Aging information in the form of books, videos and the Internet abound, providing information about how you can stay young and live longer. Almost everyone is interested in a long life and looking and feeling younger. However, Ponce De Leone no longer lives, traveling the land in search of the “fountain of youth”. Instead, the aging process is being studied intensively by researchers looking at genes, cells, hormones, eating patterns and other factors that give a clue of what causes aging and how it can be prevented or delayed.
Aging: Three strategies to reduce the effects
Researchers on aging have continued to identify three strategies that help people live longer and healthier. The strategies include exercising, following certain types of diets and eating fewer calories.
Almost everyone is aware of the benefits of exercise and recognize that people who exercise are healthier than those who do not. Exercise contributes many health benefits including improving and maintaining the ability to function, helping to sustain a healthy level of weight and preventing or postponing various disorders such as diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Aging studies have also concluded that people who eat a low-fat diet which includes fruits and vegetables are much healthier than people who eat a diet higher in fat and starch. It has been found that people who live in the Mediterranean countries and consume the so-called Mediterranean diet seem to live longer. This diet is believed to be healthier then the diets of individuals living in northern Europe and America, as it consists of more grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and less red meat. Also, the main fat consumed is olive oil which contains many vitamins and monounsaturated fat rather than saturated fat. Monounsaturated fats do not increase cholesterol levels like the saturated fats do and seem to have little negative effect on the aging process.
Aging has also been found to be affected by a low-calorie diet in general. A low-calorie diet over your lifetime may lead to a longer life as it tends to reduce the number of certain damaging substances in your body. Research on the aging process continues to find that these substances, called free radicals, are the natural byproducts of normal cellular activity. The damage done to cells by free radicals is considered to contribute to such disorders as coronary artery disease and cancer.
Utilizing these three strategies to reduce the effects of aging would require a change in lifestyle for most people. However, many people in our society look for shorter and easier ways to prevent or slow the aging process. Some, for example, try to manage free radicals using antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins C and E. Some people take large amounts of these vitamins in the form of supplements in the hope of slowing the aging process. Other antioxidants such as beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), are also frequently taken. In theory, the use of antioxidants to reduce aging actually makes sense. However, current studies have not found that high doses of the antioxidants prevent or slow the aging process.
Aging is also affected by decreases in certain hormones. Some people try to delay or slow the aging process by taking supplements of these hormones including testosterone, estrogen, DHEA, human growth hormone and melatonin. However, whether hormonal supplements actually affect the aging process is still to be determined. Also, some of these supplements have known health risks.
Some people have a belief that some of the Eastern practices such as yoga, tai chi and qigong can slow the aging process. These practices are based upon holistic theory that health involves the whole person including the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual components, which need to be kept in balance. These practices also may include relaxation, breathing techniques, diet, meditation and exercise. These practices are safe for older people and probably will increase the level of health. But, whether these practices actually affect the aging process still need to be determined.
Some information from The Merck Manual of Health of Aging
Additional information and article by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist (Health Psychology)