ALIVE & FIT MAGAZINE Vol.13 Issue 49 Summer 2019: Graceful Aging Rooted in Prevention

The definition of “Aging gracefully”  greatly varies depending on who is asked. For some, aging is directly linked to  outward appearance.  Too many people associate wrinkles and frailty with being old, while others see aging as simply a number linked to candles on a birthday cake. Whether you choose to call a plastic surgeon, stock up on superfoods or exercise, the simple fact remains, aging is inevitable.

 It all starts with our cells. They divide a set number of times before they die and are replaced. Unfortunately, as we age, this process slows down significantly. Every year cells become a little less able to do the essential jobs, as well as they did when they were young. The tell-tale signs slowly start appearing one by one. Hair goes grey, skin wrinkles, joints ache, muscles lose flexibility and begin to atrophy, bones weaken, memory declines, eyesight diminishes and immunity is impaired.

Every part of us is made up of cells. They have the power to keep us alive, but at the same time, also the potential to create dangerous situations in the body.

There is a natural cycle of life, but limiting certain factors may be the key to longevity. Genes create the basis of health. Good, bad or indifferent we can’t change our DNA but the environment you live in and the lifestyle choices you make every day play a powerful role in the outcome. Daily decisions are linked to what makes us sick and how we heal. Without a doubt, we have some control over our own aging process. Nature plays a part, but how we choose to nurture our self appears to be just as important. Being mindful means supporting our body, mind and spirit, helping create a state of balance referred to as homeostasis.  Understanding the choices we make impact how cells age and the role free radicals potentially play in speeding up the aging process may be the nudge needed to nurture cells. Aging gracefully means making conscious choices, showing love to yourself inside and out. Every person has a weak link in their chain, but choosing all things healthy or wholistic is always your best bet.

Healthy living equals healthy aging and in this case, “aging gracefully”.

Every house starts with a solid foundation and so must we for optimal health. First and foremost, food is a top priority. As the number of years we live increases, there is a need for fewer calories but a larger requirement for nutrient dense foods. Choosing a plant-based diet high in both soluble and insoluble fiber is key. The pantry should be packed with loads of legumes and ancient grains. Fill the fridge with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Avocados, raw nuts and seeds are a staple, adding healthy fats to round out body boosting food fare. It’s luckily becoming the norm to finally run from menu planning centered around fried  and sugary foods. A highly processed refined diet full of white sugar, flour and rice is acidic and should be avoided at all costs. It’s also important to remember, keeping meat, dairy and eggs to a minimum.

Sugar without a doubt is enemy number one. When there’s too much sugar in the body, protein molecules have the ability to link up with sugar molecules, creating AGE’s or advanced location end products. Our body doesn’t recognize the AGE’s as normal, leading to an immune system triggering an inflammatory reaction in the skin. The result is accelerated aging. Say no to sugar.

You can supply the body an adequate amount of protein on a plant-based menu. The addition of organic edamame, tofu or its fermented friend tempeh are a tasty way to pump up the protein. Alkalinity is all the rage and for good reason. Nature’s bounty of freshness fights free radicals while at the same time nourishing cells. Antioxidants are the body’s best defense, or front line  warriors in the fight against aging. Antioxidants are natural substances giving produce their vibrant colors. Two vitamins in particular stand out as essential antioxidants. Vitamin C and E fight off free-radicals, the unstable oxygen molecules trying to take particles from healthy cells. These two antioxidants are critical for fighting inflammation and preventing cell damage. Vitamin E protects the fatty membranes surrounding cells and improves immunity. Vitamin E also plays a part in protecting against heart disease and may delay or prevent cataracts.

 Start a morning breakfast ritual by adding two tablespoons of wheat germ to smoothies, oatmeal or yogurt. Get into the groove with a simple spinach summer salad topped with avocado and sprinkled with sunflower seeds. Steam or grill asparagus and brussel sprouts for barbecue summertime  sizzle. Don’t forget avocado oil can take the heat!

