Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Add Life to Your Years: Healthy Choices for Graceful Aging

Dear Readers,

Todd Humphrey, Practice Manager of Vaughan Integrative Medicine, compiled the information in this article. He hopes at least some of it will make sense to you. Take the parts that work for you and discard the rest. Except the part about eating avocado; everyone should eat avocado! If you don’t like avocado, you should meditate on the reasons why. 
- Dr. Vaughan

If you search the internet for “Healthy Aging,” you’ll find more than 18 million entries for websites and online articles that promote achieving a higher quality of life as your body ages. From a holistic view, healthy aging encompasses much more than just the physical body; being healthy includes having a body capable of enjoying daily adventures, having an active mind, and engagement in social activities, sound financial planning, and personal spiritual practice. The sooner one starts to create balance the easier it is to create habits that support a life marked with vitality. Life, in all your years! Here are some ideas to help you get started on a path of graceful aging.

The Physical Body
Healthy aging starts with taking care of your physical body by making sure you fuel it with the proper nutrients and foods that boost metabolism, support brain function, and reinforce bone density. Fill your meals with colorful, fresh vegetables matched with lean proteins and enjoy sweets in moderation. When possible, choose desserts of fresh fruit or sweets that are low in processed sugars. Avoid all sodas and sugar-filled beverages like sweet tea; instead choose herbal teas, filtered water, or even filtered water that is flavored with fresh fruit or vegetable slices. Keeping the body well-hydrated and avoiding blood sugar spikes is a key to heath. Healthy eating has been credited for lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension.

While there is insufficient research to convince the National Institutes of Health that food and diet, along with lifestyle choices, can prevent Alzheimer’s, many researchers believe that certain foods do support a healthy brain. Foods considered fuel for a healthy brain include: 
  • Foods high in Vitamin E, such as healthy vegetable-based oils like olive and coconut oil 
  • Fish, like salmon, that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and DHA--a vital nutrient for the functioning of neurons in the brain 
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and broccoli, are also high in Vitamin E and include a healthy dose of folate (believed to help break down homocysteine levels preventing nerve cell damage in the brain)
  • Avocados, which--in addition to Vitamin E--are full of the antioxidant Vitamin C
  • Almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds
  • Blueberries, strawberries and acai berries
In addition to a menu focused on nutrient-rich, colorful vegetables and lean meats, there is also great value in supplementing the diet with quality nutritional supplements. Choose a quality multivitamin as a foundation. There are different formulations of multivitamins for both men and women that focus on their different nutritional needs as they age. In addition, using essential minerals and a probiotic supplement can help support the digestive function so that you get the best absorption of the nutrients in your food. If you experience premature graying of your hair, talk with your doctor about checking your bone density; studies indicate that there is a correlation between premature graying and an increased risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis. If you have bone loss, consider adding a calcium supplement to reduce the risk of breaks and fractures that can interrupt your graceful aging.

Maintaining an active lifestyle helps keep you youthful! Regular exercise or energetic activities are shown to increase mood and help keep people healthy. Make a priority of exercising at least three days a week for at least thirty minutes; do more if you’re able. This can include walking when the weather permits, participating in a yoga class to keep you limber, or taking up biking. Some people may enjoy weight training, golf, or tennis. If you enjoy being in or around water, take up swimming, a water aerobics class, or go kayaking with friends. Talk with your doctor and/or a fitness professional about your lifestyle to find an exercise program that will work for you. Find the activities that you enjoy so you will be motivated to continue doing them. When possible, make exercising an adventure to keep it interesting and to keep your mind engaged!

An Active Mind
Keeping an active mind is imperative for adding life to your years. Research suggests that engaging in life-long learning results in better mental and psychological health. To keep your mind active, look for educational opportunities like university and community college offerings, classes with senior centers and arts organizations, or at local churches and synagogues. At the very least, limit your exposure to television and instead invest your time in crossword puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, or find a renewed interest in coloring in an adult coloring book. Rediscover the public library in your community or join (or start) a book club.

Part of the joy in maintaining an active mind is discovering the freedom you can experience in meditation. Regardless of the spiritual tradition, religion, or choice to be atheist, meditation offers an opportunity to clear the mind and truly be present while life is occurring. Meditation of only 20 minutes a day offers many benefits, including stress and anxiety reduction. Visit http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/ for a list of 76 ways that meditation can improve your health and well-being.