Seven Simple Steps to Aging Gracefully
Not a day goes by without each of us getting older. We can lather on creams and gulp down pills, but we can’t reverse the aging process. In every cell of our bodies the ends of each of our chromosomes called telomeres, become slightly shorter every time a cell divides. After about 52 of these cell divisions, a cell becomes senescent, or ready to die. In one lifetime, our entire bodies will experience roughly 10,000,000,000,000 of these cell divisions that shorten telomeres each time. The length of a telomere on the ends of each of our 46 chromosomes provides a rough guide to the number of cell divisions we have left in life. Cancer cells break all the rules of course and come equipped with already-shortened telomeres. They divide uncontrollably.
In normal cells, once telomeres become too short, chromosomes cannot divide and the cell dies. In healthy cells, this progression is inevitable. Under optimal conditions stem cells may migrate into areas where normal cells have died, then differentiate and mature, forming healthy replacement tissue. This natural repair and replacement process can add years to our tissues and thus, our lives.
The goal of aging gracefully is to provide our stem cells with optimal conditions to replace those cells that have died. When conditions are less than optimal, the process of getting older translates into more aches and pains, less energy, a slower metabolism, more health problems, and a shortened lifespan. However, a wide range of activities and preventatives can improve our body chemistries and give each of our 30 trillion-or-so cells the right conditions to regenerate, mend themselves, ease such pains, and allow us to age more naturally.
Seven Simple Things: If you start now and establish routines and long-term discipline, these seven simple steps will help you age gracefully:
1.)Drink More Water: The body requires water, and lots of it, to carry on metabolism. Drinking upwards of 6-10 glasses per day benefits the colon by encouraging regularity. Lots of clean water also keep the bladder and kidneys clean, and allows more sweat to pass through the skin, cleansing pores. By flushing harmful toxins out of the body water elevate energy levels and minimizes fatigue. Drinking plenty of water also helps prevent skin dryness, while improving skin clarity and radiance. For our bodies, as with all ecosystems: One solution to pollution is dilution. A far better solution, as with our rivers and streams – Quit Dumping the Toxins, period.
2) Avoid Processed Foods: Processed foods such as chips, crackers, cakes, and cookies can be addictive and wreak havoc on your body. Processed and pre-packaged foods often contain dangerous additives.
Twelve to avoid are:
- Sodium nitrite (common meat preservative),
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – found in many household food products,
- Propyl gallate (preservative for fats and oils),
- Monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer used in many restaurants),
- Trans fats (found in meat and dairy products),
- Aspartame (potentially carcinogenic sweetener),
- Acesulfame-K (another potentially carcinogenic sweetener: 200 times sweeter than sugar),
- Food colorings: Blue 1, 2; Red 3; Green 3; and Yellow 6 (linked with various cancers in animals),
- Olestra (brand-name for synthetic fat that blocks digestive absorption),
- Potassium bromate (used in flour, breads and rolls, potentially carcinogenic),
- White sugar (leads to bad nutrition and metabolism, and probably diabetes), and,
- Sodium chloride or table salt (too much may cause heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, kidney failure, and other conditions).
3) Stop Smoking. If you currently smoke but have not had the willpower to quit, there´s no time like the present to stop smoking. Smoking not only increases your risk of lung cancer, but dumps a shopping-cart load of carcinogens into your system, ready to cause a multitude of cancers. Smoking about triples your risk of heart disease, stains teeth, damages tooth enamel,.and breaks down vital collagen and elastin in the skin. If all that hasn’t made you quit, smoking causes facial skin to age dramatically. Only by quitting, will your skin, your lungs, and your entire body have a chance to recover and revitalize.
4.) Get More Sleep: Not getting enough sleep generally produces fatigue the next day, whereas getting more sleep benefits all aspects of our health and attitude, too. Getting more sleep “rounds out our lives.”
“We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.” – William Shakespeare, The Tempest
Healthy sleep rhythms not only promote repair and healing of the body, but of the mind. Dreaming provides a safe haven to recover from the psychological impacts of each day, and maintains mental health. The immune system also gets a boost from healthy sleep cycles, protecting us from sickness and disease. Getting more sleep can also benefit the heart and brain, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
5) Exercise Regularly: It´s no coincidence that regular mental effort and regular physical rigor have been shown to maintain strong minds and strong muscles. The adage “Use it or Lose it” applies to both the body and the mind. Regular exercise keeps the metabolism elevated, promoting healthy organs, bones, digestion, circulation, and immune systems. It’s especially beneficial to combine strength training and cardiovascular exercise. This helps burn off unwanted calories fast and keeps the metabolism going around the clock. Exercising 3-5 times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes can work wonders for the mind, too, and has been shown to prevent cognitive impairments associated with aging.
6) Reduce Stress Levels. Recent studies have shown that chronic stress, and the levels of glucocorticoids and cortisol that stress produces, changes the anatomy of the brain in several ways. Increased levels of stress hormones can decrease the number of stem cells that mature into neurons, diminish learning and memory, and affect a wide range of emotional responses.
Worry and stress are not necessarily the same. We can be anxious about work, finances, family issues, and health but if we learn to “let it go” and “leave it at work” that anxiety remains temporary. Hectic schedules and busy lifestyles have the potential to compound our daily worries, however, and elevate stress hormones around the clock, becoming chronic stress that leads to disease.
Reducing stress levels benefits the heart and helps lower blood pressure. Increasing stress levels raises blood sugar and has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, too. Control your stress by giving yourself regular times to relax. Consider meditation, simple breathing exercises, power naps, hot tubs, and/or a weekly massage. When your stress hormones are reduced, so too is your risk of sickness, disease, and even mental illness.
7) Consider Supplements. The shelves of health foods stores and supermarkets are stocked with an overabundance of supplements, some better than others. Some can slow down the aging process. These include multivitamins, hormone supplements, antioxidants, and herbal blends. Speak with a licensed physician before taking a new supplement. Too much of a good thing can be bad, causing hypervitaminosis and other conditions. Get a good understanding of the product and make sure that it does not interfere with any ongoing health conditions and/or medications.
Everyone gets older but we do not all age the same. Nevertheless, we can control our own aging processes. Follow these Seven Simple Steps to Aging Gracefully and you will improve your everyday physical health, your mental health, your long-term health, and your life expectancy.