Forget the Fountain of Youth! Embrace Aging with Health & Grace

They say that some things get better with age… I will be turning 40 next year, so I like to believe the same holds true for humans. There’s certainly something to be said for the wisdom, ease, and confidence that comes with age—that “take me as I am” attitude. Even those laugh lines offer a distinct kind of beauty. But what about the other physical changes that happen to our bodies as we grow older? There’s no doubt that we begin to lose some of our youthful energy and strength, and even experience some aches and pains that seem to come out of nowhere, but if we begin to look at aging as a transformation rather than a loss of youth, and put into practice those things that we know will allow us to age with health, it can be a transformation filled with vitality and grace.

Remember: It’s not about preserving youth—it’s about preserving YOU and your quality of life, no matter what number you are.

Aging Happens, Make Sure You’re Healthy Doing It

We’re all going to age, so why not­ embrace it? The key is to manage how well your body ages. Each of us is unique, and our bodies age in a myriad of ways, but fundamentally the things that make us age in an unhealthy way include chronic inflammation, oxidative damage, and basic nutrient deficiencies. The good news is that we can influence all of these things with diet, smart supplementation, and lifestyle choices.

Start by reducing inflammation and oxidative damage…

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: Eat your vegetables! Vegetables contain a veritable rainbow of antioxidant phytonutrients like polyphenols and carotenoids that have been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage, reducing the risk of many chronic diseases, and directly impact how well you age.[1] [2] [3] [4] Be sure to include a rainbow of color—red, blue, purple, green, orange, and yellow—in your daily diet. Additionally, regular consumption of fish—especially fatty, cold-water fish like wild salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies—is associated with decreased inflammation[5] and healthier aging.[6]

rainbow-veggies

Antioxidant supplements like CoQ10[7] [8], alpha lipoic acid (ALA)[9], and vitamins C[10] and E[11] are excellent choices to reduce oxidative damage to cells, mitochondria (the “power plants” in our cells that produce energy), DNA, and other bodily tissues. The omega-3 fish oils EPA and DHA are some of the most researched in relation to their ability to reduce inflammation. Curcumin, from the spice turmeric, acts on a number of different pathways in the body to effectively reduce inflammation. It is also a powerful antioxidant, and research suggests that it preserves mitochondrial function.[12] [13]

By reducing inflammation and excessive oxidation in the body, you are doing a lot of damage control that will allow your body to age with ease. Start here and then begin to focus on specific areas. We have included two that we believe are important to give a little extra attention to as you grow older, ensuring you stay happy and healthy in your body. The recommendations here are by no means exhaustive, but offer several good options as starting points.

Maintain Your Strength and Mobility

Feeling confident in your body means preserving mobility, flexibility, and strength. It also means maintaining a healthy weight, which supports overall health. As we grow older we lose both muscle mass and bone mass (particularly women) and our joints begin to experience some “wear and tear.” These body systems all work together, so it’s important to stay proactive in maintaining the healthy function of each of them. For most people, good nutrition, physical activity, and certain supplements significantly slow both muscle and bone loss and support healthy joints.

What to eat:

A recent review published in the journal Osteoporosis International suggests that a protein intake of 1 to 1.2 grams per kg of body weight is optimal for older adults to maintain muscle mass (this equates to about 64-77 grams/day for a140-pound woman and 77-92 grams/day for a 170-pound man).[14] Good sources of protein are naturally-raised and pastured meat, poultry, and eggs; pasture-based dairy products like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt; and organic whey protein. Including a variety of vegetables will provide phytonutrients that reduce both inflammation and oxidation, especially helpful for joint health.

What to take:

The branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), especially leucine, whey protein, and vitamin D offer excellent support to maintain muscle mass.[15] For the bones, calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K2, and trace minerals such as boron and silica are vital building blocks—you can find all of these nutrients in a good bone health formula. Glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, and collagen are nutrients that support connective tissue and joint health. Try any combination of the four to see what works best for you.

