Five Steps Toward Ageless Aging
By Maddy Dychtwald
One of the most predictable aspects of life is that the older we are, the more likely we are to get sick and eventually die. In our minds, we’ve linked aging so closely with illness and decline that many of us dread getting older, likening it to a slow death sentence to be avoided at all costs.It doesn’t have to be like that.
More research and resources have been deployed to battle aging in the past 15 years than in the previous 10 centuries.This has given us insight into what is disease, what is aging, and where the two intersect. Today, many of the diseases and disabilities once assumed to be symptoms of aging -- including physical decline, decreased mobility, and memory loss -- can actually be slowed or stopped. In fact, researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in California and at the University of Illinois-Chicago theorize that the physical ravages of aging are not inevitable at all and that aging itself might be curable.
Although our genetic package plays a definite role in how we age and how long we live, there are some steps we can take right now to age more agelessly.Over a 25+ year career studying aging and longevity, I’ve learned that small actions can have a significant impact on our overall health and well-being. We can’t prevent aging and some of the physical decline that comes with it, but a little preparation can ensure that we age with as much health and vitality as possible. None of this is rocket science, but if you take some of these actions, you may move closer to a more ageless aging.
Eat Real Food By that, I mean choose foods that look the same when you eat them as when they come out of the ground, off the tree or from the land or sea. For instance, on the positive side of the equation: powerful phytochemicals and micronutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially the leafy-green variety, boost the body’s natural ability to rejuvenate itself. On the negative side: Don’t assume that just because a packaged food is labeled healthy means it actually is. I found that out for myself at my annual physical exam. Because I eat a lot of fish, my mercury levels usually test at the high side of normal – around 10 nanograms per millimeter. But this time, my test came in at an alarming 32. My doctor suggested I check the labels of all the processed foods around the house for high-fructose corn syrup, because studies have shown that the popular sweetener contains the toxic metal. Bingo! I had been eating a lot of energy bars which, because they were full of fiber and low in calories, I had assumed were healthy. But it turns out that one of the top ingredients is HFCS. I immediately trashed the bars and three months later, my mercury levels dropped down to 7.
Exercise Regularly, But Vary Your Routine Exercise is not just about cardio, so be sure to vary your exercise routine to strengthen all the elements that keep your body in age-fighting shape. Cardio? The recommendation is 30 minutes of sweat-breaking workouts five times a week, but studies show that even as little as 15 minutes three times a week can help the brain. Stretching? Weight training? Balance-training? Yes to all of the above, at least three times weekly. An additional benefit: Exercise floods the body with endorphins, those beneficial chemicals that combat stress, reduce the perception of pain, and increase your sense of well-being. In fact, their effect has been compared to that of morphine -- but it’s street legal, so what’s not to like?
Get Plenty Of Sleep Shakespeare was onto something when he had Macbeth tout sleep’s ability to “knit up the raveled sleeve of care.” Sleep also increases your levels of growth hormone, a critical vitality booster. If you’re one of the 50 percent of mature Americans who have difficulty sleeping, make good sleep hygiene as much a part of your routine as brushing and flossing: Go to bed at a regular time, dim the lights 15 minutes before bedtime to stimulate melatonin, and squelch the urge to watch tv or check e-mail one last time before turning out the light. By the way, regular exercise also helps to improve sleep.
Give Your Brain A Workout "Use it or lose it” applies as much to mental capacity as physical abilities. But here’s the catch: It’s not enough to do the things you routinely do, like the daily crossword puzzle. You have to learn new things, like sudoku or a new form of bridge. For a real mental stretch, try something completely different – perhaps sign up for a course in drawing or cooking, participate in a community gardening project, or join a book club.
Find A Purpose It’s good to have a reason to wake up and face the new day. One of the advantages of living long is having the opportunity to chart a new course and find those passions that really get you going. Knowing that you have something productive or useful to contribute to your family, friends, your job or a cause you really care about helps you stay engaged and sharper – and gives you a reason to take better care of your health. Of course, there are other steps to take in your quest for ageless aging, but this is a good place to get started. U.S. life expectancy is at an all-time high: just over 80 years for women and 75.3 years for men. I, for one, intend to enjoy this longevity bonus as long as I can. If a little work has the potential pay-off of increased vitality, I’m all for it.
About The Author
Maddy Dychtwald is the co-founder of Age Wave and the author of "Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better" and "Cycles: How We Will Live, Work, and Buy."