Ageing is a natural part of our lives, but dodging it is getting ever trickier. Here’s the Optimised ‘how to’ guide…
Lets face it, we’re under pressure. Do we ever open up a magazine, watch TV or walk down the street these days without getting the impression that beating age in all its forms has never been more important?
Everybody likes to look (and feel) good, and we’re no different at Optimised Personal Wellness. We’re into beating age into submission effectively, holistically and naturally, and importantly without re-mortgaging the house to pay for that must have Clinique, Clarins, Crème de la Mer or Imedeen skincare product, or for that matter botox or a surgical procedure.
We all recognise that skin is most peoples primary point of focus when it comes to anti-aging, but when we talk about anti-aging we’re also talking about avoiding and delaying hair loss, muscle degeneration, and body shape changes plus a raft of age related diseases like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Aging means a whole lot more than a couple of wrinkles.
It’s easy to see the ‘big picture’ of the aging process: wrinkles, disease, loss of flexibility and so on, but the real aging action – the action we’re interested in – takes place on a cellular level and it’s affected by the 3 dimensions of fitness, nutrition, and what goes on in your mind.
The reason we age is because our cells divide more quickly over time, hastening the aging process, and because we damage them through the things we do. It’s that simple.
Slowing aging naturally and holistically
We’d like to introduce you to exercise.
It’s official, exercise really can make you look and feel younger. A recent study has shown that those who exercise regularly are biologically younger – by up to 9 years – than those who don’t. It’s all in our cells – our chromosomes contain ‘telomeres’ which are regions of DNA at the end of each chromosome. Telomeres protect chromosomes from destruction (they cap the chromosome at each end) and they shorten over time, causing our cells, ultimately, to die and our bodies to age.
This study, published in January 2008, used data from the Twin Research Unit at King’s College to compare identical and non-identical twins whose average age was just under 50, and included more than 2,400 volunteers – mostly women – with an age range from 18 to 81.
What they found was a significant link between telomere length in the volunteers’ white blood cells and the amount of exercise they took. This remained significant when adjusted for smoking, BMI, and social class.
Basically exercise keeps your telomeres long and ‘young’ in comparison to the telomeres of folks who don’t exercise. Our cells keep us looking and feeling young, avoiding degenerative diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart attacks.
A decrease in metabolic rate is another marker associated with the aging process.(1) Maintaining your muscle mass and keeping your muscles lean has an effect on the aging process by helping your metabolic rate stay high. That’s going to keep you looking, and feeling, young.
Also, and we know it’s a favourite topic at Optimised, but don’t overdo the cardio. Performing excessive amounts of aerobic exercise, like jogging for over an hour, can boost the aging process by increasing free radical formation and catabolic hormones that decrease muscle mass and therefore decrease metabolism. Get off the treadmill, do some strength exercises!
When it comes to beating age, exercising regularly is near the top of the list.
How does what I eat affect how fast I age?
Nutrition also has a major impact on the aging process, and what we put in our bodies can either speed the aging process up or slow it down. Most skincare products out there work by providing nutrients to the dermatological cells, keeping them nice and plump, tautened and so on (we’ve all seen the ad’s!)
So how can we do the same thing without buying all these nicely marketed products?
It’s a case of feeding your cells the right nutrients to keep them from breaking down and aging, at the same time as eliminating the toxins that speed up the aging process at a cellular level.
We believe nourishing your cells and fighting the aging process from the inside is by far the most effective way forward, not applying products from the outside.
For you, that means taking some active nutritional choices, so here are our top 10 anti-aging super foods:
1. Water – rids you of toxins and waste products that age your cells, and hydrates them at the same time
2. Avocado, prunes, berries – really high in anti-oxidants, and great fats from avocado can help your cell walls to stay young
3. Vitamins C, A and E – all amazing anti-oxidants
4. Digestive aids & probiotics like live yoghurt, kefir (which is amazing stuff), and whey – as we age, our digestive system is not as effective, giving it a helping hand means you can digest your food better and utilise the nutrients you eat more effectively
5. Un-denatured whey protein (low temperature processed). Whey protein raises glutathione levels, which is an essential water-soluble antioxidant in the body that protects cells and serves as a primary detoxifier of harmful compounds such as peroxides, heavy metals, carcinogens and other toxins.
6. Green foods like wheat grass and barley grass
7. Atlantic Krill oil, high quality fish oil, algae derived omega 3 oil – all high in essential omega’s that your cells love!
