By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
“I’m willing to make some lifestyle changes as long as I don’t have to do anything different,” said one client of mine. She was only half joking. I told her that her school teachers may have told her to sit still and settle down when she was a kid, but she can now stop!
The evidence is beyond convincing. Gardening, walking, being engaged in moderate to vigorous activity 30 minutes daily, healthy nutrition, regular exercise, and thinking rationally, are all directly related to lower mortality rates.
But it’s more than just how old you are when you die. It’s how healthy you live. And to remain healthy throughout aging, that is to age successfully, there are four processes in particular that smart folks are paying attention to and doing something about.
Here’s an admittedly elementary, basic, description of the four age promoters that we can all do something about.
Methylation, simply stated, is a detox process that can destroy cancer-causing toxins, repair damaged DNA and produce anti-aging hormones. When the enzymatic process of methylation doesn’t work well, homocysteine accumulates in the blood and can cause premature aging and death due to improper maintenance and repair of DNA. A blood test can help you determine your level of homocysteine and help point you in the direction of what you can do to make sure you have the proper level of nutrients necessary to enable healthy methylation to take place.
Losing an electron by an atom or molecule, oxidation, is not necessarily a radical threat to life, unless that molecule is a protein or an enzyme. Imagine an apple that quickly turns brown or a nail that rusts. That’s oxidation. Free radicals cause this type of oxidation. Without the proper amount of anti-oxidants to immobilize these hungry free radicals, those unstable molecules can damage your body’s healthy cells and cause premature aging. Healthy diets, avoiding exposure to toxins, avoiding too much sun, reducing stress, adding vitamin C, D, beta-carotene and selenium with your physician’s input are smart ways to gain antioxidants. Green tea (no sugar!), berries, and multi-mineral vitamins (my faves are from Life Extension), along with CoQ10 and alpha-lipoic acid, may also be valuable in boosting antioxidant levels.
This is one tough process leading to sugar and protein/fat molecules combining to create inflexible tissue, translated to mean wrinkles inside and outside of your body, making you not only look old, but due to the inelasticity of connective tissue, narrowing blood vessels, and high blood pressure, making you feel older as well. Oh, and those free radicals? Aged Glycation End-products create large numbers of those life-sucking devils. The “bad cholesterol” LDL, is also part of the glycation process—it’s a central player in the undesired cross-linked molecules of glycation. High blood glucose (sugar) and food eaten at high temperatures cooked above 250 degrees F (barbequed, fried, grilled and roasted) may contribute to glycation. Cut way back on sugars, carbs, fast foods microwaving food and burning your hamburgers.
Ever have a high sensitivity C-reactive protein blood test? Your doctor is looking for inflammation. Why? Because low-levels of chronic inflammation without external signs of swelling, heat or pain, (i.e., “acute inflammation”) may indicate serious disease, including cardiac and artery illness, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes type 2, arthritis, and cancer. Diet and supplements are often valuable in treating inflammation. Fresh veggies, berries, reduced pasta/bread/rice, reducing sugar intake, low glycemic index foods, and healthy fats are important components of a diet that is “anti-aging” = anti-inflammatory. Omega 3 fish oil, with DHA and EPA, bromelain and vitamin K may also be useful supplements. Like herbs? Add natural ginger and turmeric for an anti-inflammatory effect. Don’t forget the value of healthy sleep for anti-inflammation properties.
I guess the fifth “ation” may also be important for longevity—vacation! Don’t forget to add that to your longevity regimen.