Thursday, August 19, 2010

If You Want to Age Gracefully

You can slow down your aging process and help stave off heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. U.S. News & World Report offers some tips on how to do it:

FREE RADICALS Free radicals are chemically unstable molecules that attack your cells and damage your DNA. You can limit your exposure to them by avoiding cigarettes, trans fats, charred meats, and other sources.

Fruits and vegetables are also chock full of antioxidants, which are thought to neutralize free radicals, so you should still aim to get five servings a day, organic or not. Those with the highest amount of antioxidants include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, and kale (kailan).

INFLAMMATION Normally part of a healthy immune response to foreign invaders, inflammation is now considered to be a major player in many diseases of aging, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's—that is, when it becomes chronic. This happens when the immune system begins targeting healthy cells and tissues for attack.

One way to avoid it is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet based on whole grains, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, fruits, vegetables, and monounsaturated fats (nuts, avocados, and olives) with little meat.

Other great anti-inflammatory foods include turmeric, dark chocolate, and red wine, which contains the anti-aging chemical resveratrol.

CLICK HERE for our other posts on inflammation

EXERCISE Moderate amount of steady exercise like brisk walking, swimming, or biking for 30 to 45 minutes five days a week is another great way to lower inflammation by boosting anti-inflammatory chemicals and helping you avoid weight gain through the years. Having too much belly fat, defined as a waist measurement of more than 35 inches for a woman and 40 inches for a man, means you probably have high inflammation, since abdominal fat produces inflammatory chemicals.

Caution: too much exercise to the point of soreness and extreme fatigue can actually increase inflammation, at least temporarily.

CLICK HERE for our archive on exercise

GLYCATION Glycation is what happens when sugar mixes with proteins and fats to form molecules that promote aging. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are thought to accelerate your aging process by churning out free radicals and promoting inflammation. One way to avoid ingesting AGEs is to turn down the heat when you cook. The browning effect of high-heat cooking causes these molecules to form. Limiting your intake of sugar-filled foods in general will also help, since excess sugar often binds to proteins in your body to form AGEs. The American Heart Association now recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories per day of added sugars, and men no more than 150 calories per day. Aside from increasing your risk of heart disease, AGEs appear to play a role in diabetes by causing blood to become sticky and hampering its ability to flow smoothly through capillaries and into the extremities and vital organs like the kidneys and eyes. "

STRESS Stress initiates the release of a variety of hormones that make your pulse race and cause your blood pressure to rise.

But the hormone cortisol, released to lessen these effects, actually creates problems when it remains chronically elevated; it has been shown to shrink a part of the brain called the hippocampus which is essential for long-term memory. It can also lead to the accumulation of belly fat, causing inflammation and insulin resistance.

Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga to help manage stress. If you have trouble devoting 30 minutes a day to doing so, just take five minutes every so often throughout the day to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Make sure you sleep 7 to 8 hours a night.

CLICK HERE for our earlier posts on Stress

Picture credit

No comments:

Post a Comment