What Is The Immunological Theory Of Aging?

Aging is a process that happens to everyone. But what causes it? Scientists investigating how and why we age will fall into two main camps: programmed theories of aging and damage or error theories. According to a 2010 article in Aging and Disease, programmed theories believe that no matter what we do to maintain our health, our bodies are predetermined to age. Damage theories are concerned with how our environment and lifestyle can age our bodies. The immunological theory is a programmed theory of aging that says that our immune system loses its ability to fight off infection and disease over time (via Healthline).

According to a 2014 article in Interdisciplinary Topics in Gerontology, our bodies are typically subjected to a lot of threats on the outside, such as bacteria and viruses. Our immune system protects our bodies from these threats, and it adapts to repeated threats if they are relatively minor. When our immune system detects a threat, our bodies might respond with inflammation, decreased appetite, or changes in our nervous system. If our immune systems are challenged over long periods of time, we can develop fatigue, mental illness, or sleep problems. This process of a declined immune system is known as "inflammaging."

Can we slow down inflammaging?

Because the immunological theory of aging is a programmed theory, it suggests that we can't do anything to slow the aging process, according to Healthline. However, this doesn't mean that a healthy lifestyle can't promote longevity. According to a 2013 article in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, inflammaging doesn't occur consistently across all people. Researchers are looking into biomarkers that might help target each person's needs to strengthen the immune system.

MedlinePlus suggests keeping up-to-date with vaccines to help the immune system respond to infection. It also advocates a healthy diet, giving up smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation. Exercise can also slow down age-related inflammation. A 2020 study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that a regular strength-training program can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.

According to a 2010 article in Aging and Disease, many other theories of aging interact with one another, and scientists haven't reached a consensus about which can best explain the process of aging.