Living Longer, Healthier Lives
By Jessica Marshall, RD and LEAP Therapist
For thousands of years, people have wanted a longer, healthier life searching for anti-aging or exploring a mythical fountain of youth. Even though nothing yet has been found, we still hold on to hope that one day someone will invent or discover it. This hope has spawned a whole marketing niche of products geared towards anti-aging. But how much of these actually work and how deep can they really go in reversing the process? We’ve discovered factors that promote aging at a faster rate while other factors are slowing it down. Realistically, how could a topical product impact an underlying, inside-your-body issue you can’t really feel or see? Is it true that what you are in the inside can really reflect what you are on the out?
Eating healthy has been linked down to your basic cellular makeup, your DNA. There are patterns we see in our DNA that make us want to look deeper into improving our chances of living longer and healthier. Telomeres are the ends of the chromosomes that protect our genetic data, allow our cells to divide, and provide the answers to aging and cancer. “Without telomeres, the ends of chromosomes would look like broken DNA, and the cell would try to fix something that wasn’t broken. That also would make them stop dividing and eventually die (2).” We are finding the telomeres of centenarians are better maintained and longer than non-centenarians (1).
The original theory is that long telomeres (the kind you want) indicate a slower aging process and short telomeres indicate premature or accelerated aging. The good news is the shrinking telomeres can be reversible, unless you are at the end of your life. However, further studies are finding the telomeres may be more of a symptom of something larger going on in the body that impacts aging, which is chronic systemic inflammation (1).
Inflammation is our protective system designed to turn on and detect invaders in the body and work towards eliminating them. It becomes a problem when the system doesn’t turn off leading to a chronic inflammatory response that can affect every cell in your body.
Things that can lead to inflammation: trauma or stress, food allergen or intolerances, exposure to environmental toxins like smoke, chemicals, pesticides, and additives, genetics, nutrient deficiencies, and a diet lacking in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber to rid the body of free radicals and toxins and ultimately prevent disease. Diseases that can stem from chronic inflammation: alzheimers, diabetes, arthritis, lupus, and other auto immune disorders.
These may help to reduce inflammation and are a great first step in creating a new daily routine:
- Meditating – start with just a few minutes per day clearing your mind and using deep breathing techniques.
- Exercise – So maybe you don’t exactly have extra time in your day to head to the gym? You CAN opt to walk to more places, park further away from your destination, take the stairs whenever possible, and purchase some weights to use in your living room while watching tv. Simple changes can lead to larger ones down the road, but starting is half the battle.
- Include more fish in the diet – Fish has powerful anti-inflammatory properties in the omega 3’s. Consider eating a real fish as opposed to always relying on a supplement. Fish is an excellent source of selenium, which is a mineral that acts an antioxidant that helps calm inflammation. In fact, fish is one of the few, if not only, foods that provides more omega 3’s than omega 6’s which helps keep that ratio in balance. If allergic or unable to do fish, opt to include nuts, seeds, and grass-fed animal proteins in diet. Some vegetarians even purchase algae supplements that can provide some omega 3’s.
- Include more functional foods – Functional foods are foods that provide a benefit to your health with their nutrients beyond carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. They provide things such as antioxidants and phytochemicals that help stabilize very volatile molecules in the body thus preventing the aging process. A lot of fruits and vegetables will provide you these in their whole food form. For example, garlic is a very powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that develops its beneficial properties once the cell walls are broken without heat first. So mince garlic and set aside for 10 mins before cooking with it to allow those anti-inflammatory properties to form. Once formed they will then become heat resistant.
- Improve your sleep habits – Bedtime is a time for rebuilding and repairing the mind and body. If you aren’t getting into the deep sleep cycle at least once throughout the night, you are less likely to heal. Put yourself on a consistent schedule, use an eye mask if bothered by light easily, dim all lights closer to bed time, and avoid all electronics within 1-2 hours before bed.
Incorporating small changes and working hard to perfect them so they naturally become apart your everyday routine is one of your best chances in slowing down the aging process or at least aging gracefully.
To get more information on how your nutrition is impacting your mood, longevity, and health please call New Directions Counseling and ask for one of our nutritionists.
- Inflammation, But Not Telomere Length, Predicts Successful Ageing at Extreme Old Age: A Longitudinal Study of Semi-supercentenarians. Arai, Yasumichi et al. EBioMedicine , Volume 2 , Issue 10 , 1549 – 1558
- Genetic Science Learning Center. (2016, March 1) Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer. Retrieved September 30, 2016, from http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/basics/telomeres/