But aging is a little different. Why? Because aging is something that we actually can have some control over. While you can't help the fact that you are going to get older, you can influence how the symptoms of aging will affect you - at least to some degree.
There are 3 main factors that cause you to look and feel older (sometimes even older than you actually are), but the good news is, all three of them can be slowed by making the right healthy choices as you age.
Here is what you should know about why you may be experiencing symptoms of aging, and what you can do about it.
- Weakened muscles & loss of muscle tone
- Frail bones
- Memory and other cognitive issues
- Declining visual and auditory skills
- Decreased energy and increased fatigue
- A weakening immune system
- Skin issues (such as dry skin, age spots, wrinkles, and saggy skin)
- Loss of sexual desire and/or sexual function
- Joint discomfort, stiffness, and/or swelling
- An underperforming circulatory system
- A cardiovascular system that can’t support a truly active lifestyle any longer
- Hormonal decline
- Dulling, thinning hair
- Slowed metabolism and perpetual weight gain
For example? Here are just a few lifestyle factors and behaviors that can greatly increase and accelerate the symptoms of aging:*
- Stress, which sends the age-accelerating hormone cortisol into overdrive
- Lack of sleep, which has been shown to significantly shorten the length of DNA telomeres (AKA your “cellular timekeepers” - which we will discuss below)
- Too much or too little exercise -- studies show that both highly active and sedentary populations have similar age-related biomarkers as a result of too little or too much of a good thing
- Poor nutrition, which causes a lack of antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals that fight the aging process
- Excessive Omega-6 fatty acid intake – the most prevalent fatty acid in the American diet – which has been shown to significantly increase inflammation and accelerate aging
- Highly processed carbohydrates and sugar intake which promote the formation of AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products). These mutated proteins have been shown to significantly accelerate cellular aging
- Alcohol consumption, which decreases the body’s antioxidant activity while at the same time increasing cell-damaging free radicals
- Being overweight, which by itself leads to a state of increased cell-damaging oxidative stress
- Pesticides, herbicides, pollution, and other environmental toxins have all been shown to increase the appearance of skin aging and do damage to delicate skin DNA
By eating a healthy diet, getting appropriate amounts of sleep and exercise, and avoiding toxins whenever possible through choosing organic foods and other products, we can make a huge difference in how healthy we look and feel as we age.
But let's dive a little bit deeper into 3 of the main root causes of aging,* and discover more about how we can combat these symptoms:
Cause #1. Degradation of your “cellular timekeepers”, known as telomeres. Telomeres are the “protective caps” at the end of each strand of cellular DNA that control aging. In fact, telomeres are so critically important to aging that some within the medical community are now calling telomeres your “eternal youth genes”, and for good reason.
Every day the cells in your body divide as many as 2 trillion times. Old cells die, and the body replaces them with a duplicate. While these new cells are indeed duplicates, like a photocopied image they are slightly less perfect than the original. What’s more, a 2009 Nobel Prize-winning discovery revealed that with each cell division, the telomeres (those protective caps at the end of DNA) are slightly degraded and over time become significantly reduced in size. Think of the protective plastic tips at the end of your shoe laces. When those deteriorate, the entire shoe lace unravels. It’s the same thing with your telomeres and the delicate cells of your body. Worse yet, as your telomeres degrade and shorten, your body ages more rapidly.
The cold, hard truth is this: As aging accelerates, each year you live what is ultimately a lower and lower quality of life until eventually your telomeres “expire” and the inevitable happens: you die.
But it’s not all bad news... You see, this same breakthrough medical research also shows that if you can boost the health of your telomeres and keep them from degrading and shortening, you can dramatically slow the aging process and add many high-quality and productive years to your life.
This means that even when your chronological age goes up, your cells stay young and vibrant! We’ve all seen a 50 year old man or woman who doesn’t look a day past 40, and other 50-year-olds who look like they could easily pass for 65. As the old adage goes, your actual age is just a number – what’s of prime importance, however, is your cellular age, or how old (or young) your body looks, feels, performs, and functions.
The primary enzyme responsible for keeping telomeres strong, healthy and long is called telomerase. By eating healthy and taking care of your body (especially getting enough sleep and the right kind of exercise - e.g. not the kind that significantly wears your body out and causes excess physical stress), you can help to supercharge telomerase production and keep your telomeres healthy, youthful, and full of life for longer.
Cause #2. Progressive death of your body’s main “power source”, your mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power plants of our body’s cells. Simply put, the more energy your mitochondria produce, the younger and healthier we feel.
As we get older, however, mitochondria decrease in number by as much as 50%! Not only that, but the mitochondria that remain only work at 50% of their original capacity. With only half the “power lines” operating at 50% capacity, there isn’t nearly as much energy pumping to your joints, heart, brain, lungs, and immune system. In the end, your ability to live, breathe, move, and be energetic is severely compromised.
So how do you keep your mitochondria healthy? One easy way is to provide them with plenty of oxygen. This means getting plenty of regular exercise - the kind that makes you breathe harder. Yoga is also excellent for this, and you can also make deep breathing exercises a part of your daily routine, which can really help to oxygenate your cells and keep your mitochondria happy.
Cause #3. Free radical exposure & the resulting oxidative damage. One of the main causes of cellular aging is free radicals, also known as “oxidants”. Essentially, free radicals are energy deficient molecules who seek and destroy healthy cells, stealing their energy and vitality. If you’ve ever seen an apple or avocado turn brown after you cut it, or metal rust, you’ve witnessed oxidative stress at work. This same “rusting” happens within the cells of your body when exposed to the sun (UV exposure), pollution, heavy metals, and even many positive stressors like exercise.
Bottom line, there are simply way too many oxidative villains in modern living, and unless you proactively do something to defend yourself against these youth-robbing free radicals daily, the signs of aging will accelerate over time and cause you to age faster and faster.
Enter anti-oxidants, AKA your “cellular bodyguards”. These generous Good Samaritans selflessly donate their energy so that the energy of your healthy cells is spared. In the end, your cells stay youthful, energetic, and full of vitality. This is why you see antioxidants touted everywhere in health magazines and online. They truly are essential to combating the symptoms of aging.
In fact, antioxidants may be one of the simplest ways that you can stay healthy and youthful as you get older. Luckily, antioxidants are very easy to find; they are present in just about all fruits and vegetables, so if you eat a veggie-rich diet, you are increasing your odds of a longer, healthier life.
To be clear, this doesn't just mean that you snack on an apple every day, or that you throw together a salad for lunch once in a while. You should be consuming 2/3 of every meal in fruit and vegetable form. This means 2/3 of every plate full of food that you consume should be bright, colorful veggies. There are all kinds of "super foods" out there, but really you can't go wrong if you just consume a wide variety of green, orange, red, purple, and yellow vegetables and fruits every day, so don't stress about trying to find the latest trendy exotic fruit juice or anything like that. Just fill your plate with color, and enjoy!
By paying attention to these 3 aging factors, and how to fight them by making better choices on a daily basis, you can improve your odds of living a longer, healthier, and more enjoyable life.
To your health (and youthfulness),
* Source: Anti-Aging News Daily