular disease also increases with age as the heart, arteries and blood vessels deteriorate over the longer term.
The impact of muscle loss and frailty
The age-associated loss of muscle mass and strength, termed sarcopenia, is a devastating condition. Muscle weakness directly impacts the ability to perform daily activities, it reduces mobility, functional independence and ultimately quality of life.
Additionally, sarcopenia has direct association with frailty, cognitive decline, depression and dementia.
Our work in the Biology of Ageing Program looking to understand sarcopenia.
How does exercise help stop ageing?
It has been shown that increasing physical activity at any stage of our lives can have a positive effect on health.
Successful approaches being researched to treat ageing have focused on interventions that improve quality of life. Programs that worked on both physical and mental capability had a greater impact, leading to an improvement in the ability to perform activities of daily living.
Additionally, our body’s never lose the ability to respond positively to exercise. Research has shown that high levels of physical activity from mid to later life can prevent muscle deterioration and the loss of muscle mass due to age.
The Centenary Institute’s research focuses on the biology of ageing and disease, and building alliances with like-minded organisations, to pioneer new therapies to promote healthy ageing for us individually, within our families and for our communities.
The role of research in ageing
Prompted by the need to limit the growing social and economic impacts of disease and to improve the quality of life for older Australians, the Centenary Institute established The Centre for Healthy Ageing in 2022.
This is the first comprehensive Centre of its kind in Australia to address the biology of ageing. We have dedicated researchers who are working hard to improve the quality of life for older people by better understanding ageing-related diseases and finding new treatments and cures.
Crucially, this includes a dedication to uncovering the underlying mechanisms of disease through advanced cellular and molecular investigation. It is only when the biology of disease is fully understood, that safe and effective therapies can be developed.