As our bodies age, we become vulnerable to a higher risk of a whole myriad of undesirable health conditions, including heart disease, breast and prostate cancer, dementia and arthritis. Unfortunately there is no way to prevent your body from ageing, but we can still slow down its effects in order to live a longer, healthier life.
In order to do this, we need to tackle the four processes involved in ageing: oxidation, sugar, stress and inflammation.
The free radical theory of ageing (FRTA) states that we age because our cells become damaged over time by free radicals. This cell damage impacts on the appearance of our skin and hair, and the condition of our brain amongst other things. Tackle it by maximising antioxidant intake. Free radicals may contribute to the onset of many age-related diseases, but in turn, a high intake of antioxidants neutralises free radicals – stopping them in their tracks. You can manage your intake of antioxidants through a mixture of diet and supplements; however food is the superior source. Dark coloured vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, squash and spinach or berries that are blue or purple in colour work to provide that much needed antioxidant boost. And because we do not always eat as we should, taking daily supplements containing the classic antioxidants vitamin C, and vitamin E will also ensure a good fight back against those free radicals.
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A diet that is high in sugar causes premature ageing and contributes to fat cells around your vital organs – a dangerous component of both diabetes and heart disease. Tackle it by cutting down or cutting it out. In modern day society, sugar has become very hard to avoid, yet as recent as 150 years ago it wasn’t even a factor in our diet! Cutting down on your sugar intake or cutting it out completely is the first step towards preserving your overall health and preventing premature ageing. Overhaul your diet by deciding which sources of sugar can be reduced or cut out completely. Sources of sugar include fast and processed food, ready meals, carbonated drinks, cereals and baked or bread products. Remember that sugar sometimes comes under different guises. Ingredients such as corn sweetener, glucose, fructose, syrup, molasses, and dextrose are all sugar aliases.
When we are stressed, our bodies release stress chemicals (such as cortisol) into our bodies. These create biological changes which break our bodies down over time. Chronic stress impairs our immune, digestive and central nervous systems. Tackle it by exercising daily. Regular exercise comes with so many health benefits, for both mind and body. Physically, it combats the loss of stamina, balance, muscle strength and bone density that increases as you get older. Mentally, exercise helps to get rid of stress and anxiety, and also improves your mood. 30 to 45 minutes of walking a day is enough to increase brain cell growth and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and depression. Exploring your spiritual side could also help lower your stress levels. Taking time out each day for mediation or prayer has been shown to help those suffering from severe stress or depression. Alternatively, wind down and relax by listening to music, getting lost in a book or by taking a bath.
Ageing is one of the biggest risk factors of inflammation, which is a starting point for dehibiliting illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, stroke and cancer. Tackle it by controlling your diet. A diet that is rich in trans-fatty acids (found in processed foods such as biscuits and cakes), carbohydrates and sugar, drives inflammation-causing chemicals in the body. On the other hand, a diet with plenty of vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish) should keep inflammation at bay. Any intolerance towards lactose or gluten can lead to chronic inflammation if ignored. For example, continuing to take dairy produce if you are lactose intolerant is akin to putting diesel petrol into an unleaded engine. The body will treat it as a hostile invader and your immune system – the cause behind inflammation – will kick into gear. Water and green tea should be your drinks of choice. Drinking five or more glasses of water a day keeps skin young and youthful, and decreases your risk of heart disease, whereas green tea is anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, and pro-weight loss.