In the year 2000, only about 72,000 Americans were 100 or older. But by the middle of this century,that number could skyrocket to 834,000. |
People are living longer partly because of our success in preventing childhood diseases like polio, as well as finding new treatments and prevention strategies for adult conditions such as heart disease. But it's also because scientists are unlocking the secrets of aging itself. We're finding out why our bodies brake down and how to put the brakes on our own destruction. In the process, we're expending not only our life spans, but also what scientists call our health spans - the number of years we can expect to live in robust, good health.
The Power of Antioxidants Researchers know now that one of the most important contributors to heart disease, wrinkles, cancer,arthritis, and many of the other problems of aging is the dame process that causes a variety of objects around us to deteriorate. It's called oxidation. Through a series of chemical changes, oxygen molecules in our body lose electrons, making them unstable. These unstable molecules are called free radicals.
To keep the destructive process under control, nature provides an enormous arsenal of antioxidants,which are compounds in foods that can stop free radicals from doing harm. Antioxidants come between free radicals and your body's healthy cells, offering up their own electrons and preventing yours from doing harm.
Besides your body's natural antioxidant system, the antioxidants in food gives you an extra powerful boost to protect against free radicals. Three of the best known antioxidants in food are beta-carotene,vitamin C and E. Although you can get some protection from antioxidants supplements, most doctors agree that the antioxidants in foods are a better choice and should be your first line of defense.
Future Youth Although it's important to eat well to prevent aging, you also need to adjust your eating habits as you age. With passing years, your nutritional needs can change dramatically.
Many of us experience changes in taste and appetite as we get older, so we may eat less. We also have less stomach acid, which means that we don't digest foods or absorb some nutrients as we used to. Vitamin B12 is essential to maintain healthy blood and nerve function. You can get plenty of vitamin B12 in meat and other animal foods.
In addition to a B12 deficiency, many people in their late fifties and older may be deficient in vitamin B6. Chickpeas and potatoes are great sources of B6. Another B vitamin that is important for protection of the cardiovascular and nervous systems is folate, which is found in green vegetables, beans and whole grains. Asparagus is a good source of folate, as one cup of cooked fresh asparagus containing 263 mg folate.
As bones get older, it's essential to get some extra calcium and vitamin D, to prevent them from becoming brittle. Many older people believe that they can't eat dairy foods because they're “lactose intolerant”. But in fact, most people can eat moderate amounts of dairy without trouble. One cup of fat-free yogurt contains 415 mg of calcium, or 41% of the daily value (DV).
Iron is one of several minerals that can be hard to get in the correct amounts. Some people don't get enough, while others get too much. Women's need for iron declines when they get older after they stop menstruating.
To ensure you're getting the right amounts of nutrients, it's best to talk to your doctor to find out whether or not you need to take additional supplements of certain nutrients, like iron, calcium,vitamins D and B12.
Living longer by eating less Although we may need to eat more of certain foods in order to live longer, researchers are finding that the opposite can also be true: People who eat less may live longer. Researchers have long known that a concept called "calorie restriction" - essentially taking in fewer calories - extends the lives and helps slow down age-related diseases in a variety of creatures.
Now scientists are working to learn more about how calorie restriction may help humans age better. A Louisiana State University study followed 48 people for 6 months as they either followed a normal diet or different types of calorie restricted diets. It found that prolonged calorie-restriction can lower people's fasting insulin levels and their body temperature, which are both markers of longevity.
Experts think that calorie restriction "resets" your metabolism so it works more efficiently, and your body shifts its focus from growth and reproduction to long-term survival. And when you take in fewer calories, your body naturally produces fewer free radicals as it turns food into energy. Thus, you have less oxidative damage.
A good way to potentially get some benefit from calorie restriction is to make sure that you eat a "prudent" diet that provide the nutrients you need without excessive calories. If you do decide to restrict your calories, talk to your doctor to make sure your diet meets your nutritional needs.
Age better with fewer AGEs Researchers are discovering that substances called "advanced glycation endproducts" or AGEs - may be linked to a variety of age-related problems, like wrinkles, cataracts, and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits blocking your arteries). AGEs result from sugar attaching to proteins, which causes protiens in your body tissues to develop unwanted linkages between them, altering their ability to function normally. They also contribute to extra inflammation and oxidative damage in your body.
AGEs can develop within your body, particularly when you have high blood sugar, and you can also take them in through the foods you eat. Research has shown that foods that are particularly high in AGEs include meats that have been cooked at high temperatures by frying or broiling.
To cut down on AGEs related damage in your body, it's a wise idea to keep your blood sugar in a normal range. If you have diabetes, be sure to keep your blood sugar well controlled. If you heve prediabetes, talk to your doctor about using diet and exercise to lower your risk of developing full-blown diabetes.
And be sure that your diet relies heavely on foods that are low in AGEs, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat dairy. Be careful with foods high in AGEs, such as meats cooked at high temperatures, processed foods, and full-fat cheeses, and eat them more sparingly.
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aging, living longer, antioxidants, free radicals, nutritional needs, Vit B6 & B12, folate, calcium, AGE, blood sugar,