Age Gracefully Into Your 50s by Following These 5 Simple Steps
Many of us dread getting older and dream of finding that perfect little anti-aging pill, or the secrets to perfect skin and optimal health. But getting older doesn’t have to be negative. In fact, embracing the transitions into new life stages is part of what might be described as aging gracefully. While there are certain aspects of aging we can’t control, many of the changes that occur in our bodies as we age can be mediated by our everyday choices. What we eat, how we move and how we spend our time can make a noticeable difference not only in how we feel, but also how we look as we age. Here are 5 simple ways you can look and feel your best as you continue through your next stages of life.
Eat your Veggies!
We’ve all being told as children to “Eat your veggies” and – unsurprisingly – this still holds true. A top priority for improving your health - both inside and out - is eating more vegetables. Eat lots. Eat variety. Eat the rainbow.
In the early stages of chronic diseases, there is usually a build-up of what we call oxidative stress damaging the cells of the body1. Luckily our body has internal defenses towards this kind of damage – antioxidants! Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants, as well as vitamins, minerals and phenols that support other important chemical reactions and our immune systems. Other compounds in vegetables benefit skin health: beta-carotene (found in most leafy greens and yellow/orange pigmented fruits and veggies), and chlorophyll (found in dark green leafy veggies, fresh herbs and sprouts) have both been shown to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and UV damage1.
So, vegetables and fruit will help your body function optimally and make you feel better but they will also help you LOOK younger. Remember that it’s always better to try to get our vitamins and minerals straight from the source – real foods! As we know, that’s not always possible and that’s where supplements come in. Your naturopathic doctor can help guide your supplement use by determining your individual needs and deficiencies.
Moderate amounts of exercise have been shown to reduce markers of DNA aging (maintaining telomere length)2. Exercise can benefit many aspects of your health: cardiovascular, improved strength, mental health, and self-esteem. But did you know that it can also reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia? A recent meta-analysis has proven just that –exercise can help maintain our cognitive function as we age3. The benefits are clear, plus that post-workout glow is hard to beat. Find a type of exercise that you enjoy doing and will be able to stick with. Although even regular walking can support good health, many people shy away from more high intensity exercise as they get older. They might be missing out on some fantastic benefits. Activities that involve hard bouts of effort for a short time followed by rest, can help improve aerobic capacity and insulin sensitivity4. Plus, these workouts can be done in a short amount of time! Resistance training has been shown to help reduce risk of muscle wasting but it has additional benefits in terms of helping improve sleep quality and mental health5.
Sleep impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Sufficient quality sleep is important for maintaining healthy weight, concentration, mental health as well as overall well-being6. Poor sleep quality has been linked to worsened memory5 and to the oxidative stress that we mentioned above. Total antioxidant capacity appears to be lower in people who have poor sleep quality7. So, aim for at least 7 hours and try to go to sleep at a similar time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Leave technology out of the bedroom and don’t look at your phone for at least 30 minutes before bed.
Make Time for Friends and Family.
One major predictor of health outcomes that people often take for granted is social support. Carving out time in your busy schedule to spend time with friends or loved ones doesn’t just make you feel all warm and fuzzy— social networks can have significant positive psychological and physiological impacts. Social interactions can contribute to reducing your body’s inflammation and lower your risk of chronic disease8. They can also affect our hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function, positively influencing our stress response and mental health8. It may be time to call up an old friend or join a community group of like-minded people. Better yet, spend some time with others doing something active in the fresh air.
Drink Lots of Water.
Water is important for all of our physiological processes but it has also been shown to be especially relevant in our skin health9,10. Water content of our most superficial skin layer has to be kept in delicate balance with our environment11. Lucky for us, increasing our dietary intake of water can directly impact this balance and positively impact our skin hydration and appearance. Improved hydration in your skin will leave you with a youthful glow. Try to always have your water bottle with you as an accessible source, but also as a reminder to take some sips.
These are just a few of the many ways we can optimize our aging process. A Naturopathic Doctor can provide the support and knowledge to take you another step further and guide your individualized health journey.
Cho, S. (2014). The Role of Functional Foods in Cutaneous Anti-aging. Journal of Lifestyle Medicine,4(1), 8–16.
Østhus, I., Sgura, A., Berardinelli, F., Alsnes, I., Brønstad, E., Rehn, T., Støbakk, P., et al. (2012). Telomere Length and Long-Term Endurance Exercise: Does Exercise Training Affect Biological Age? A Pilot Study. PLoS ONE, 7(12), e52769.
Blondell, S. J., Hammersley-Mather, R., & Veerman, J. L. (2014). Does physical activity prevent cognitive decline and dementia?: A systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. BMC public health, 14(1), 510.
Robinson, M. M., Dasari, S., Konopka, A. R., Johnson, M. L., Manjunatha, S., Esponda, R. R., ... & Nair, K. S. (2017). Enhanced protein translation underlies improved metabolic and physical adaptations to different exercise training modes in young and old humans. Cell Metabolism, 25(3), 581-592.
Tsapanou, A., Gu, Y., O'shea, D. M., Yannakoulia, M., Kosmidis, M., Dardiotis, E., ... & Scarmeas, N. (2017). Sleep quality and duration in relation to memory in the elderly: Initial results from the Hellenic Longitudinal Investigation of Aging and Diet. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 141, 217-225.
Kovacevic, A., Mavros, Y., Heisz, J. J., & Singh, M. A. F. (2017). The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Medicine Reviews.
Seyedsadjadi, N., Berg, J., Bilgin, A., Tung, C., & Grant, R. (2017). Significant relationships between a simple marker of redox balance and lifestyle behaviours; Relevance to the Framingham risk score. PLOS ONE, 12(11), e0187713.
Kim, S., & Thomas, P. A. (2017). Direct and Indirect Pathways From Social Support to Health?. The Journals of Gerontology: Series B.
Jéquier, E., Constant, F. (2010). Water as an essential nutrient: the physiological basis of hydration. Eur J Clin Nutr, 64: 115–123.
Popkin, B.M., Rosenberg I,H. (2010). Water, hydration and health. Nutr Rev, 68: 439–458.
Palma, M. L., Tavares, L., Fluhr, J. W., Bujan, M. J., & Rodrigues, L. M. (2015). Positive impact of dietary water on in vivo epidermal water physiology. Skin Research and Technology, 21(4), 413-418.