Mitochondria and the Aging Process

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Most patients remember learning the importance of the mitochondria in their biology 101 class. Why are these little guys so critical to your health? Well…scientists are linking the health and vitality of your mitochondria to your longevity. Yes, that is right, your lifespan comes down to the number of the mitochondria you have and how well they perform.   

Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of the cell. They are organelles that act like a digestive system which takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy rich molecules for the cell (your cells). The biochemical processes of the cell are known as cellular respiration.  If your mitochondria do not work well then, your body does not work well.  More clinical peer review research shows dysfunctional mitochondria in our genes. Those variants can come from birth or from our environmental toxic load, which can come from basic environmental toxins you may not even think of as being toxic such as the mattresses we sleep on or the water we consume. All of these can cause changes in our mitochondrial function. 

 Mitochondria are critical to your cells surviving in a variety of ways. For instance, they store calcium ions, helping cells maintain the right concentration of these electrically charged particles involved in blood clotting, muscle contraction, and other important tasks to keep you healthy. Bottom line, you have mitochondria for every organ in your body. They generate most of our adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy currency of the cell. In other words, mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles (mitochondrion, singular) that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell’s biochemical reactions. Chemical energy produced by the mitochondria is stored in a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  

Mitochondria are also involved in other tasks, such as signaling between cells and cell death, otherwise known as apoptosis. It is when apoptosis gets altered with environmental toxic load that we see disease states such as neuro conditions, autoimmunity, and cancers. 

In essence how well our mitochondria function and thrive determines how long we live, not our telomeres. Typically, the research has shown the length of the telomeres determines aging; but what scientist are discovering is mitochondria dying off and functioning at less than capacity or sticking around if sick mitochondria (apoptosis not working) determine our aging process. 

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