Thursday, July 25, 2013

Healthy Habits for Aging Gracefully

What kind of healthy habits do you use for aging gracefully? Or do you have any? What do you see when you look in the mirror these days? Are you aging gracefully or are you looking a little worse for wear? As we age, our bodies change causing many of our systems to function less efficiently. Many of us find our skin becoming wrinkled and saggy, we develop digestive issues, our bones grow more brittle, we develop aches and pains in the joints, lose teeth, have hearing loss, lose vision, develop circulation problems and are more prone to heart disease and other health conditions. Why do we see some people aging gracefully and others developing more or even all of these conditions? One explanation is the type of lifestyle you live. What types of healthy habits do you regularly practice? Even if you don't currently practice healthy habits for aging gracefully, it's not too late to start. Adopting some simple healthy habits can help in the goal towards aging gracefully.

Nutrition
Nutrition is the cornerstone for graceful aging. Obviously having a healthy balanced diet will improve your overall health. But there are also some foods to avoid and some you can eat that will help in aging gracefully. For example, foods high in sugar and processed foods with no real nutritional value can damage collagen and elastin. Those are what keep skin firm and smooth so you want to protect them. On the other hand whole foods that contain fiber and antioxidants can help with collagen production and production of new cells while fighting off free radicals that can damage cells. Using stevia, which is a natural sweetener, to sweeten foods is a better choice than sugar to protect your collagen and elastin.

You also want to make sure you are getting enough calories and essential nutrients for your individual body to keep cells regenerating. Paying attention to your fluid intake is also beneficial as dehydration does not help skin in aging gracefully. One way to get a lot of whole food nutrition and probiotics and enzymes for healthy digestion is to supplement your diet with convenient packets containing two kinds of blue green algae (with and without the cell wall), digestive enzymes, acidophilus, and bifidus.

Exercise
Some of the healthiest people I know that are in their 80s and 90s are those that stay active. They regularly exercise and are involved in community events and organizations. Regular exercise of at least 30 minutes a day each day can go a long way to helping decrease the risk of colon cancer, digestive issues and give you many other health benefits. There are numerous exercise programs and you may need to consult with your healthcare practitioner to pick one that is right for you. But in general, some of the exercises that help in aging gracefully include:

-weight training or strength training to firm up saggy skin and work on muscle tone
-cardio exercises for heart health
-yoga to improve circulation, reduce inflammation and stress, and for bone health as it has been shown to increase bone density and improve balance.
-fat burning exercises help maintain a healthy weight and prevent conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure
-exercises such as fast walking, weight lifting, weight bearing type exercises and flexibility type exercises are all good for bone health

Bone Support
As we age, there is a double problem that can result with bone health. First we start losing bone at a faster rate than we can regenerate and replace it. That makes our bones more fragile. Second our muscles, joints and balance can all become weaker meaning we are more likely to have falls which can lead to breakage of these more fragile bones. That is why bone health is an important area to consider in aging gracefully. Keeping muscles strong increases your ability to stop yourself if you start to fall and can reduce your risk of falling in the first place. Taking the recommended amount of calcium, Vitamin D, getting flexibility and weight bearing exercise regularly, cutting down on caffeine, and getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet can go a long way to giving you the bone support needed for aging gracefully.

Skincare
Fatty acids are also needed for good skincare. We want to avoid a diet with too much of the "bad" fats, but the body does need "good" fats for many reasons. One is to keep skin hydrated and smooth, prevent hair loss and prevent brittle finger and toe nails. Vitamins A, C and E are also good for keeping skin, hair and nails healthy. Vitamin D helps protect the scalp and the cells that produce hair. Some experts believe eating alkaline-forming food to balance the acid in the body can improve skin and hair health as acid strips the body of calcium, potassium and magnesium which are all good for healthy bones, hair, and teeth. Foods such as parsley, almonds, kale, pears, lemons and apples would be in this category. There has also been research showing that green tea can help prevent the breakdown of collagen meaning less wrinkles.

Dental Care
According to research, more people are willing to spend more to protect their teeth as they age than for any other aging conditions, such as body shape, hair, vision, wrinkles or varicose veins. For strong teeth, calcium is a must and Vitamin D is needed to help the body be able to absorb the calcium. An Edgar Cayce product called Ipsab can help contract gums, remove bacteria and neutralize acids that erode tooth enamel. This is a natural product that contains salt, soda, prickly ash bark, and peppermint.

Waiting 30 minutes before brushing teeth after eating or drinking something acidic can also help tooth enamel as brushing immediately after tends to wear the enamel off the teeth. Green tea has a compound shown to kill bacteria in the mouth that can cause tooth decay and gum disease.

Taking at least 2 capsules of high-quality coenzyme Q10 daily can help rebuild both gum and heart tissue, as well as rejuvenate the metabolic function for every cell in the body. Our bodies need more CoQ10 as we get older, and especially if we suffer from gum or heart conditions. Coenzyme Q10 is an integral part of energy production in every cell and has the added benefit of boosting the immune system and contributing to heart health. It is found naturally throughout the body, but as we age our ability to manufacture it is reduced. That is why supplementation is important especially as we age.

Digestive Health
Getting the right amount of fiber in the diet helps not only with regularity, but also with varicose veins since irregularity or straining to have a bowel movement is one of the biggest causes. I say getting the right amount though because too much fiber can keep you from absorbing nutrients that your body needs. High fiber foods include fruits and veggies, whole grains and beans. These also have a lot of needed nutrients and are low in fat and can help reduce the risk of constipation which is another digestive concern for older people. As we get older, we are more prone to constipation and research has shown that 40% of seniors have at least one digestive problem every year that is related to aging. This is due to the slowing down of the digestive process in which food is not moved along through the digestive tract as fast as when we were younger. That causes more water to get absorbed from food waste and then constipation. Constipation can also result from many different prescription and over the counter medications which we tend to take more of the older we get. Staying active, exercising and keeping hydrated can also help you stay regular as you age. If you take medications that cause constipation, gas, bloating, cramps or other digestive issues, check with your health care provider to see if you can take them with food and what the lowest effective dosage you can take is.

Stem Cell Support
Getting support for your adult stem cells is another way to help your body with aging gracefully. Adult stem cells are already in our bodies and are not controversial like embryonic stem cell use is. They maintain and renew body tissue, help in maintaining a healthy immune system as well as with other health conditions. As we get older, we don't produce as many adult stem cells and they don't regenerate themselves as fast as when we were younger. This is where supplementation can help. Research has shown that certain nutrients such as are present in a stem cell support supplement can help promote the renewal of stem cells. It provides nutrition that supports the growth of stem cells and provides antioxidants that protect existing stem cells from free radical damage. Using this type of supplement can help counteract the reduction in the body's ability to regenerate stem cells as we age. When a stem cell divides, it can either remain a stem cell or become a red blood cell, muscle cell, skin cell or any one of the many other cells in our bodies. These new cells can migrate to the areas they are needed most as we age and where problems are occurring to repair damage.

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