How to stay active and energized by understanding the aging process
It’s a fact of life that everyone gets older – no matter who you are, where you live or how much money you earn, it happens to all of us.
But while many people dread getting older, aging doesn’t have to be a slow, gradual decline toward the end. In fact, studies of ‘Blue Zones’ – places where residents live longer than anywhere else in the world – have shown that people can live full, rich and healthy lives well into their 90s and beyond.
While scientists haven’t discovered the secret to living forever (yet!), advances in science mean we know more about the aging process – and how to slow it down – than ever before.
By focusing on the five key areas (or pillars) we know are critical to aging well, it’s possible to make proactive lifestyle changes now that can help you stay active and energized – even as you age.
In this article, we’ve outlined five steps to help you prevent disease, increase your energy levels and maintain optimal body function, so you can enjoy a full life right into your golden years.
1. Reduce inflammation
Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury and an important part of its healing process.
But chronic (ongoing) inflammation can be dangerous for your health, and is believed to be the root cause of several diseases that often happen later in life, including cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke), cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news is that many of the metabolic causes of inflammation are reversible, especially if they’re addressed at an early stage.
For example, thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies are inflammatory markers found in your blood when your thyroid is under attack from your immune system.
It takes about five years from when these antibodies appear to when traditional tests will show a problem, so discovering them now gives you time to make changes before a more serious thyroid condition develops.
Comprehensive bloodwork will test for TPO antibodies and other inflammatory markers like CRP (linked to heart disease and stroke) and homocysteine (a risk factor for dementia), so you can take action if needed.
Strategies to lower inflammation in your body include dietary changes, like eating a low-sugar, plant-based diet, reducing processed foods, and increasing your Omega-3 fats.
Many causes of inflammation are reversible, especially if they’re addressed at an early stage
2. Boost your metabolism
As well as keeping your weight in check, an efficient metabolism can give you more energy, prevent stress on your body and slow the aging process.
The hormone insulin plays a key role in converting sugar to fat, moving blood sugar from your bloodstream into storage in your cells.
When your body’s full of insulin from a high-sugar diet, these cells can go on strike, resulting in a condition known as insulin resistance.
If left untreated, this can promote continued weight gain, and eventually lead to conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Because insulin plays such a key role in the body’s metabolic processes, tracking your fasting insulin levels is one of the best ways to see how well your metabolism is working.
An A1C test is another helpful test that measures your average blood glucose levels over a three-month period.
Elevated blood sugar levels may indicate a prediabetic or diabetic condition, and can also result in more wrinkles thanks to a process called glycation.
Testing your free T3 levels can also tell you how well your thyroid is functioning, which is important for keeping your metabolism under control.
Some lifestyle choices you can make to improve your metabolism include having less than 25 grams of processed sugar per day, exercising regularly, and avoiding yo-yo dieting and calorie-restricted diets.
3. Up your nutritional intake
It’s hard to believe in this day and age, but studies show that while many people in Western countries are overfed (that is, overweight and obese), plenty of us are also undernourished.
Processed foods, depleted soils, lack of sun and exposure to toxins are just some of the reasons our bodies are lacking key nutrients.
Even if you have an extremely ‘clean’ or healthy diet, it’s important to check your body is getting all of the essential nutrients it needs to maintain optimal body function as you age.
For example, vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world, and can lead to bone and muscle pain, and softening of the bones.
Getting 5-30 minutes of sunshine at least two days a week can help increase your vitamin D levels, as can egg yolks, sardines and mushrooms.
About 90% of Americans have low concentrations of the Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. This, together with too much Omega-6 (from things like processed vegetable oils), can lead to a number of health problems, including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
If you want to increase your Omega-3 levels, some good things to eat include salmon, walnuts and chia seeds.
Magnesium is another nutrient that almost half of all Americans are deficient in. Magnesium deficiency is linked to increased inflammatory markers like CRP, as well as poor sleep, muscle spasms and insomnia.
Things you can eat to increase your magnesium include spinach, almonds and dark chocolate.
While many people in Western countries are overfed, plenty of us are also undernourished
4. Watch your stress levels
It’s no secret that stress impacts our health, but did you know it can also affect a range of hormones that control everything from your energy levels to your sex drive?
Cortisol is our body’s response to stress that puts us into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Cortisol levels tend to be highest earlier in the day, and your morning cortisol level is one of the key biomarkers associated with longevity.
Higher-than-normal levels usually indicate acute stress, while below-normal levels are linked to fatigue, depression and anxiety.
Stress can also upset your sex hormones, leading to issues like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), estrogen dominance, moodiness, weight gain, insomnia and fatigue.
Strategies to reduce your stress levels include meditating, getting at least eight hours sleep each night, and using adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) and tulsi.
5. Keep your blood vessels healthy and clear
Your blood vessels carry vital nutrients and oxygen to your organs, including your heart and brain, so keeping them healthy and clear is vital to ensure your body stays in top working order.
There are a range of biomarkers that can help you understand how well your vascular system is working.
For example, your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) sub-particle testing results will not only tell you how much ‘bad’ cholesterol you have in your system, but also how dangerous (or not) these particles are to your blood vessels.
There is also a genetic marker called lipoprotein(a) that everyone should be tested for at least once in their life.
That’s because high levels of this fatty particle in your blood can triple your risk of heart attack or stroke at any age – regardless of your diet or lifestyle habits.
Once you have this baseline information, there are a range of things you can do to improve your blood vessel health.
These include exercising, eating foods high in Omega-3s, and reducing alcohol, refined carbs and excess sugar.