If I were to tell you that you can achieve reverse aging, would you believe me?
I can imagine some eyebrows being raised here, but the fact is that it’s possible. It’s not some sort of trick. We know that we can’t change our birth date. The year of our birth is fixed. There’s no work-around for that. But your physical aging?… That can be slowed and reversed by making changes to benefit your health. That’s pretty encouraging news, I’d say.
Reasons for Aging
Before we can look at how to slow and reverse aging, let’s look at the reasons why we get old. Aging is a progressive process of natural change that begins at the time of conception and accelerates at about age 21. By middle age, many body functions begin to slow down and decrease in efficiency. Of course, it’s a little different from one person to the next, but from early adulthood, we are all aging, at various rates, together.
There are many factors that attribute to how we age. If I put a group of 8 year-olds in a room and asked you to guess their ages, you’d have no difficulty. If I put a group of 50 year-olds in a room, your guesses would be in a broader range and you’d probably make some rather surprising mistakes. The reason is that our bodies show our lifestyles, attitudes and experiences. Our personal histories play a part in why one 50 year-old might look 40, while another may look 60.
Behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sun exposure, sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, and stress are factors that take their toll on our body’s abilities to repair itself. Combine these behaviors with the natural aging process and you have an increased rate of declining health and premature aging.
- Your Chronological age or birth date does not make much difference to your health. It is merely a number that we put on forms to identify some legal, financial, or social service eligibility. It is also used to predict particular health changes that are more likely to occur as we get older. For example, In women, our age is often an indicator of the onset of menopause
- Biological age is our physical age and is largely impacted by our lifestyles and to a lesser degree, our uncontrollable health risk factors. The uncontrollable risk factors are those that we inherit from our ancestors. The most significant differences between people of a similar age and heritage are due to lifestyles and habits.
- Controllable Health Risk Factors
- Eating Habits/Alcohol Consumption
- Sun Exposure
- Uncontrollable Health Risk Factors
- Genetic Gender
- Birth Date
- Controllable Health Risk Factors
- Psychological age is based on how people act and feel. For example, an 80-year-old who works, plans, looks forward to future events, and participates in many activities is considered psychologically young.
– Increase your Activity Level
Exercise has been proven to reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and certain types of cancers. Staying healthy longer slows your physiological aging by not depleting your body of the resources it would otherwise need to use for fighting chronic illnesses. Become familiar with Canada’s Physical Activity Guide and aim to meet the weekly exercise recommendations for healthy benefits.
– Choose to Eat Healthier Foods
Diet is not just about reducing calories and losing weight. More importantly, it is the quality of the calories you consume. A calorie is a calorie, but 250 calories of low nutrient, junk food, is not going to nourish your cells and satisfy your hunger compared to 250 calories of nutrient rich vegetables, for example.
There are many plans available to help with weight loss and healthier eating. In fact, there is a crazy number of diets and philosophies on what constitutes a healthy, life prolonging diet these days that is can be daunting. Consult your Canada Food Guide or Choose My Plate for the USA food guide as good starting points.
– Reduce Alcohol Intake
Drinking too much can seriously affect your health. Alcohol can affect how your brain works. It can affect moods and behaviors. It puts you at a higher risk for heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, irregular heart beat, and cardiomyopathy (stretching and sagging of the heart muscle). Your liver is at risk of developing fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. Alcohol also increases your chance of developing some cancers. Pancreatitis and a suppressed immune system are among other conditions that can ruin your health and age you prematurely.
– Improve Sleep Quality
At some point in our lives, we have all experienced a poor night’s sleep and the groggy low functioning feeling that follows the next day. Lack of sleep impacts your mood, memory, weight, and even your looks. There is no denying that as we get older, some of us have increased difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. There are many techniques to help induce sleep. Some suggestions are:
- Drinking a calming herbal tea before going to bed
- Turn off the laptop, TV and tablets at least 30 minutes before trying to sleep
- Read a book
- Keep a cool bedroom
- Set a regular bedtime and wake up time.
You might also want to discuss some possible underlying causes of your sleep loss with your doctor or naturopath to discover other techniques and treatments that could help you.
– Quit Smoking
This is the one that really gets me ranting because I still have a couple of persistent smokers in my family. As much as I love them and worry about their health, I’m grateful that we don’t live under the same roof. So before I starting blustering, let me extol the benefits of quitting.
When you quit smoking, your body starts to experience changes within 20 minutes. Your blood pressure and heart rate begin to return to normal. Other changes soon follow:
- 8 hours – your blood oxygen level returns to normal and nicotine and carbon monoxide levels are reduced by more than 50%
- 24 hours – carbon monoxide has been cleared from your body and your lungs start clearing out mucous and ash
- 48 hours – all nicotine has been removed from your body and your taste buds and sense of smell are improved
- 72 hours – it becomes easier to breathe and your energy levels increase.
- 2 to 12 weeks – physical activity becomes easier due to improvement in your circulatory system
- 3 to 9 months – lung function is increased by up to 10%.
- 1 year – heart attack risk is reduced by 50%
- 5 years – heart attack risk drops to about half that of a smoker.
- 10 years – risk of lung cancer drops to half that of a smoker and risk of heart attack reaches the same level as someone who has never smoked.
When you stop smoking, you also experience healthier looking skin, whiter teeth and fresher breath. All of which add to a more youthful looking you.
– Be a Lifelong Learner
Stimulate your brain by learning new skills. Take a course, start a new hobby (like starting a blog), or switch up your daily routines to keep your mind engaged. Puzzles like Sudoku and crosswords have also proven to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.
We cannot stop time, but we can slow the way that the passage of time impacts our bodies and our lives. We are fortunate to live in an era when there is so much information and support to help us start our personal battle with aging. Any healthy improvement, no matter how small, will be a step closer to looking, feeling, and being physiologically and psychologically younger. As we start to feel better, we are encouraged by our accomplishments and will want to do more.
Be the best version of you.