Most people shrug their shoulders when the subject of aging is raised, assuming little can be done. In fact, a great deal can be done. With a few simple changes to their diet, exercise regimen, and even mindset, the speed at which individuals age can be dramatically slowed. The dreadful illnesses associated with aging are often due to the way people have lived rather than how long.
Aging occurs at the cellular level. With time, cells grow less efficient and waste products accumulate. Provide your cells with the building blocks they need to clear away such waste, and you will slow down the aging process. However, not everyone ages at the same rate. “Biological markers,” which include such metrics as blood pressure, cholesterol count, body mass, and bone density, vary among individuals. Someone who is 60 years old can have the markers of a 40-year-old, and there are 50-year-olds with the markers of a 70-year-old. Altering your way of life will improve your biological markers and help you to age more slowly.
First, you must deal with the threat from free radicals, or to be more precise, with excess free radicals. This can be achieved by reducing exposure to the sun, food additives, pesticides, pollution, and stress.
Tissue inflammation is another major cause of aging, and often is responsible for conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease and cancer. Inflammation can be caused by chronic infection, food additives, nutrient deficiency, and even heavy metals such as mercury and aluminium. Excessive or brutal physical activity also can inflame tissues, so sports like rugby and boxing should be avoided and replaced with gentler forms of exercise such as swimming and cycling.
Perhaps the single most important factor in aging is your diet. But too many people use medication as an alternative to healthy eating. Food is divided into proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and fats. Not all fats are bad; on the contrary, many are essential. The omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, walnuts, eggs, and sunflower seeds help to reduce inflammation. Protein is essential for a strong immune system. Refined carbohydrates, such white bread, pasta, rice, cakes, and chocolate have little nutritional value and are contain hidden sugars, which weaken body proteins, thus causing the skin to wrinkle, arteries to harden, and joints to stiffen.
Stress, though accepted as an inevitable consequence of modern life, speeds up the aging process and increases your risk of stroke, arthritis, and heart disease. Figure out the biggest causes of stress in your life: is it your job? your relationship? money worries? Try a course in mindfulness to help you cope. Exercise, especially gentle, regular exercise, can also help reduce stress levels. Yoga may be worth trying as well, as its combination of stretching and deep breathing calms the autonomic nervous system and stabilizes the heart rate.
The key is to hit the aging process from all sides. Exercise alone is not enough, neither is it enough to avoid sunburn or eat more vegetables. Take a good look at your day-to-day life. What changes can you make? How can you reduce your body’s exposure to free radicals and inflammation? Do you eat too many refined carbohydrates? Do you take plenty of gentle exercise? Are you stressed? By being aware of, and tending to, the many aspects of your life and your health, you will be surprised at the extent to which you can slow the aging of your body.