Immune Senescence – or how your aging immune cells put you at risk

Immune Senescence is the decline of effectiveness of our immune system as we age. This puts us at greatly increased risks of chronic diseases of aging such as cancer, autoimmunity and chronic infections. Aging brings decreased levels and activity of T cells and Natural Killer Cells. Production of these crucial white blood cells from our bone marrow slows, and our Thymus gland, where T cells mature, shrinks as we age until it basically stops functioning by the time we are in our 70’s.

Your shrinking Thymus

So we have immune cells that are less vigilant and less effective. This is one of the reason latent virus infections can re-emerge in late life, such as the varicella-zoster virus, which caused chicken pox as a teen, now presents itself again as shingles. Over time, our ability to fend off bacteria and viruses diminishes, our response to vaccinations weakens, and critical anti-cancer defenders called natural killer (NK) cells become increasingly impaired. At the same time, smoldering, persistent inflammation runs rampant in our aging bodies.

Decline in immune cells with age

As cells age, most undergo a beneficial elimination process known as apoptosis. But as we grow older, our “housecleaning” of these non-functioning becomes impaired. Instead, too many senescent cells linger. These aged cells emit signals that promote inflammation, injure healthy cells, and block regenerative factors that may improve one’s health. These pesky senescent cells emit inflammatory-type signals that spread to healthy cells and cause them to deteriorate. Worse, our aging immune system spends time trying to stop this tsunami of worthless cells piling up throughout our tissues and organs, having less time to identify cancerous cells or fight off infections.

Senescent cells

It would stand that if there was a way to help the body clear these senescent cells, there would be profound health benefits. It turns out there are ways to do so; fasting, (1) exercise, (2) and some select natural ingredients. (3) This brief introduction of immune senescence and the clear health risks it presents, is the beginning of a 3 part series of short, concise health blogs to soon follow.



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