Vitamin C is probably the best known nutritional supplement on the market so it comes as no surprise, it’s once again included as a health-enhancing nutrient. Vitamin C is active throughout the body, enhancing immunity. It’s nature’s cure for the common cold,  minimizing symptoms and shortening the duration of the sniffles. Vitamin C offers some protection against cancer and heart disease as well as preventing cataracts.  Today this water-soluble vitamin stands out as a top-notch antioxidant,  fighting free-radicals. It’s important to note vitamin C also helps recycle other antioxidants, proving it’s a keeper for our “aging gracefully” plan. Keep an eye out for bleeding gums, a tell-tale sign for a need to increase berries, citrus, kiwi, broccoli and peppers.

While we are praising vitamin C, it’s significant to mention its connection to  skin. The outside of your body is a reflection of what’s going on inside. Our skin is our largest organ, acting like armor.  Wrinkles are an outward highly visible result of what’s going on within our cells. Skin aging is a result of the destruction of collagen. Yes, all the years sunbathing without protection accelerated wrinkles by breaking down collagen and making skin less elastic. Smoking and vaping is another health nightmare.

A diet high in vitamin C helps support collagen in the body. Beautiful, plump wrinkle-free skin depends on the healthy production of collagen. Shiny vibrant hair may be made from keratin but it’s also dependent on ample amounts of collagen and let’s not forget it’s link to strong nails.  Increasing vitamin C bolsters collagen production. Zinc and selenium are two marvelous minerals with collagen enhancing capabilities. Brazil nuts are portable powerhouses packed with both minerals. On the topic of  collagen, let’s not forget bone broth is an old fashioned gut-healing, joint supporting bowl of goodness for those willing to slow simmer organic grass-fed bones. Another option can be found in your local supplement store. One tablespoon of either marine or bovine collagen added to water or a smoothie will also support healthy hair, skin and nails.

Next up, it’s imperative to incorporate an all-important daily dose of bioflavanoids- fruits and vegetables with a high concentration of red, blue, purple and black color, which increases collagen production in the body.

Stress is a part of everyday life, but the prolonged release of the stress hormone cortisol impacts the body negatively. Increased inflammation, reduction in collagen production, diminished digestion and sleep issues are all key reasons to deal with drama. Learning ways to cope with riding the rollercoaster of life is one of the best ways to look and feel timeless. Nothing beats stress like sleeping in a dark, cool room without any devices for  a solid 7 hours, helping our body slowdown and heal. It’s life-changing. Rest, repair, revitalize and rejuvenate!

The key to “aging gracefully” may be rooted in prevention. A strong immune system is your best defense. We are learning more and more about the connection between a healthy colon, digestive system and how the foods we eat impact our overall health. There’s tons of talk about the gut brain connection. Bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation or other digestive upsets may be linked to stress, medications or the Standard American Diet but a few minor changes can improve your overall well-being.

It’s a great idea to supplement with a probiotic from the health store or   incorporate  sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir into recipes. A healthy daily diet automatically includes prebiotics when fruits, vegetables and complex carbohydrates are served.  Loving yourself means supporting your microbial friends.

“Aging gracefully” is about joining pieces of a puzzle, in an attempt to enter the twilight years healthy and happy inside and out. Exercise is so often overlooked. It’s never too late to become active. Being active is the easiest way to boost your mood, keep weight in check and support every system. Consistent fitness can reverse muscle loss and when combined with nutrition, specifically protein at every meal, the body repairs and builds new muscle, helping offset bone loss. Physical activity also helps maintain agility, flexibility and mental ability. An active lifestyle also equals independence, a very real part of, “Aging gracefully”.  Living wholistically means making healthy choices at every decade. Supporting our body inside and out by altering our lifestyle impacts our quality of life today. Turn up the volume on life and worry less about the definition of “Aging gracefully” simple invent your own!