Real Age Versus Chronological Age and How to Impact the Rate at Which You Age..
Aging is a natural part of life. Although we all age, the rate at which each person ages can be variable based on a number of factors. Your biological age may in fact be lower or higher than your actual chronological age. Some of the factors are within your control, and some are not. Let’s look at those factors and consider what we can do to impact the rate at which we age in a positive way. And consider whether we can reduce or eliminate factors that age us prematurely.
Let’s start with genetics: Genetics are going to impact your aging rate and you should pay attention to and keep an inventory of your immediate relatives and their health issues. This can help you understand and possibly even predict the things you may be predisposed to. There are tests out there that can give you an actual picture of what genes you carry for certain health issues. Some prefer not to know this information as it may cause anxiety. If you do choose to go this route and find out, you can use the information in a positive way to adjust your lifestyle choices to help reduce the chances of succumbing to a genetically predisposed malady. Keep in mind that not all genetic problems can be overcome with healthy habits and weigh whether the anxiety and stress of knowing this information may impact your mindset and health negatively.
Diet: We hear so much about eating healthy and losing weight which is important to many. However, we should be looking at diet not just from an aesthetic perspective, but also from an aging perspective. Do the foods you put into your body daily help or hurt your metabolism, your brain health and tax your organs? Our food supply is loaded with things that do absolutely nothing for our health and cause us to age faster. Consider simplifying your diet as you age and eliminating extraneous things that are full of empty calories and preservatives. Start with things like soda chips can, baked goods and candy. You may need to wean off these things slowly as the sugar content in these items is highly addictive. Instead opt for fresh foods that are more colorful and contain things like antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to fuel your body. This may require breaking lifelong habits of indulging in junk foods and possibly working with a nutritionist or joining an online group to learn about healthful eating, and recipes in order to make this lifestyle change easier. You might be surprised at how much better you feel by simply making some healthier dietary choices.
Exercise: It is never too late to begin exercising and moving more. Studies show that people who exercised over their lifetime have the immunity, muscle mass and cholesterol levels of people much younger than themselves. People who exercise regularly defy the aging process. Start small and consider getting a Fitbit or tracker to determine how many steps you are taking in a day. Small changes to start can make a big difference in your energy levels giving you the resolve to add a more strenuous program to your daily routine. Work with a professional and consider setting up a weightlifting routine to combat muscle loss. Muscle loss is a big contributor to falling which is a huge concern for seniors. Most senior communities have some type of gym or fitness center that you can access or look at local gyms and YMCAs for access to weights and equipment. Some seniors have physical issues inhibiting what kind of exercise they can participate in or may be chair bound. Consider yoga or chair yoga for seniors and special programs designed especially for these issues. Not only can yoga help your mobility and strength, but it is a great way to calm stress and have social connection to the local community as you age. It is always best to check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program especially if you have been mostly sedentary. Keep in mind that it takes 30 days to establish a new habit, so don’t give up. Push yourself a little and you may find that the new activities become a highlight in your day.
Sleep: This seems like a no brainer as we all know how terrible we can feel from missing a single night’s sleep. Many of us spent our working years burning the candle at both ends in order to meet out professional obligations, tend to our families and have an active social life in our communities. Studies show that lack of sleep causes our bodies to release more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts cortisol breaks down skin collagen the protein that keeps our skin smooth and elastic. Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little human growth hormone. This causes increased cellular aging making us more susceptible to disease. Older adults 65 and older need on average 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. If you have chronic sleep issues do an immediate assessment and consider whether it may be your diet. Write down everything you eat so you can look back and consider whether certain foods like fatty foods, ice cream, soda and even cheese butter or eggs may be disrupting your digestion and therefore your sleep. Chemicals in foods may also be the culprit regarding sleep disorders. If it is chronic, consider participating in a sleep study to get professional help. Leading a sedentary lifestyle may also be the culprit. Getting outside to feel the wind in our hair and working up a little sweat can go a long way towards a good night’s sleep. Do not just accept lack of sleep as a part of getting older and keep working with your healthcare provider and your wellness coach to determine how you can improve your sleep quality. There are many programs you can listen to help fall asleep as well as soothing yoga poses that are as simple as putting your legs up the wall to calm the nervous system. Lastly, eliminate evening and late-night screen time as it can stimulate the nervous system making it harder to get restful sleep. As always, check with your healthcare provider and doctor before adopting any new activity or making changes to your routine.