Up until about 20 years ago, dealing with aching joints, wrinkles, low testosterone, menopause, insomnia, fatigue, and a host of other symptoms was thought to be an inevitable part of aging. Today, thankfully, we know that isn’t true. As I tell my patients, you don’t have to suffer the symptoms of aging as you can do a lot to both stop and, often times, reverse them!
That’s right. In fact, anti-aging research is discovering more every day about how we age, and how to slow that process down to a crawl to allow us to live healthier much, much longer. It’s a lot easier than you think too!
Research has proven that just by making some adjustments to your lifestyle, and paying more attention to optimum nutrition, sleep, exercise and relaxation, you can prevent many of the physical and mental signs of aging. In Part I of this 2 part series, then, I’d like to explain to you what aging really is and how optimal nutrition, adequate sleep, and relaxation can keep you youthful long into your 90s!
What Causes Aging?
When I discuss anti-aging techniques with my patients, they’re often surprised to learn that aging is nothing more than a collection of symptoms telling you that you’re body isn’t repairing and reproducing itself the way it should. You likely have created serious deficits in vital nutrients, and do not get enough sleep and exercise.
When your mind and body doesn’t get what it needs from nutrition, vigorous movement and repairing/restorative sleep critical deficits at the cellular level start occurring.
These critical deficits will result in your cells reproducing themselves in a defective manner. They start replicating a version of you that’s not working very well! If you don’t step in and start giving your body what it needs, you’ll continue to reproduce an increasingly weaker copy of yourself and this is the critical crossroads where detrimental aging starts to set in.
When we’re young children, and all the way up to the age of 30, our bodies pretty much run by themselves. By age 30, however, we start decreasing more of our growth hormone, the substance that keeps us young.
If we haven’t done something to correct our growth hormone deficit, by ramping up our nutrition with high nutrient foods, specific exercise, and more powerful supplements to boost our natural production of this hormone, by the age of 40 we can really start to show signs of aging – gray hair, low sexual energy, aching muscles and joints, poor memory, fatigue, certain illnesses, etc.
Now allow me to discuss how to begin to prevent aging from getting a foothold.
What Slows Down Aging?
As I explain to my patients, your body’s cellular processes are a series of negative and positive reactions. Cells reproduce and others die off. To defeat symptoms of aging, your cells must continue to reproduce themselves in a strong, healthy version of you so you stay well and youthful much longer. The two best ways to do this is to provide your body with optimal nutrition and repair time through sleep in the following ways:
Nutrition: An anti-aging diet is one that provides the type of nutrition that supports good levels of growth hormone and high powered antioxidants that keep cells strong and healthy.
* Low glycemic (low sugar) index foods prevent insulin spikes and the accumulation of fat storage, especially belly fat. Get a good glycemic index rating reference for all foods and drinks and keep your total GI load for the day at or just below 100. Of course it’s okay to have the occasional treat or snack, or higher glycemic index starch like a baked white potato, just even things over your next couple of meals.
* Optimal protein (1 gram protein per lb of body weight) keeps muscles and skin strong, heals wounds, and keeps your brain functioning well. Try to get your protein from both vegetable (legumes, low GI grains like quinoa) and animal sources (grass fed beef, free range chicken, water packed tuna, salmon, turkey).
* No added (table) sugar or HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). These can cause a highly acidic content in your blood which causes muscles and collagen (protein that ligaments and skin matrix are made of) to break down. Disease conditions like cancer are also more able to get a stronghold in high acidic conditions.
* Stop smoking. Smoking deprives your body of oxygen and critical Vitamin C which boosts your immune system. It also deposits a slew of toxins every time you smoke!
* Restrict alcohol to 1-2 large glasses of dark red wine per day. Red wine contains a potent antioxidant, Resveratrol that both helps your body fight cholesterol plaque build up in your arteries and helps skin resist wrinkles.
* Fruits and vegetables – eat between 8 and 10 high nutrition, low-moderate glycemic index, and high ORAC (antioxidant level) servings a day. These provide both vitamins and necessary fiber. This can include frozen or canned as well. However, limit dried fruits as they are higher in their glycemic load. Good sources include avocado, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, prunes, winter squash, cauliflower, dark berries, garlic, and onion. Don’t overcook, steam or saut in a little olive oil.
* Snack on nuts – instead of potato chips or popcorn. A handful of nuts contain potassium, magnesium, selenium, iron, zinc, copper and beneficial monounsaturated fat. Keep them fresh through storage in an air-tight container.
* Spices not only add flavor and zip to your food, they provide essential nutrients that helps you to fight viruses, clear congestion from your sinuses and lungs (oregano, cayenne), keep your blood sugar levels healthy (cinnamon), and aids in digestion ailments (ginger), something that bothers many people as they get older.
* Take a high-density nutrient multivitamin to improve your whole foods nutrition. This should contain adequate levels of all vitamins and minerals plus antioxidants selenium, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, green tea extract. In Part II, I’ll outline these nutrients in more detail plus add several more.
* Water is very important to keeping every part of your body functioning correctly by helping to remove toxins and wastes from your body through your kidneys, liver and colon. Women should drink 91 ounces of water a day and men 105 oz. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, as you get older your thirst “alarm” doesn’t work as well.
Rest and Relaxation: Rest and relaxation are critical to being healthy at any age and even more so as you get older. Sleep is the time when your entire body repairs itself at the cellular level. It’s crucial that you have adequate sleep time to perform these vital functions.
Many of my patients tell me that they only get 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night and I explain to them that they’re making themselves age quicker! Crucial hormones like leptin and ghrelin, which control your appetite levels and how much fat you store, get out of whack with too little sleep. You can gain a lot of body fat just by not sleeping enough hours every night!
In addition, stress hormones that get elevated during the day don’t clear sufficiently from your system through sleep so your body continues to run in stress mode. This places strain on your heart and all your body functions, makes your muscles ache and makes you look and feel fatigued and depressed! Adequate sleep is between 7 and 8 uninterrupted hours.
Relaxation, and just plain fun, is also important to staying healthy as you get older. Research shows that people who are engaged in activities with people they enjoy stay healthy and live much longer than people who do not have satisfying social outlets.
Summary Part I:
Getting older is inevitable; however, aging doesn’t have to be. Growing older gracefully is what you want to strive for, i.e., staying vital and active and able to participate in every aspect of your life with vim and vigor with each passing birthday.
I hope you’ll join me back here for Part II – Supplements and Hormones, where I’ll go into more specific detail about what I feel are beneficial anti-aging supplements such as colostrum, Alpha GPC, and alpha fetoglutarate, as well as herbs like mucuna pruriens that have been used in Indian and African cultures for years due to their anti-aging benefits for both men and women. In addition, we’ll talk about the benefits of supplements that augment hormones testosterone and estrogen and how to further boost growth hormone levels through adequate exercise and supplements. Until then, keep yourself young with optimal nutrition and all important sleep!