Chapter 2: The Aging Process
The human body follows a predetermined aging process. The four steps of aging are as follows:
- Decreased lung capacity;
- Reduced kidney function;
- Slowing of the heart function;
- Impairment of the nervous system.
The first step in the aging process, decreased lung capacity, affects proper breathing. To give a specific example, a 30-year-old person’s lung volume is 3,500 cc. In other words, when people of this age breathe air in, their lungs can fill with up to 3,500 cc of air, which is a healthy amount of air. Picture your lungs as balloons. If you blow them all the way up, they expand to their full potential. What is the advantage of this? Well, a healthy and fit 30-year-old can run up a hill and exercise strenuously without passing out. This is because the lungs are putting a large amount of oxygen into the bloodstream, allowing the body’s cells to produce the necessary energy. A good quantity of air is what keeps the blood healthy and flowing easily.
Now, compare this 30 year-old to somebody who is 60 years old. Typically, elderly people have a breathing pattern that is short, rough, and shallow. The average lung volume for people at this age lies around 2,690 cc. In other words, picture blowing up balloons to about 70% of their capacity. Now, compare this to the full balloons. Which set of lungs would you rather have? Even if someone with this reduced lung capacity is in relatively good condition, he or she will not be able to run up that same hill. The body simply cannot get enough oxygen into the bloodstream with a decreased lung capacity. As a result, the bloodstream has less oxygen in it, which hinders how efficiently cells can produce energy and how quickly a person can recover from exercise.
Due to this decreased lung capacity and limited lung strength, the elderly struggle to get enough air into their bodies, and often breathe through their mouths. Unfortunately, breathing through your mouth is not as effective as breathing through your nose.
Why is this? To understand, take a deep breath through your nose, paying close attention to how it feels. Now, take a deep breath through your mouth. Something is missing, right? When breathing through your nose, you should sense an energy that flows to your head and through your consciousness. When breathing through your mouth, this sensation is cut off. You feel nothing more than the air entering your lungs. N0se breathing provides the brain with more oxygen as opposed to mouth breathing. It also allows the air you take in to be filtered and purified before reaching the lungs.
Anything that reduces our oxygen intake (such as smoking) will only accelerate the aging process. Therefore, we must take care not do anything that decreases our lung capacity.
The second step in the aging process involves a drop in the kidney blood flow function. The kidneys act as a filter, purifying our blood (and the water therein) of toxins. Whatever waste not filtered out stays in the kidneys. The kidneys refine food into water, so if we eat poor types of food, the kidneys have to work overtime to pull out the junk and toxins. This can clog up the kidney. How can we keep our kidneys healthy? By drinking clean water and eating healthy foods, the kidneys will clean themselves out.
If the kidneys stop functioning properly due to too much waste remaining in them, symptoms of high blood pressure begin to occur. Ah, but, we have medicine for that, correct? While we can control high blood pressure, a drug cannot cure it. If medicine can be prescribed, symptoms are only relieved temporarily after the medicine is ingested. Patients become locked into taking it for the rest of their lives. It is also important to realize that all medicines have side effects. In fact, some can cause serious illness, induce coma, or even lead to death. (Poole)1 This proves just how powerful and dangerous the chemicals in some medicines are. Another factor to consider is that these medicines also have to be broken down by our kidneys in order to keep lethal levels from being absorbed by our bodies. If a medicine is taken continuously, the kidneys’ function will be further damaged because they will not be able to clean themselves of all of the residual toxins that they must continually extract.
The third aging step is the slowing of the heart function. The heart pumps a lot of blood into many blood vessels. Are you aware that, when added up, a person’s blood vessels are 97,000 kilometers long,2 which is two times as long as the Earth’s circumference? Each blood vessel supplies the cells with vital oxygen and nutrients, and the heart must pump blood throughout our entire body!
As we age, blockages form in our vessels due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Depending on the accumulated size of the blockages’ (they can fill up to 100% of the blood vessels’ 97,000 km length), certain problems will start to occur. Clogged vessels lead to high blood pressure, arthritis, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high triglycerides. With these blockages, the heart must work harder to circulate blood. Eventually, it will begin to tire out and its function will slow down.
The final aging function concerns the entire nervous system. Poor blood flow results in less oxygen and nutrients getting into the body. This means that cells regenerate slowly, or, at some point, not at all. A person’s nervous system weakens, and his or her movement becomes slow, non-reactive, or difficult to control. That is why people who have damaged nervous systems appear stiff, or move about as if they may be intoxicated. Essentially, the nerves become damaged, our electrical impulses are not synchronized and, eventually, the connection between all nerve cells are lost. An impaired nervous system is one reason that so many elderly people lose their balance and fall down. Additionally, when the fall breaks a bone, they are bedridden for a long time. This causes decreased muscle mass and their blood circulation decreases even more. Pretty soon, all internal organ functions drop, which eventually leads to death.
What can we do? Is there a way to slow the aging process? Of course! As you may have noticed, each step in the aging process brings about the next one. This is because one imbalance will disrupt the body’s energy flow, and start a chain reaction. Fortunately, proper Ki prevents this by increasing your lung capacity, preserving your kidneys, strengthening your heart, and enhancing your nervous system.
Proper Ki means there is a balance between the oxygen we take into our body and our body’s energy. With good energy flow, the air that we breathe in moves from the lungs toward the heart. The stomach allows blood to go into the intestines. The blood circulates freely, going to the kidneys, to the lungs, and to the heart. When we can cultivate our Ki, our organs and our bodies will function in harmony with one another.