By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Here’s the quote that started me thinking and writing about this topic:
“More physical activity, better diet, including fruit and vegetables, etc., we all know this, not smoking, not too much alcohol, that we will extend our healthy life expectancy already if we do that by around about 10 – 15 years. That’s massive. None of other drugs, for example, cholesterol inhibitors, do that. So it’s so powerful already, lifestyle.”
– Professor Andrea Maier (1)
So how much of aging well or longevity is really due to luck in the genetic lottery? According to gerontologist Andrea Maier, only 20 to 30%. The rest comes from diet, exercise, and lifestyle.
There are so many gimmicks out there promising younger looking skin, less wrinkles, better energy and slower aging. The truth is that it’s really the basic lifestyle factors that make the biggest difference. No pill, vitamin or supplement will replace excellent nutrition; no facial treatment will replace getting enough sleep; and no energy booster replaces regular exercise.
Here is my no-nonsense list of anti-aging tips for any age:
Look at your mindset about aging.
For example, do you consider forty old; what are your beliefs about turning fifty or sixty? Your beliefs very much shape your experience, so try to embrace an attitude that life gets better every year, or one where you see the value of life experience.
Get enough sleep.
This is huge, and sleep quality is equally important. If you’re not regularly sleeping 7+ hours per night, your body does not have time to repair. If you are consistently waking up tired even after sufficient hours of sleep, there are likely problems with sleep quality that should be looked into. Low melatonin production, sleep apnea, high-night-time cortisol, or easily corrected factors like too much alcohol or caffeine.
Work on your posture.
In women especially, a hunched upper back adds years to your appearance. Look into yoga, pilates, strength training, rock climbing, or therapies to help with how you carry your back, neck and shoulders.
This is simple (but not easy!). Eat lots of fresh vegetables and fruits especially, minimal processed foods, and more home-cooked meals.
As you age and even over age 40, it takes much more effort to maintain muscle mass and muscle tone – this means you need to exercise often. One caution though is to be gentle with your joints – if running causes hip and knee pain, consider a different sport.
Manage inflammation, especially with food.
Minimize foods that are generally inflammatory including processed foods, sugar, alcohol, fried foods, and depending on your health may also include dairy, wheat, peanuts, red meat, coffee and night-shade vegetables. Inflammation feeds pain and progression of all degenerative health conditions.
Manage your blood sugar.
Insulin resistance and diabetes both turn on aging, and also promote heart disease, cancer and more. This means keeping dietary sugar intake minimal, not overeating and watching carb portions. Focus instead on lots of vegetables, protein with each meal, healthy fats and fibre.
Watch the over-the-counter medications.
Acetaminophen (ex. Tylenol), ibuprofen (ex. Advil), antihistamines, sleep aids, antacids,… If you’re using these more than occasionally, take a deeper look into why you need them and get to the root of the problem. These medicines are never treating the underlying cause, and can result in additional health challenges.
Find a daily strategy to help you manage stress.
Stress in life is inevitable, but by practicing relaxation and stress management techniques we can reduce the impact stresses have on our health. This could include meditation, yoga, mindful walking, breathing exercises or more. Remember that stress is what you perceive, not necessarily your life circumstances so shifting your attitude about these circumstances can dramatically reduce your perceived stress.
Your life needs purpose, and this drive will keep you young and vibrant regardless of your age.
What are you passionate about, how do you contribute and how are you connected? Along the same lines, my advice is to never fully retire – you need to maintain purpose, usefulness and a certain amount of activity in life in order to maintain your vitality.
Did you notice I didn’t mention any supplements, vitamins, special creams, antioxidant drinks or special diets? These are last on the list! Yes, there are many things that can help reduce the aging process, but how you live your life comes first.
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