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The Art of Aging Gracefully

By on October 24, 2016
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The art of aging gracefully is a dance which supports the body's functions for vitality, with a glissé of acceptance of change, while learning new twists with an adventurous heart. 

Aging is a part of life and while we can’t slow down the clock, we can control how we face the future. 

There is opportunity to shape how your personal journey unfolds. Aging with grace involves a blend of nourishing your body while fostering a healthy, future-oriented outlook, while maintaining a sense of community and connection. It is acceptance of change and purpose in life. 

Aging well physically involves avoiding health depleting habits like a lack of exercise, activity and leisure, smoking, excessive alcohol and stress and poor sleep habits, while focusing on a solid foundation of wholesome foods and key nutrients:

Protein Pirouette
Protein is essential at every stage throughout the lifecycle but as we age it becomes especially important. Good quality protein is needed to stimulate the growth of, and to maintain precious muscle which is critical to help maintain independence and strength as we age. Maintaining a steady intake of protein coupled with exercise are excellent partners. Most of us tend to get the bulk of our protein at dinner while breakfast and lunch are more on the sparse side. Research is clear; we get more muscle growth stimulation if we spread our intake of protein evenly at each main meal. A general goal is to get 25 to 30 g total protein from all sources per meal.

Good sources of protein are: meats, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy foods, soy (tempeh, tofu, edamame) and pulses (chickpeas, lentils, dried beans and peas). 

Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are known as cofactors; they help to optimize the countless biochemical reactions that are needed to keep us healthy. Many of us struggle to consistently get the recommended minimum amount each day due to some of the food choices we make but also because other variables can impact how we absorb and utilize nutrients, such as medications, stress, alcohol and tobacco use. Also, people often eat less total food as they age because their energy requirements decrease. Focusing on nutrient-dense, wholesome foods is essential but taking a good quality, broad spectrum multivitamin with minerals is prudent too.

By the time we glide into 50, inflammation starts to outpace our natural ability to temper it. Inflammation has also been shown to increase the rate of aging. Fortunately, there are several foods and nutrients with anti-inflammatory properties. The caveat is provide your body with a steady supply of anti-inflammatory foods throughout the day, at each meal and snack; by doing so you’ll ensure there’s a steady supply in circulation helping to keep inflammation in check. You don’t need to get bogged down in the minutiae; plant foods provide a wallop of anti-inflammatory compounds but not to be outdone are the nutrients omega-3 fats, vitamins C, D and E.

Good sources of anti-inflammatory foods are: berries, dark orange and green vegetables, orange fruits, tomato products, fresh or dried herbs and spices, green and white tea, rooibos tea, dark chocolate and mushrooms.

The Telomere Tango
Telomeres are structures at the end of the strands of DNA. The best analogy is of an aglet on the tip of one of your best pair of shinny shoe’s shoelaces. Just as aglets help to keep laces from fraying, telomeres protect our DNA from fraying as well. The result? Your genetic material is protected.

One of the hallmarks of longevity and youthful cells is telomere length. The longer the better. Compared to healthy, youthful individuals, those with chronic disease and signs of advanced aging have much shorter telomere length. Now for the heart pounding dip, it is possible to slow down the rate of shortening and even lengthen prematurely shortened telomeres to that of healthier individuals.  

Dance Patterns for Telomere Protection to Promote Longevity
1)   Eat real food. Don’t get lost in the nuances of vegan vs paleo.
2)   Get your stress levels under control.
3)   Practice good sleep hygiene.
4)   Minimize your intake of alcohol. Don’t use tobacco.
5)   Reduce your intake of trans fats and sugars.
6)   Get good sources of omega-3 fats (both plant and animal-based).
7)   Consider a good quality, broad spectrum multivitamin with minerals.
8)   Up your vitamins C, D and E.
9)   Consider a standardized curcumin supplement.
10) Consider adaptogens like ashwaganda or rhodiola.

Doug Cook, RD, MPH is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist with a focus on functional medical nutrition therapy. He uses an integrative and holistic nutritional approach providing science-based guidance on food and diet along with the judicious use of nutritional supplements where appropriate. He is the coauthor of “ Nutrition for Canadians for Dummies” (Wiley, 2008) and  “The Complete Leaky Gut Health & Diet Book” (Robert Rose 2015). You can learn more about Doug by visiting his Facebook page, following him on Twitter, or by checking out his website: www.dougcookrd.com.

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