“Live Long and Prosper”
Top Tips For Ageing Gracefully and Healthily
You often hear the phrases “with age comes wisdom” and “respect your elders”. We talk about the confidence that comes with ageing and the relief at not having to deal with some of the struggles we see younger generations are going through. If ageing is so great, then why should we worry about getting older? The perks of ageing include that we are usually more financially stable, have more free time and are more in touch with our spirituality and what is important in our life. Yet we are constantly bombarded with negative stereotypes regarding ageing. Many TV shows focus on age-related themes like illness, declining health, uselessness, unattractiveness, mental decline, poverty, and depression. Often it seems youth and beauty are prized above all else (just look at any magazine cover or the hot social media feeds). The media uses our insecurities around ageing to fuel their multibillion-dollar industry. Our society has put more effort into helping people reach old age than in helping them to enjoy it!
Many of us in the office are turning fifty this year and I can't count how many times someone has said “it’s all downhill from here”. I refuse to believe that! I realize we can’t stop getting older – but we don’t have to be old! Ageing can be hard to accept - our bodies have changed (more creaks and groans) and we can no longer do some of the more active things we did when we were younger. Aches, pains and medications have become part of our daily routine and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to take a nocturnal trip to the bathroom.
There is a strong connection between our genetic profiles and our likelihood of developing certain health problems such as some cancers, depression and Alzheimer's disease (just to name a few). This is one reason people undergo genetic testing - to determine whether they carry copies of specific genes that put them at higher risk for various diseases. However our genetic makeup is only half the equation. Our lifestyle choices (food we eat, chemicals we are exposed to, how active we are, our stress levels and our social environment) not only play a critical part in our risk for disease but actually alter our health at the genetic level. For example:
· The carcinogens in cigarette smoke (and second hand smoke) as well as car exhaust directly affect the molecules in our bodies, triggering the growth of cancer by mutating our anti-cancer genes so they no longer function effectively
· Having a well-balanced, healthy diet can "turn off" the genes that put one at higher risk for heart problems
· Exercise can persuade stem cells to become bone and blood cells rather than fat cells
Life is meant to be lived. The quality of your later life is partly under your control and the adage ‘use it or lose it’ often does apply. Making small changes to your routine can add a little more shine to your ‘golden years’.
· Stop smoking, avoid second hand smoke and exhaust fumes. The laundry list of how bad they are for health includes narrowing of your arteries, and chemicals in smoke can damage collagen and elastin (fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity)
· As a preventative, see your doctor regularly and be sure to get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked regularly
· Try to maintain a healthy weight
· Eat a healthy balanced diet with a wide variety of fresh fruits, veggies and whole grains every day
· Take steps to reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, or just a nice walk around the block. Take time to smell the roses!
· Get enough sleep every night. Your body needs sleep to recharge and heal properly
· Do weight-bearing exercises such as walking, climbing stairs and weight training to help build strong bones and slow bone loss
· Stay mentally active to help sustain your memory and thinking skills. You can read, play word games, take up a new hobby, take classes, engage in conversations, or learn to play a musical instrument
· Fill up on omega-3s. Research has shown Omega-3, specifically the long chain Omega-3’s (EPA and DHA), reduce triglycerides (fats in your blood), increase “good” cholesterol levels, and are anti-inflammatory
· Make sure you get enough vitamin D and B12. Unfortunately as we age our ability to absorb these essential vitamins is reduced, so top up daily
· Reduce your pain. Natural Egg Shell membrane and glucosamine can help reduce pain and stiffness associated with joint and connective tissue disorders. Turmeric and Pine Bark Extract supplements help reduce inflammation, easing pain and allowing your body to heal itself
· Get out there and be social. Social interaction is tied to lower levels of interleukin-6, an inflammatory factor involved in chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, heart disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, and some cancers
· Try to maintain a positive attitude. Positive thinking is contagious and it is good for you
Age is only a number. It is the attitude you have that makes the difference. Studies have linked increased exposure to negative attitudes about ageing to poorer health and worse cognitive and physical function in older people. In addition, being positive has a huge impact on our health, including stress reduction, improved immunity, reduced risk for heart disease, as well as being better able to handle stress.
There are so many reasons why getting older is great (more free time, no hectic schedule, senior discounts). Instead of succumbing to negative stereotypes, think about what you love about your current age and the awesome road you took to get here. Approach each day as the first day of the rest of your life. Do what you enjoy and make new memories to last a lifetime!
With positive energy and some commitment, you can create a future that's fulfilling, invigorating and best of all — healthy.
As Sophia Loren once said: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. Dr. Claude Gallant holds a PhD in Microbiology.