8. Green Tea – another great anti-oxidant
9. Coconut oil: high in lauric and caprylic acids which have a huge range of benefits
10. Tomatoes: lightly cooking with olive oil increases the amount of available lycopene. Several studies have found that a diet rich in lycopene can protect against the development of prostate cancer, cancer of the mouth, stomach, large bowel, cervix and other aging diseases – ignore stupid articles and headlines trying to tell you tomato ketchup is therefore good for you though, it isn’t
We also need to talk about free radicals
A free radical is an atom which has lost one of its electrons. What this means to you and I is that it wanders off in your body aggressively looking for another electron to make it whole again. It can either find that electron by stealing it from another atom, creating another free radical and starting a really nasty free radical party in your body,(2) or from an anti-oxidant (for instance vitamin C donates electrons without getting unstable itself which is we like it here at Optimised Personal Wellness).
When free radicals gain the upper hand they disrupt your cells, making you age, directly causing age related diseases.
Frankly, we need to get to the free radicals before they get to us.
Our main weapons of choice in this fight are anti-oxidant enzymes such as superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and coenzyme Q10 – they form the first line of defence against free radicals,(3) and non-enzymatic anti-oxidants like vitamins A, C and E, glutathione, protein –SH and uric acid.(2)
Coenzyme Q10 is a fat-soluble compound primarily made by the body and also consumed in the diet (Nivea seem to have added it to most of their skincare products, but we think it might oxidize before it gets where it’s needed). Your body uses it in the energy production process and it also acts as an anti-oxidant in cell membranes,(3) which keep your cells from aging.
A diet rich in these anti-oxidants will do the job nicely.
For a great breakdown of your nutrient levels and toxic metal profile, we always recommend getting a test such as a toxic elements profile or Optimum Nutrition Evaluation done.
What about the relationship between stress and aging?
The last dimension in living the anti-aging dream is learning, or finding time, to relax. A recent study conducted by the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) supported the link between stress and premature aging. Elissa Epel, a psychiatrist involved in the study said “This is the first time that psychological stress has been linked to a cellular indicator of aging in healthy people.” The study involved comparing the health of 39 mothers caring for chronically ill children to a control group of healthy women.
The researchers looked closely at the effect of stress on telomeres – yes, telomeres again. As we discussed above, every time a cell divides, telomeres get shorter. In the natural aging process, telomeres eventually get so short that cells can no longer divide, and they then die. As more and more cells reach the end of their telomeres and die, the inexorable process produces the effects of aging – muscles weaken, skin wrinkles, eyesight and hearing fade, organs fail, and thinking abilities diminish.
The researchers also measured levels of an enzyme called telomerase, which helps rebuild telomeres to stave off this process. Telomerase levels naturally decline with age. “As the telomeres shorten, telomerase is trying to keep up,” said Elizabeth Blackburn, a professor of biology and physiology at UCSF who helped conduct the study. “Over the long term, we lose the race and our telomeres do get shorter.” (4)
In the interests of slowing the shortening of our telomeres and the death of our cells, here are 7 things that will help in the fight against aging and all it brings:
1. Get to sleep by 10:30pm, your body is programmed to detox in sleep after this time. If you’re awake, you’re most likely holding onto toxins and waste products, and you know what that means
2. Exercise – at least walk 30 mins every day, look after your telomeres!
3. Chill out – meditate, get a massage – plan to relax at least 1 day a week
4. Breathe properly: belly breathing gets rid of more toxins your cells don’t like
5. Get some sunshine: Sunshine catalyzes a reaction in your skin, which leads to vitamin D production in your body, and vitamin D is vital. A new study from King’s College in London has revealed that vitamin D actually helps to keep your DNA from aging. Just remember that more is not better when it comes to sunshine
6. Get a pet if you spend a lot of time at home alone – studies show it’s hugely beneficial in relieving stress
7. Try not to eat while working or watching TV – when you perform cognitive tasks your nervous system is in a very active mode. Your nervous system needs to be non-active to properly utilise the digestive juices and the organs of digestion
If you can combine a number of these suggestions into your lifestyle, not only will they help you to avoid wrinkles, but they can also help you avoid degenerative disease and the other undesirable effects of the aging process too.
To your lean, healthy, optimised future,
Matt & Dee
- Issue 17 of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology www.acc.org
- Alterations in Antioxidant Enzymes During Aging in Humans http://www.springerlink.com/content/k64q83t83t2j5211