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70 Ways to Be Forever Young
Although there has been no shortage of sightings and claims, the “fountain of youth” has yet to be discovered. There is no single magical pill that delivers a long, vibrant life in a bottle. However, we have many tools to help slow the aging process, prevent disease, and live vivaciously for years to come.
With more and more research being done on anti-aging these days, it is evident that we can’t chalk our longevity up entirely to our genetics. We have control over a number of factors that influence how rapidly we age, and how our body is impacted. There are many aspects in the way we live from day-to-day that can positively affect the state our body and mind is in, and the aging process is influenced significantly by the choices we make.
Nutrition for Longevity
As a general rule, the more variety you have in your diet the better when it comes to overall health. However, the variety enjoyed should come from whole foods rather than processed foods. Even “healthier” processed foods such as breads, cereals, and crackers can actually have negative effects on health, especially when compared to whole, unprocessed alternatives such as brown rice or quinoa grains. The more processed an item is, the fewer nutrients and more chemicals it is likely to contain, and the more inflammatory it can be in the body. Inflammation is something we want to avoid in order for our body systems to function properly and for us to feel vital and healthy each day. A wide variety of health issues, including chronic pain, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, skin disorders, migraines, and hormonal imbalances are linked to inflammation in the body. Emphasizing whole foods, including colourful vegetables and a selection of fruits, ensures getting potent antioxidants and fundamental nutrients the body needs to stay looking and feeling healthy.
Adding the proper fats into the diet is also beneficial for disease prevention. Healthy fats such as raw olive oil, walnuts, almonds, and avocado can help fight heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity and keep the skin glowing. Be cautious of intake of saturated and trans fats, found predominantly in animal meats, as these can raise cholesterol levels and increase risk of cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.
To incorporate more healthy fats and nourishing vegetables into the diet try having a designated “meatless” day each week, focusing on delicious vegan or vegetarian meals that add variety and nutrients into your regimen.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – This vitamin-like substance is found in highest concentrations in the places where it is used most in the body – namely the heart, liver, and kidneys. As we age, our bodies naturally make less CoQ10, and certain medications deplete it as well, decreasing concentrations in the body even further. It helps the cellular powerhouses known as mitochondria to burn fuel more efficiently and cleanly, decelerating the aging process by preventing oxidative damage and keeping the heart, liver, and kidneys healthy.
Omega-3 – Not only have omega-3 fatty acids been shown to nourish hair, skin, and nails, keeping you looking youthful, it also has profound effects on the body internally. Insults to the body including stress, poor diet, pain, impaired digestion, environmental toxins, and hormone imbalances can cause chronic low-grade inflammation in the body. This low-grade inflammation is associated with increased risk of disease, poor physical functioning, and mortality. Omega-3 offers natural anti-inflammatory effects, helping with injuries and pain, and also reducing the damaging effects of systemic inflammation. It also promotes healthy brain function. These fatty acids are highly concentrated in the brain and can benefit memory, mental performance, and behavioural function. Omega-3’s are also beneficial for the eyes, as the omega-3 component DHA is thought to promote healthy macular health within the retina, and reduce dry eye syndrome.
Vitamin B12 – This impactful nutrient is used in the metabolism of every cell in the body and plays a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. A deficiency in B12 has been shown to cause symptoms such as memory loss and dementia. Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease often have low levels of vitamin B12 when tested. Getting levels tested can provide a baseline; so you know whether supplementation may be of benefit to you.
Physical activity is a valuable contributor to longevity in a variety of ways. Regular exercise increases muscle mass, lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, lessens mental stress, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases of the heart and metabolic systems. Research shows that physical activity spurs the development of new nerve cells and increases the synaptic connections between brain cells, making the brain more efficient and adaptive which leads to better performance as we age. Exercise also has the potential to exert an anti-inflammatory effect, and helps to detoxify the body by engaging the lymphatic system and inducing sweating. Mobility can also alleviate pain in a lot of cases, and speed up injury recovery time as long as the activities are properly monitored by a health professional.
More and more research is emphasizing the effects of stress on a person’s health. Chronic psychological stress inhibits the body’s ability to properly regulate the inflammatory response, inflammation can promote the development and progression of disease. Nourish your adrenal glands – the glands that produce your stress hormones and regulate many other body systems – by practicing daily forms of stress reduction. Meditation, for example, has been shown to lower the stress response, reduce heart attack rates, promote focus and attentiveness, and keep you in the present moment rather than reflecting on the past or worrying about the future. And don’t worry, meditation is not entirely about sitting in silence. There are numerous types of meditation and many accessible guided forms that can help you learn the art in a way that resonates with you. Another easy way to practice stress reduction each day is to incorporate deep breathing techniques. This can be done no matter where you are, or what you are doing.
