Healthy Aging and Longevity:
Finding the fountain of youth
Do you feel younger or older than your age? No one can slow down time, but is it possible to slow down the effects of time on the body? Is it possible to feel well, have vitality, and be free of disease as we get older? What about having a good memory and a clear mind? Can we avoid the diseases that our parents suffered from?
Australia has an aging population, but I believe that age is not about how many candles are on your cake- it is about the health of your body and your mind. There is a local couple in their nineties that still play golf at the McLeod Golf Club! Is this just good genes, or do we have some control over our future health? What causes us to age anyway?
There are many factors behind aging, but the 3 most important ones are oxidative stress, glycation, and telomere shortening.
The body uses oxygen for energy production. However, the process of oxidation in the body causes free radicals, which can cause damage to the cells. So free radicals are naturally produced by the body, and while we can cope with some free radicals, too many causes problems. Free radicals are also caused by stress, poor diet, alcohol, smoking, pollution, pesticides and many other chemicals, radiation, inflammation, and infections.
Free radicals react with our cell membranes and other structures such as DNA, lipids and proteins by stealing electrons from these molecules and causing damage. When a free radical attacks these essential molecules, they change into free radicals themselves, causing a chain reaction that can cause the destruction of the cell.
Free radicals can cause:
- Damage to nerve cells in the brain
- Damage to the lenses of the eye
- Premature ageing
- Increased risk of heart disease and certain cancers
Antioxidants are able to neutralise free radicals by giving their own electrons to them, preventing this damage. After neutralising a free radical, antioxidants become inactive,
which means they need to be constantly re-supplied to our bodies through the right foods and supplements.
Glycation occurs when the sugar from what we eat chemically binds to some of our DNA, proteins and fats, leaving them unable to do their jobs. This problem becomes worse as we get older, causing body tissues to malfunction, resulting in disease and death.
Telomeres have been compared with the plastic tips on shoelaces, because they prevent the ends of our chromosomes from fraying and sticking to each other. This would scramble our genetic information, causing cancer, other diseases, or death.
Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide and becomes inactive or dies. This process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. So telomeres also have been compared with a bomb fuse.
In human blood cells, the length of telomeres ranges from 8,000 base pairs at birth, to 3,000 base pairs as people age, and as low as 1,500 in elderly people. (An entire chromosome has about 150 million base pairs.) Each time a cell divides, an average person loses 30 to 200 base pairs from the ends of that cell’s telomeres.
Cells normally can divide only about 50 to 70 times, with telomeres getting progressively shorter until the cells become inactive, die or sustain genetic damage that can cause cancer.
(Telomeres do not shorten with age in tissues such as heart muscle, in which the cells don’t continually divide.)
Geneticist Dr Richard Cawthon and his colleagues at the University of Utah found that in people over 60, those with shorter telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease. Other recent studies have linked telomere length to an array of age-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
How to Slow Down (or Even Reverse) Aging
These help stop the damage to DNA and cells from free radicals caused by oxidation in the body.
Most antioxidants come from plants and include vitamins A, C and E and carotenoids such as beta-carotene, minerals, phenolic compounds and other natural chemicals. Flavonoids are another powerful antioxidant and are contained in red wine and tea.
While good vitamin supplements containing antioxidants are available, it is also important to eat a variety of natural foods – fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and wholegrains – to help supply your body with a good range and quantity of antioxidants.
Some good antioxidant sources are:
Beta-carotene – orange foods such as carrots, pumpkin, apricots, sweet potatoes and some leafy greens such as kale.
Lutein – green, leafy vegetables such as spinach.
Lycopene – tomatoes, watermelon, papaya.
Selenium – rice and wheat.
Vitamin A – carrots, sweet potato, milk, egg yolks.
Vitamin E – almonds, vegetable oils, mangoes, nuts, broccoli.
Vitamin C – available in many fruits and vegetables such as parsley, broccoli, berries, oranges, cauliflower, kale.
In one study, scientists exposed worms to 2 antioxidants, and the worms’ lifespan increased an average of 44%.
Reduce Things that Cause Free Radicals
As mentioned earlier, these include poor diet, alcohol, smoking, pollution, pesticides and many other chemicals, radiation, inflammation, and infections.
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
This will reduce the level of glycation in your body, allowing the DNA and tissues to work more correctly.
Getting rid of accumulated chemicals and toxins in the body can reduce damage to the cells and help them to function more correctly. (However, to be effective, a detox should always be done under the direction of a health care professional such as a naturopath.)
Address Chronic Stress
For the sake of your physical and mental health and wellbeing, have a regular activity that reduces your stress, such as exercise, meditation, walking, or massage.
Address Chronic Health Problems
Long-term health problems cause a much higher level of free radicals in the body, especially those involving inflammation or infection, such as allergies. Please ask about treatment for any chronic problem at the clinic.
Healthy Diet and Lifestyle
An enzyme called telomerase keeps telomeres from wearing down too much. A healthy diet and lifestyle, plus quality supplements, helps with telemerase activity, and combining several healthy habits may magnify the benefits. In one study, men with prostate cancer who meditated and used other relaxation techniques, ate a low-fat diet including whole grains, walked 30 minutes 6 days a week, and took supplements of fish oil and vitamins C and E, boosted their telomerase activity by 29 to 84%.
Geneticist Dr Cawthon has said that if all the processes of aging could be eliminated and oxidative stress damage could be repaired, “one estimate is people could live 1,000 years.”
While we can’t offer you this yet, with the right nutritional support and treatments, we may be able to add many years of good health to your life. Imagine if you were given a car at birth, and told that this was the only one you would ever have your entire life, and that spare parts were very difficult to get – how well would you look after it? Your body is your most important physical possession. If you are interested in keeping your body younger for longer, retaining your mental clarity, and avoiding the sort of health issues that your parents or grandparents suffered, we can help out. We have created an Anti-Aging and Longevity program which is tailored to your individual requirements. If you would like to find out more, please ask for a free 10 minute phone consultation with Peter Mills, Head Therapist at the clinic.