As society continues to evolve with time, the burdens put on our bodies will be ever changing as well. Life expectancy has risen substantially over the years and with age, often comes the onset of a variety of diseases. The World Health Organization defines healthy aging as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” The quality of our health depends on several factors including heredity and environmental factors, as well as personal choices like diet and exercise.
The process of aging is no doubt inevitable, but the severity of decline during the years of aging does not have to be so burdensome. There are various preventative measures that can help your body slow the decline the comes with aging. Health is multifaceted, and it can be impacted through the maintenance of many systems that are constantly interacting. At the forefront of understanding the process of aging, it is important to understand the natural decline in production of many molecules that give us the “umph” of life. However, if one can target the decline and supplement what is not being naturally produced, the process of aging can take a different course. This article attempts to discuss some aspects of aging and provide examples of how to naturally and effectively approach these changes.
The first system that most encounter, either looking in the mirror or at those around us, is the skin. Celebrities revealing their “secrets” to looking younger are the covers of trendy magazines seen at check out lines in grocery stores. There are many life practices that aid in the preservation of healthy skin, such as staying adequately hydrated and minimizing excessive sun exposure. Healthy skin also requires certain vitamins and minerals that can easily be obtained naturally through a healthy diet full of colorful fruits and vegetables and for many, supplementation.
Moving deeper, you next encounter the mind. Yet again, this can be a clue into the progression of age. There are countless products that are part of anti-aging protocols being advertised. The brain and all the nerves through the body are composed of a fatty material called myelin sheath. It allows quick transmission of nerve impulses when the nerves are adequately “wrapped” in this sheath. One specific natural nutrient stressed for this integrity is omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids, which encompass both EPA and DHA, may be effective at reducing inflammation and supporting healthy brain function.
As the nervous system utilizes neurotransmitters to send messages along nerves, our endocrine system manages our physiology through hormones. The levels of both neurotransmitters and hormones can experience declines in production as we age. For example, levels of sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, are lowered significantly once a woman goes through menopause (thus a reason many women pursue hormone therapy during menopausal years). This age-related change of production mirrors other patterns that occur in the body’s physiology. Many have heard of dopamine as our “reward center neurotransmitter” it increases when we eat chocolate or have sex. Dopamine levels will decline through the normal aging process by about 10% per decade. To create dopamine, one needs to consume sufficient amounts of tyrosine, an amino acid. Foods rich in tyrosine include milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, peanuts, almonds, and more, but one can also buy compounded products that include the tyrosine (as the precursor to dopamine), along with various vitamins that serve as the cofactors to actually synthesize this neurotransmitter.
Another vital part of healthy aging encompasses your heart health. In our current society with the standard American diet, it is very unlikely that you do not personally know someone on a lipid lowering or blood pressure-lowering medication. Obviously aging will be more graceful if these issues are prevented entirely through healthy diet and exercise, but many need another bit of assistance along the way, especially with age-related decline in various protective molecules.
There are many natural options to promoting overall health and encouraging healthy energy metabolism throughout the body, without side effects from medications that will compromise quality of life is one of them.
Aging almost always connotes decline in our society; we see it as something we need to prevent and reverse. As aging is technically inevitable, I invite you to do so gracefully through understanding and supporting the systems of your body that have lost some strength along the way.