People are living longer, partly because 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 have found out why our bodies break down and how to put the brakes on our own destruction. In the process we are expanding not only our life spans, but also what scientists call: our health span. “We are living too short and dying too long.” – Dr. Myron Wentz. |
The Antioxidant power Researchers discovered that one of the most important causes of heart disease, cancer, wrinkles, arthritis and many of the other problems that comes with aging, is the same process that makes an apple turn brown and our body cells to break down and age, it’s called oxidation.
Through a series of chemical changes, oxygen molecules in our bodies lose electrons, making them unstable. These unstable molecules are called free radicals. By raving attempts to stabilize themselves, free radicals steel electrons from healthy cells throughout your body. Every time they steal an electron, two things happen: A healthy molecule is damaged, and more free radicals are created. Free radicals can damage the DNA of your cells, proteins in tissues throughout your body, and other components that make you function properly. Unless this process is stopped, more and more cells are damaged every day, and your health pays the price.
Nature provides an enormous arsenal of antioxidants in order to keep this damaging process under control. These 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 of being stolen.
Although your body maintains its own antioxidant system naturally, the antioxidants in foods gives you a powerful boost of extra protection against free radicals. “But if you understand the tremendous damage that oxidative stress inflicts during normal daily life on the human body, you realize how important it is to optimize your own natural defense system. Your health and life depend on it. Through my research I learned that the strongest defense against these diseases is our bodies’ own natural antioxidant and immune systems. These are far superior than drugs I can prescribe.” “I concluded after much study that using nutritional supplementation on patients is not alternative medicine but is instead complementary medicine,” Dr. Ray Strand.M.D.
Some studies have found that vitamin E may help to protect you from heart disease, and beta-carotene and selenium ( a mineral that’s an ingredient in some of your body’s antioxidant enzymes) may help lower your risk of some cancers.
The quickest way to get vitamin C is to have a glass of grapefruit juice or an orange. For beta-carotene, deep green or bright orange fruits and vegetables are the best source. One sweet potato or a large carrot delivers between 12 and 15 mg , more than the 6 to 10 mg that some experts recommend we should get. Unlike vitamin C and beta-carotene, vitamin E is a bit trickier to get from foods because it’s found mainly in high-fat foods, such as vegetable oils, which we’d rather avoid. But you can still get quite a bit of vitamin E from dry roasted almonds. As one ounce provide 7 mg or 40% of the DV. Other nuts and seeds are also good sources of vitamin E. And some breakfast cereals offer nearly 100% of the vitamin E that you need each day in each serving.
Apart from Vitamin C, E and beta-carotene, which are important antioxidants, fruits and vegetables are also loaded with compounds called phytochemicals, which can also have antioxidant abilities. More than 9,000 phytochemicals are identified and many more are still unknown. Research has found that phytochemical extracts taken from fruits demonstrate anti-cancer power, and the combination of these chemicals in fruits and vegetables adds to their antioxidant and cancer-fighting ability.
Adjust your eating habits as you age. As you get older, your nutritional needs can change significantly. “As we age, we produce less saliva, and our swallowing reflexes slow down, as a result, food may not be as easy to digest and swallow,” says Susan A. Nitzke, PhD, R.D. professor in the nutritional sciences department at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. “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 well as we used to.” An Israeli study looked at 414 elderly patients in hospitals found that less than 20% were well nourished. Nutritional deficiencies in older people can be misdiagnosed as dementia. Vitamin 12 is essential for maintaining healthy blood and nerve function. It’s also one of the nutrients that requires adequate amounts of stomach secretions in order to be absorbed. When acid levels decline, getting enough vitamin B12 can be a problem, says Dr. Nitzke. In addition to a B12 deficiency, many people in their late fifties and older may be deficient in vitamin B6. Chickpeas and potatoes are a good source to get vitamin B6. A cup of chickpeas contains 1.1 mg, or slightly more that half of the DV. Another B vitamin that’s important for protecting the cardiovascular and nervous systems is folate, which is found in green vegetables, beans and whole grains. A cup of canned pinto beans, for example, provides 144 micro grams of folate, which is more than 33% of the DV. As bones get older, it’s essential to get extra calcium and vitamin D to prevent them from becoming brittle, says Dr. Nitzke. “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,” she says. Low-fat and fat-free (skim) milk, cheese, and yogurt are your best sources of calcium. One cup of fat-free yogurt contains 415 mg of the bone-building nutrient, or 41% of the DV.
Eat less, 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. 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. As a result, you have less oxidative damage. However, it’s hard for humans to reap the benefits from calorie reduction that lab animals have shown. Tests on monkeys lower their calorie intake by about 30%. For those of us who like to eat, that’s probably not to be a viable strategy. In addition, drastically reducing your calories without medical supervision can leave you mal nourished.
For now, a good way to get some benefits from calorie reduction is to make sure that you eat a “prudent” diet that provides 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 including wrinkles, cataracts, and atherosclerosis (which are fatty deposits blocking your arteries). AGEs result from sugar attaching to proteins, which causes proteins in your 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 ha shown that foods that are particularly high in AGEs include meats that have been cooked at high temperatures by frying or boiling.
To limit AGE-related damage in your body, it’s wise to keep your blood sugar in a normal range. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about using diet and exercise to lower your risk of developing full-blown diabetes.
Make sure that your diet consists of foods that are low in AGEs, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat dairy products. Be careful with foods high in AGEs, such as meets cooked at high temperatures, processed foods, and full-fat cheeses, and eat them more sparingly.
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antioxidants, vitamin E, vitamin E, beta-carotene, folate, calorie-restriction, AGEs,