Aging is not correlated to the number of candles on a cake. Nature gives us genes, good and bad. Our ancestors may have helped determine one’s curly red hair, ocean-blue eyes, and the predisposition to a stroke or heart attack, but life expectancy can be influenced by us. Epigenetics is more than a fancy word, but essential food for thought. The choices we make today can alter our genes, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and generations going forward.
We do have power over our life expectancy. Environmental and lifestyle choices impact aging inside and out. On the cellular level we are aging everyday, an easy fact to forget until our health is affected. Surface aging is noticeable in our reflection. Healthy consistent choices influence looking and feeling young.
One day we wake up, feeling old overnight. The 30s mark the decade for visible changes. The combination of a loss of muscle and a slower metabolism can result in a slow, but steady weight gain. Grey hairs and fine lines are new and noticeable. The 30s also mark a decrease in the number of cells in kidneys, and organs become smaller. The ability of blood to filter wastes becomes less efficient. Bone mass has also officially reached the maximum amount by 35 years old.
The 40s may mean life is out of focus, literally. The need for reading glasses is common. The number of grey hairs increases as melanin decreases and the loss of collagen equals an increase in fine lines. Back pain is a common complaint due to excess sitting or herniated discs. One drink resulting in a hangover may be an indication the liver is showing signs of exhaustion.
The 50s mean less fat, collagen, elastin, bone, muscle mass, and for women, menopause.
The 60s may bring drier skin, age spots, achy joints, digestive issues, weight gain, and a weaker bladder.
Drier skin, trouble smelling, fewer taste buds, and a slower metabolism pave the road into the 70s. An increased risk in cardiovascular disease is concerning.
The 80s are linked to less mobility, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and medication may become mainstream.
Getting older is a lot better than the alternative. With so many memories to cherish and lots to make, living your best life at any number should be the goal. Genes are a piece of the puzzle, but positive choices impact the length and quality of life. From sunset to sundown, we actively choose to fight or feed disease.
~ Superstar foods for successful aging ~
Aging and appetite can go hand in hand. As appetite diminishes, eating a nutrient-dense diet is imperative. Focusing on eating a rainbow of produce that provides tons of key vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Yellows and orange hues supply boatloads of beta-carotene, precursor to vitamin A, superstar skin, eyesight, and immunity booster. Mango may be magical, but cantaloupe and apricots are lower in sugar. Sweet potatoes are positively perfect for oven-baked French fries. Pumpkin and squash are soup-endous. Fibre-filled raw carrots are great snacking options and one grated carrot helps thicken tomato sauces, as well as adds a touch of fibre and sweetness naturally.
Greens are chlorophyll rich, boosting the production of red blood cells for starters. Spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, arugula and bok choy are packed with positivity, but low in calories and carbohydrates. Eating a diet rich in leafy greens translates into a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and mental decline. Confined to the comfort of home, microgreens may be the perfect indoor all-year beginner gardener project. Microgreens are immature greens, full of flavor, key nutrients and most importantly the perfect salad and sandwich topper are pesticide free.
Ravishing reds are powerhouses of phytochemicals. Lycopene-loaded watermelon and tomatoes are healthy heart helpers. Raspberries, strawberries, and a variety of red apples are high fiber and low sugar, but also vitamin C rich like red peppers. Red onions, radishes, red beans, and raw grated beets are summer salad sensations.
Bounties of beautiful blue and purple produce contain anthocyanins, awesome antioxidants helping protect cells from damage, plus reducing the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease. The rich deep purple color found in blueberries, blackberries, plums, prunes, eggplant, and olives help reduce inflammation.
While white and brown are a tad boring on the color wheel, they are worth their weight in nutrients. Cauliflower, high in sulforaphane, garlic and onions contain allicin and quercetin, compounds combatting cancer risks. Mushrooms are stocked in selenium and vitamin D, key thyroid support. Dates add fibre and sweetness to recipe favorites and potatoes are still a diet staple – both are brown body boosters. Going plant-based is a breeze with white beans (cannellini, lima, navy and soybeans) and lentils bring the brown.
~ Just move ~
Exercise is anti-aging. Moving means maintaining muscle mass. Exercise equals improved functional life. Increased flexibility means bending over to tie shoes and remaining injury-free carrying groceries. Exercise helps improve balance and coordination, essential walking outside in various weather conditions. Staying active helps maintain and build bone density preventing breaks. Moving our body boosts metabolism, helping offset weight-gain. Increased oxygen flow, lower blood pressure and healthy resting heart rate equals energy.
Exercise increases BNDF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which helps with learning and memory.
Staying on-the-go can be social, but whether you are part of a group activity or go solo, exercise is an easy way to life your spirits, thanks to key hormones, mood-boosting dopamine and sleep-cycle regulating melatonin. Post-exercise repair and recovery are sped up with a scoop of BCAA’s (branched chained amino acids). Water is essential to life and needed to offset dehydration. Keep in mind many prescription meds and over the counter options may deplete valuable water. Water keeps joints lubricated and supports skin. Water also helps the digestive system from saliva starter to speeding up transit time. A plant-based or animal source protein snack post-exercise helps maintain muscle mass.
