October 25

Healthy Aging

I work with seniors, which is a blessing that has given me a privileged perspective on understanding healthy aging.

I see many seniors who are struggling with various health issues, mainly heart disease, macular degeneration, arthritis, and dementia. In my experience, the expression “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies. These common diseases of older age are largely preventable. The earlier you start, the better your quality of life will be in old age.

What causes these diseases and how can we prevent them as we age?

The best way to prevent these diseases is to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. In my experience, heart disease and macular degeneration stem from nutrient deficiency and poor circulation. The body is very resilient and can tolerate a lot of abuse. However, every body has its limits. Once we reach older age, if the nutrients the body needs to stay healthy are continuously absent or in short supply from the diet, the body no longer has the building blocks it needs to function properly. The signs are failing organs that no longer function the way they are supposed to. We feel the effects when we are no longer able to do the things we used to be able to do, such as read or go for long walks, or we experience strokes and heart attacks.

Another factor that contributes to nutrient deficiency in seniors is reduced stomach acid, which impairs food digestion, especially protein. This problem is exacerbated when seniors are prescribed drugs for acid reflux that reduce stomach acid even further.

Making an effort to eat a healthier diet starting earlier in life can reduce the chances and even prevent these common diseases of aging. This means eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing sugar intake as much as possible.

Arthritis is caused by inflammation in the joints as well as wear and tear from use. Wear and tear can be mitigated by maintaining a healthy weight and also by not overstressing the joints through extreme sports. Inflammation can be reduced and controlled with a healthy diet that consists of lots of antioxidants and healthy fats. Maintain mobility and flexibility with regular exercise. Exercise is the fountain of youth. The more you do, the more you can do. So, keep moving!

Exercise is also good for the brain because it improves circulation in the whole body. Dementia is likely the greatest fear of most aging adults. Research shows that people who are better educated have a reduced risk of developing dementia because they have formed more connections between neurons at a young age. You can form new connections between neurons at any age by learning new things and by pursuing your hobbies and interests. Learning new things creates new connections between your brain cells, which protects the brain from cognitive decline. Also, eating a healthy diet will help to reduce inflammation in the brain.

Forming good diet and lifestyle habits sooner will give you a much better quality of life as you age. Start now. It’s worth it!

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