By Dale Nibbe

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Although repair-mechanisms help it to recover, this ability decreases systematically with age at the rate of just under one percent every year. The ageing skin demonstrates also another age-related feature found in other parts of the body, namely an impairment in the function of some so-called peripheral nerves. It is less sensitive to both heat and cold than is true of youthful skins. This explains why the elderly may get burned without noticing it when cooking, and, at the other extreme, suffer from hypothermia (heat loss) when they are exposed to a very cold atmosphere: a drop in body temperature from the normal of 37°C down to 30°C or less is liable to be fatal.

E. e. the individual’s) acquired characteristics. qxd 20 10/12/2009 1:39 PM Page 20 Youth Prolonged: Old Age Postponed African Americans have largely preserved their original biological characteristics together with important differences in a susceptibility to disease when compared with Caucasians. This goes to show that 500 years is a short time on the evolutionary time-scale. It is, however, of considerable interest because it is now believed on the basis of good genetic evidence that mankind is likely to have originated in South Africa, in particular within reach of the sea near the Klasies River Caves along the coast of the eastern part of the Cape.

To the extent to which the latter may appear late in life, they may, indeed, curtail it. The mechanism by which dietary or caloric restriction (Fig. 2) appears to operate is that it delays not only maturation (in animals) but also the decline of types of immunity. The resulting period of grace appears to delay the development of neoplasms (potentially cancerous growths): this could therefore contribute to an extension of longevity. Dietary restriction appears to operate also in individual organs.

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