~ Cognitive care ~
Cognitive care long-term is linked to learning new things. Brain cells have a longer life span than other cells in the body. Obesity has to go. A healthy nutrient-dense diet is key for a strong body and mind. Glutamate is an amino acid the body uses to make proteins. Glutamate stores are decreased in aged brains, especially in the motor cortex, the area associated with strength, movement, and memory. Just a bit of nuts, seed, animal flesh or aged cheese is needed. Acetylcholine is another neurotransmitter, vital for activating muscles and readily available in hardboiled eggs and whole grains. Serotonin is covered with daily exercise and good dose of probiotics for a healthy gut-flora and a daily dose of mindful meditation translates to the release of dopamine. Walking is wonderful, but weights build and maintain muscle. Focusing on working one side of the body at a time supports brain health. Music, games, puzzles, and learning a language are cognitive care, too.
~ Radiant skin ~
Aging is part of life and reflected in the appearance of skin. Collagen declines, manifesting in a drier, thinner appearance, as well as reduced elasticity. Cuts and scrapes now take longer to heal. Wrinkles are part of aging naturally. I love Diane Von Furtsenberg’s outlook, “My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?”
Soft radiant healthy skin is timeless. Laughing, smiling and sadness lines are a sign of a life well-lived. Antioxidant superstar vitamin trio, A-C-E fight free radicals. Zinc and selenium are minerals lost in farming. They are a great go-to for glowing skin and a top-notch thyroid support.
Evening primrose oil and borage oil are also linked to luminous skin. Hyaluronic acid is best known as an oral supplement, helping replenish stock in synovial fluid, helping lubricate, protect and absorb shock in synovial joints. Hyaluronic acid helps hold water and held in high regard as a first-class hydrator, helping improve the appearance of fine lines and “sun” aged skin. Look for hyaluronic acid in serious skin supporting serums. Sunscreen, drinking water and choosing chemical-free skincare and makeup free are non-negotiable.
Diet is a doable boost of healthy aging. Hemp is a heavenly plant-based protein powder ideal for smoothies. Hemp oil is a holistic swap to olive oil-based marinades or dressings. Hemp hearts can be sprinkled on yogurt, sandwiches, soups, and salads for supple skin. Pumping up the body’s natural collagen production can be helped with bone broth, egg whites, chicken, and cold-water fatty fish. Collagen loves the co-factor vitamin C. Berries and citrus are exquisite examples. Collagen is also available in funky flavors, a trendy addition to water and shakes. Bovine collagen is best for helping heal the gut and marine collagen is linked to beauty benefits.
Addressing inflammation is a key link to level of resilience. Inflammation is sometimes referred to as the silent killer, manifesting slowly overtime. Infection, allergies, injury, arthritis, joint pain, diabetes, asthma, and cardiovascular disease may be just the beginning. Chronological age is just a number if immunity is A-1. A healthy gut equals a healthy life. The microbiome is affected by everything. Stress, medication, over the counter pills, alcohol, and a SAD (standard American diet) diet are bad news to the healthy bacteria living in the gut. The microbiome is always evolving and becomes weakened with age. Feeding the flora probiotics is perfect. Fermented foods are first-class gut goodness. Kimchi, kefir, miso, tempeh, kombucha, pickled veggies and unpasteurised apple cider vinegar should be on the menu daily. Optimum gut health requires hydrochloric acid (HCL).
“HCL diminishes with age, but Himalayan sea salt and apple cider vinegar help support digestion.”
Fish oil is a sure way to address inflammation linked to heart health, dry eyes, joints, and cognitive function. Turmeric is a timeless spice, fabulous in recipes, also awesome added to coconut milk for a warm bedtime elixir.
Sleep is the forgotten remedy. Resting equals repairing the body, mind, and spirit. One little tidbit to keep in mind, successful sleep manages stress and inflammation. Consistent bedtime, pre-sleep bath or shower, ear plugs, white noise, cozy cotton sheets and a good mattress are sleep starters. Meditation, yoga, and journaling may bring balance. For troubled sleepers, herbal teas or tinctures are tip-top, but a side of muscle relaxing magnesium or melatonin may be the holistic help needed for a sure thing slumber.
Daily choices influence the quality of life today, tomorrow and onto the next generation. The little things must be remembered. Love is longevity. Forgive and forget! Community, friendship, pets, nature, hobbies and a good mindset will have you blowing out candles on your cake for years to come!
Mercedes Kay Gold is a Certified Holistic Practioner and Certified Mobile Trainer living & working in Toronto. Her writing has been featured in various publications and has appeared on Daytime with Jacqueline Betterton. Her spare time is spent blogging all things healthy & enjoying time with her sons.