While welcoming guests at our son’s recent wedding, the presiding pastor said something in jest that sent everyone laughing: “I have never seen so many aged people in one gathering!” While it was hilarious, I didn’t quite understand what he meant and thought it was an issue of language as there were only a handful of invited guests past the age of 70.
Why would he refer to us, in our forties, fifties and sixties, as aged? The answer was right in front of me two weeks later when the wedding pictures were delivered. Indeed, people our age have certainly aged before their years. The pictures tell the story of what the pastor was seeing from his vantage point – lots of grey hair, some overweight men and women, wrinkled faces, frail bodies… Are we ageing with grace like the generation ahead of us? May be not.
While you can’t turn back the clock, you can slow it down, not through cosmetics, surgery or any of those much heralded magic pills, but through following a holistic anti-ageing approach that focusses on eating right, managing stress, exercising regularly, taking supplements and minimising the health risks of your genetic inheritance such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and some cancers. It would appear our age group has put so much focus on the rat race, and no doubt most have done extremely well financially, but at what expense?
As we enter the season of giving and sharing, my gift to everyone past the age of 45 years this Christmas is sharing some wisdom from a book by Dr Nicholas Perricone, Forever Young, that recommends a holistic and natural approach to slowing down age. While you sit by the beach or merry make in the village with your folks, indulge in a copy of this book if you can get hold of one, or let the tips below guide you to discovering the hidden factors that could be making you old before your time and what you can do about them.
Are you eating healthily?Choosing the right foods not only staves off age-related diseases, it keeps you looking younger for longer. Research suggests including anti-inflammatory foods and antioxidants in your diet. Inflammation is thought to be a factor for many age-related conditions, from heart disease to premature wrinkles. When you eat the wrong kind of foods or are under stress, the body produces invisible inflammation that causes wrinkles and accelerates ageing.
The top anti-inflammatory foods include oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines; seeds, nuts, beans, pulses, ginger, turmeric, garlic, avocado and fresh colourful vegetables and fruits, particularly anything that is red, purple, orange and yellow. When there is lots of natural colour in foods, you know they are rich in protective antioxidants – phytonutrients that have powerful anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory effect.
Aim to eat less meat and avoid caffeine and processed foods which all increase inflammation and speed up premature ageing, advises Perricone. Coffee causes a rise in insulin, which increases inflammation. A healthier alternative is green tea. Other top age-reversing superfoods include chia seeds, wheat or barley grass and supplements, including alpha lipoic acid, co-enzyme Q10, vitamins K and D and pycnogenol.
Also eat low glycaemic index (GI) foods to keep blood sugar levels stable and keep insulin low – high insulin levels are linked to inflammation. Cinnamon and cocoa are other useful anti-inflammatory foods. Cocoa contains procyanidin B-2, a chemical that has been shown to reduce inflammation. Also pack your diet with antioxidant-rich foods to help fight free radicals that can cause cellular ageing. Berries, red grapes, yellow and orange foods, such as carrots and squash, and spirulina are all rich in potent antioxidants.
It is important to take good quality multivitamins and mineral supplements every day because most of us are simply not getting the nutrients we need from our diet. Top on the list recommended by Perricone include pycogenol (extract of pine bark). Research shows this potent antioxidant has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect. It also protects collagen fibres and oxygenates the skin. Another is alpha lipoic acid (ALA). Although your body produces this antioxidant, it declines with age. ALA helps reduce cell damage and improves skin tone. Another is hyaluronic acid that helps keep the skin smooth due to its water retention capabilities and also helps maintain collagen levels in the skin. Fish oil supplement, a natural anti-inflammatory that is also excellent for dry skin, also makes it to the list.
Do you get at least six or seven to eight hours sleep a night? Sleep is restorative and triggers production of growth hormones, vital for healthy ageing. Studies show lack of sleep raises inflammatory markers within the body that can contribute to premature wrinkles and damage your health.
Do you go to the dentist regularly? As you age, gums recede and teeth wear down changing your face and making you look older. Unhealthy gums and teeth can also lead to age-related diseases so see a dentist regularly.
Do you drink coffee, tea and alcohol on a regular basis? These drinks are stimulants that get your adrenals working overtime and leach vitamins and minerals from your body affecting your skin, hair and nails, as well as your general health. As they are diuretics they also make you dehydrated, causing your skin to become dry and lined.
Do you regularly feel stressed or negative about something? Research shows that stress speeds up cell ageing. The stress hormone cortisol is also shown to leach calcium from bones and damage the collagen in your skin. Try to practice meditation or a breathing and relaxation technique daily.
Do you exercise every day? Regular exercise is vital for keeping your body healthy, supple and young. As well as protecting your heart, exercise promotes good circulation and keeps the skin healthy, firm and youthful looking. To beat stress, aim for 30-45 minutes of exercise, at least five times a week.
Have a merry Christmas and purpose to stay young!