Unfortunately, aging is inevitable, but why age faster than you have to? Is it just due to genetics that some people seem age well and others seem old before their time? I don’t know about you but I’m interested in finding out how to turn the clock back. I want to live a long happy, healthy life and have the energy to do everything I want to do. Plus I don’t relish the thought of looking older than my age; in fact, I want to look younger than I am for as long as I can.
It turns out that we have quite a bit of control over how we age, and as you’re probably guessing, yes, I’m going to talk about some things you already probably know like the importance of exercise, healthy diet, etc., but will also share what I think the real secret to being ageless is, in my humble opinion.
What Causes Aging?
Aging has a lot to do with our cellular health. As we get older, we make less mitochondria (the powerhouses of our cells that supply energy to the body), which means we have less energy and experience things like brain fog, pain and muscle and memory loss. Our mitochondria are vulnerable to free radicals that cause oxidative stress and inflammation. Research is showing that mitochondrial dysfunction is at the heart of almost every disease. The good news is we can turn things around by the choices we make every day.
Aging Can Be Slowed Or Even Reversed
Dave Asprey, the founder of Bulletproof, is often quoted saying he plans on living to 180 and believes it’s possible. His new book Head Strong, due out in April 2017, is about the mitochondria. Some of the hacks he recommends for boosting and protecting the mitochondria in this blog post are:
1. Controlling inflammation through diet and intermittent fasting (i.e.The Bulletproof Diet™)
2. Getting enough sleep
3. Fueling your brain with healthy oils
4. Exercise, especially high intensity interval training (HIIT)
5. The supplement pyrrolquinoline quinone (PQQ)
I personally believe regular exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our brains and bodies–it makes new mitochondria, protects the ones we have, and gets rid of old, damaged ones. It helps build and preserves muscle mass, which gives us more energy, lowers oxidative stress and inflammation, boosts the immune system, and helps with mood and stress. However, over training can have the opposite effect.
The Telomere Effect
According to a recent book, The Telomere Effect: A Revolutionary Approach to Living Younger, Healthier, Longer by Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Eppel, scientists can actually measure how well people are aging by looking at their telomeres (the protective caps on our chromosomes).
Telomeres shorten with each cell division and help determine how fast cells age and when they die. Inflammation in the body causes telomeres to shorten, and when they become too short, the cells becomes old (senescent), so they can’t renew themselves and in turn promote more inflammation.
Some of the Things That Cause Telomeres to Shorten (=Aging)
Lack of exercise
Negative thinking, hostility
Lack of sleep
Sugar and bad diet
Dieting, which is stressful to the body. Metabolic health is more important than your weight – a few extra pounds is less significant than having belly fat and insulin resistance
Multi-tasking–the brain likes to do one thing at a time
This means by doing the opposite of the above, we can lengthen our telomeres. The key is controlling inflammation, and we do that by avoiding things that stress the body.
The book is written in a style that’s easy to read and is not overly scientific. The authors recommend lots of ways for becoming more resilient, such as mindfulness/meditation, and practices such as qigong, tai chi and yoga to combat stress and to become more self-aware. Being grateful, optimistic and kind to yourself are important too.
However, you don’t need to get your telomeres measured to figure out how you’re aging. How you look and feel are a good indicator.
There are many more things you can do for healthy aging, such as taking supplements. In this article, Dr. Joseph Mercola, lists some of his favorite anti-aging supplements, such as omega 3, zinc, magnesium and Vitamins A, B-12, C, D, and E; these are things many of us are deficient in. Preferably get tested first, though, so you know what amounts to take.
My Advice for Aging Well
I think the true key to aging well is your outlook and how you feel about yourself. I recently came to the conclusion that it’s the choices you make that ultimately control the direction of your life. I realized that even though some bad things had happened to me in the past, I had the choice to not keep being a victim and living my negative story. Instead, I strive to be positive, confident, embrace my age, continue to learn and grow, be of service, and live life to the fullest.
Having role models is important for me, not to copy them but to aspire to emulate their better qualities. One of mine is my 91-year-old mother in law; she is handling getting older with grace and is pure class—a true grand dame. I think of her being Tulsa’s version of the Queen of England– they don’t make them like that anymore.
Another example is a woman I met at a mardi gras-themed charity gala I attended recently. When she came up to our group and started chatting, I was struck by how lively and confident she was, not to mention how fabulous she looked in her colorful mardi gras satin dress, which I complimented her on; she also got up on the dance floor and seemed to be enjoying herself. I didn’t recognize her at first but it turns out she was our city’s former mayor (age 67) and she was acting as master of ceremonies at the event, so it was probably her job to be social, but I was really impressed by her. It was a shock when I read in the paper a couple of days later that she was dropping out of running for mayor a third time for family reasons and her son had recently died.
You don’t have to be 20 to be the most attractive woman in the room. Think of older actresses on the red carpet like Helen Mirren at an awards ceremony one year, where the commentator said she was the sexiest woman there; Jane Fonda also looks great at the awards too.
In our society there’s just too much emphasis on youth and appearance and most of us could benefit more from working on our inside, not just the outside.
I hope this post motivates you to do everything you can on a daily basis to protect your cells and make choices that will help you stay young and healthy. Let me know your anti-aging secrets in the comments.