I commonly recommend “Square Breathing” to my patients. To do this, simply follow these steps: 1) Breathe in for the count of four, 2) Hold your breath in for the count of four, 3) Breathe out for the count of four, 4) Hold your breath out for the count of four. Repeat this pattern while envisioning the four sides of a square to keep your steps on track. Controlled breathing in this way can relieve stress and calm your nerves by regulating the autonomic nervous system. Take some time for yourself, and reap the rewards of calming the mind – it will not take long for you to see the difference this makes on your day-to-day life, as well as your longevity.
Keep Your Brain Active
Keep your brain stimulated to promote long-term health by challenging it on a regular basis. Employ critical thinking and challenge your mind by pursuing new interests and stepping out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. Take a course that interests you, draw or paint, read a good book, tackle the daily crossword puzzle or Sudoku while you have your morning coffee (or green tea!). Research shows that doing “brainy” activities stimulates new connections between brain cells and may even generate new brain cells, which builds a functional reserve against future cell loss.
Keep Active Socially
There are strong associations between an individual’s social networks, lower blood pressure, and longer life expectancies. Having an active social life does not just mean calling on current friends and family. There are many like-minded people looking to get out and explore new things, or meet to discuss current hobbies or activities. Whether you are a fan of trying new restaurants, making jewelry, or exercising as a team, there are a number of organizations and groups that would love to have you as part of their community. Volunteering is another great way to build a valuable social network. Not only will you meet new people, but you will also benefit from helping others by devoting time to an important cause that you feel passionate about.
Inspiration to KEEP You YOUNG
1) Learn a new thing every day
2) Schedule “YOU Time” into your calendar each week
3) Drink more water
4) Explore new music – try classical music to stimulate the brain
5) Sleep in on a Saturday morning
6) Try a meat-free day once a week
7) Trade in a coffee for a green tea
8) Wash your makeup off before bed
9) Listen to the sounds of nature for 5 minutes a day
10) Practice deep breathing when you’re driving from A to B
11) Cook with coconut oil
12) Take a cooking class
13) Sign up for a local fun-run or charity walk
14) Go apple picking
15) Carve a pumpkin and bake the seeds
16) Try a new vegetable or fruit you’ve always noticed in the produce aisles – it may become your new favourite!
17) Keep a journal
18) Substitute peanut butter for a natural nut butter
19) Step out of your comfort zone
20) Eat breakfast each day
21) Teach your pet a new trick
22) Start your morning with yoga
23) End your day with 3 things you’re grateful for
24) Go to a drive-in movie
25) Learn to meditate
26) Take one photo a day of anything that makes you smile
27) Surround yourself with positive people
28) Make a herb garden
29) Take a dog for a walk
30) Try a water fitness class
Even more inspiration. . .
31) Roast a garlic bulb as an appetizer
32) Hold the door for a stranger
33) Walk barefoot on the grass
34) Pay for the person’s coffee in the drive-thru line behind you
35) Go camping
36) Use onion powder to flavour food, instead of salt
37) Learn to Tango
38) Do a crossword puzzle
39) Foster an inner smile…
40) Catch a negative thought, and replace it with a positive one
41) Look in the mirror and tell yourself 3 things you love about yourself each morning
42) Soak up the sun’s rays (just don’t burn!)
43) Put the cellphone away in the evenings
44) Get a massage
45) Eat dinner by candlelight
46) Take a bubble bath
47) Break a sweat!
48) Call an old friend
49) Write a letter to someone you care about
50) Make a meal for someone special
51) Learn a new language
52) Create a Vision Board
53) Pick up your favourite magazine to read
54) Curl up in front of the fire
55) Listen to uplifting music to start your day
56) Help out a neighbour
57) Donate some of your belongings to shelters/charity (and purge items at the same time!)
58) Pop popcorn on the stovetop using full-flavour coconut oil and sea salt
59)Take a class in the art of Tai Chi
60) Clear the clutter in the home/office
61) Use natural soaps and face wash
62) Knit scarves or gloves to donate to those in need.
63) Eliminate artificial sweeteners from your life
64) Schedule mandatory vacation getaways
65) Take in new culture
66) Organize old photos into albums
67) Make a change jar to save for a treat just for you (nothing practical allowed!)
68) Watch an old movie to bring back fond memories
69) Focus on health prevention rather than treatment whenever possible
70) See a Naturopathic Doctor to help you with your specific health goals.
Nicola Kempinska, BKin, BA, ND practices family medicine in Burlington, Ontario.
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