By Dr. Hilary Booth
We all want to look and feel young, even as we age. Humans are living longer, and as research in the field of anti-aging progresses, it gives us insight into how we can look and feel young right through our senior years. One interesting area of study is in the field of epigenetics, which is learning about how we can modify our environment, nutrition, and lifestyle to alter the genetics of aging.
What is aging?
Not unexpectedly, aging is a complex process with many moving parts. The cells in our body are constantly turning over, meaning that old ones die and are replaced with new cells. However, each time our cells make new copies of our DNA, small portions of the tail end of our DNA, called telomeres, get left out. Part of the theory of aging is that the telomere acts as a measuring stick for aging. As the measuring stick shortens, there is an increased likelihood of cancer, inflammation, heart disease, and general aging “wear and tear” on the body.
The other major factor with aging is that inevitably DNA mutations and other cellular damage occurs over time. This is known as oxidation, free radical damage, and demethylation. Think of it as little havoc-wreaking molecules in the body that can slow down, maim or kill your cells. These processes are accelerated with stress, toxins, inflammation, poor nutrition, and certain illnesses.
How do we prevent aging?
The target of anti-aging treatment is to slow the turnover of our cells, target oxidative damage, and eliminate the factors that speed up the genetics of aging. Listed below are my top 6 tips for slowing the aging process.
Getting high quality rest allows your body to combat aging. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that is released at night, which reverses oxidation and free radical damage. In addition, melatonin inhibits cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone that can cause premature aging on cellular, organ, and whole-body levels. Not to mention that getting a good night’s sleep can do wonders for reducing bags under the eyes, boosting energy, and increasing collagen production in the skin. Aim for 7-8 hours of quality rest per night in a blackened room with no electronics.
2. Reduce Your Stress
Stress has been shown to shorten the length of our telomeres, increase oxidative damage to our cells, and contribute to inflammation. To reduce stress is to increase our lifespan, quality of life, and health metrics. My best advice for reducing stress is to listen to your body, learn to say no, ask for help, and take time for yourself. Even scheduling 1-2 hours per week of “me time” can have a profound impact on your health, and the health of your aging cells.
There are tons of supplements that are marketed as anti-aging miracle pills. Research supports some of them, but not all, so here are the ones to focus on.
- Omega 3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil, increases telomere length, is anti-inflammatory, helps preserve memory and brain function.
- Green tea is a powerful antioxidant, and it’s extract EGCG has been shown to preserve DNA integrity, prevent cancer, and protect the heart.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a powerful detoxifyer and antioxidant. It helps the liver to process toxins and prevents free radical damage.
- CoQ10 protects brain function, protects the heart, is an antioxidant, and has been shown to prevent cancer cell growth by protecting against free radical damage.
- Resveratrol is naturally found in the skin of red grapes (and in red wine) and berries. It protects against DNA damage and extends the lifespan through its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The cornerstone of good health is always nutrition! Dark leafy greens and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants in the diet. I recommend avoiding refined sugars, as they weaken collagen (which keeps the skin elastic and looking young), and hinder the immune system. Omega 3s (as mentioned above) can be found in salmon, sardines, flax and chiia. Finally, drinking at least 2L of water per day helps to reduce inflammation, detoxify the body, and brighten the skin. There is also some evidence to suggest that a calorically restricted diet of 1000-1200 calories per day promotes longevity. However, there are other dangers posed by eating such a restricted diet, so talk to your Naturopath before starting dramatic dietary changes.
We’re constantly surrounded by toxins that cause massive amounts of oxidative damage to our cells, resulting in premature aging. I recommend doing a detox 2 times per year to reduce toxic burden, help the liver function optimally, and reset the body.
6. Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture
This program is one of my favourite ways to reduce the look of aging in our skin. Facial acupuncture is a non-toxic, non-surgical and all-natural way to promote natural collagen production, improve circulation, and brighten the complexion. The treatment firms the skin, lifts sagging jaw line, eliminates bags under the eyes, and reduces fine lines and wrinkles. It’s a great way to compliment the above five anti-aging tips to keep you looking as young as you feel.