What to do:

Stay active! Strength training, yoga, tai chi, walking, gardening, dancing—find an activity you love and do it. Regular exercise not only improves muscle strength and bone health, it also reduces inflammation and delays the onset of dementia.[16] [17]

Keep Your Brain Sharp

Developing dementia, ­Alzheimer’s disease, or any other neurological disease may be one of our worst fears as we grow older. But we can be proactive in nourishing our brains with the foods, supplements, and activities that will keep it sharp, even into old age.

What to eat:

Starting with a diet loaded with colorful vegetables (see a theme here?) will go a long way in giving the brain the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Certain fruits like deeply-colored berries provide polyphenols that support cognitive function.[18] Include as much fish as you can in your diet and drink lots of green tea—regular consumption of both are associated with a lower risk of neurological diseases and cognitive decline.[19] [20] Foods laced with turmeric, such as curry, provide a dietary source of curcumin, a powerful ally to the brain (there’s a reason why India enjoys one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the world!). Finally, make coconut oil a staple in your diet—it is an excellent source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that act as fuel for the brain cells.[21] [22]

What to take:

The B-complex vitamins are necessary to maintain optimal brain function. One recent study found that treatment with several B vitamins slowed brain shrinkage over a two-year period in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.[23] B12 is particularly important for nervous system health, but up to 30 percent of older adults have a functional B12 deficiency. Suboptimal levels of this important vitamin can lead to dementia-like symptoms.[24] [25] [26] The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, found in fish oil, have been found to exhibit a neuroprotective effect, and supplementation has shown to improve cognitive function.[27] [28] [29] [30] Research is increasingly discovering how turmeric benefits the brain. One recent study found that a compound in turmeric, turmerone, promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons.[31] Other research shows that turmeric and its bioactive compounds protect the brain from cognitive decline.[32] [33] The polyphenol EGCG, found in green tea, acts as a powerful antioxidant and has been found to inhibit DNA damage and the oxidation of fats in mitochondrial membranes in the brain.[34]

What to do:

Keep busy doing the things you love. Whether it’s socializing, gardening, reading, being outside, or some other hobby, keep it up. Strive to keep joy in your life—your brain will benefit! Also be sure to get plenty of sleep—a newly discovered waste clearance system called the glymphatic system eliminates potentially neurotoxic waste from our brains, including beta-amyloid, a protein implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. This waste clearance system only works while we’re asleep.[35] And if you haven’t already, lay off the refined grains and sugar! In excess, these foods are poison for the brain.

Aging is a journey that we all embark on, so why not make it a healthy, vibrant one? While aging itself can be a complex process involving many factors, aging with health really is quite simple. It comes down to a healthy diet, a good supplement routine, and some basic lifestyle habits. As I approach 40, I certainly don’t plan on slowing down. What I do plan to do is put into practice those things that I know will allow me to age with health and grace. I hope you will join me!

Want to live an active, healthy life well into your 80s?

Look to places like Okinawa, Japan and Sardinia, Italy, which are recognized as having a very high prevalence of octogenarians. Common lifestyle habits include high levels of physical activity (walking, gardening), positive attitudes, regular midday naps, and diets rich in fruit and vegetables.[36]

Don’t Forget These Two Foundational Supplements!

There are two supplements that everyone should include in their healthy routine, no matter how old you may be:

Vitamin D.

A deficiency in vitamin D is the norm rather than the exception among older adults. This is bad news because a deficiency in this critical vitamin increases the risk of frailty, macular degeneration, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality![37] [38] [39] [40] Have your doctor check your serum vitamin D levels (a simple and inexpensive test) and supplement with vitamin D3 as necessary to increase levels to the optimal range of 45-65 ng/mL.[41]

Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Who could have predicted how important the bacteria living in our guts would be to optimal health! As we age, the population of bacteria living in the gut shifts both in diversity and quality.[42] These shifts have been linked to increased frailty and inflammation, intestinal disorders, certain cancers, changes in cognitive function, and cardiovascular disease. [43] [44] [45] [46] Keep the gut in tip-top shape by supplementing with probiotics.[47]


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