Establishing Your “Healthy Aging” Plan

Learn from the Okinawans & the People of the Mediterranean!

First and foremost — slow down. Relax a little. Definitely don’t stress about it!

Now, take a leisurely but long and honest look at your lifestyle. While you’re relaxing is a good time to ask yourself: Is the way I eat fostering “old age” or is it promoting Healthy Aging?

A sensible way to assess the contribution your nutritional practices are making to your ability to age healthfully is to compare them to the information in our healthy aging posts.

Then, in a stepwise fashion, think about making incremental changes to your habits that will lead you down the path of health and wellness. Think of the core elements that we’ve talked about time and again. These include the fundamentals of diet, lifestyle, and nutritional therapy. Now, thinking about each one, assess where you may be deficient and then give some thought to incorporating healthy principles into your daily living.

Taking it one step further, your therapeutic nutritional regimen should work as follows: the foundational nutrients should include a high-quality, complete multivitamin and multimineral formula that has sufficient levels of essential nutrients and includes additional antioxidants. Given the immense benefits of essential fatty acids from fish oil, these should be a part of the foundational plan. A high-potency, purified fish oil product is best. In addition to these supplements, a final one to include in this foundation is a probiotic bacterial supplement that contains multiple friendly strains and that is certified to contain what it states on the label.

Now reassess your dietary habits and your lifestyle, along with any specific areas of need or support you have, and build on your foundation based on your needs. For example, if you’re not getting adequate levels of antioxidants in your diet, you may need to add additional ones. This can be accomplished in many ways, including by adding a greens drink to your regimen. Furthermore, if you need to support your joints, cognitive function, or heart health, you would add nutrients specifically targeted to those areas. In this way, you start with the fundamental core of nutrients and then add based on your individual situation. This ensures you achieve the comprehensive support you are looking for in order to age healthfully. Lastly, if you need guidance, don’t hesitate to check with your naturopathic physician or nutritionally-informed healthcare practitioner. It could be the wisest investment you’ll ever make. So, if you need help, ask for it!

Tier I — Diet and Lifestyle

Most of the food you eat should consist of fruits and vegetables as well as some whole grains (but not too many grain-based foods; they pack a sizeable caloric wallop). Five servings of fruits and five servings of vegetables every day will go a long way toward keeping you healthy. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables — during the course of a week, your 35 servings of fruits should include at least 10 different kinds of fruit — go ahead and stretch your sense of adventure beyond apples, oranges and bananas. Eat some blueberries, fresh grapes, pineapple, papaya — you get the idea.

The same for vegetables — 35 servings a week, with 5 or fewer being any form of potatoes. Carrots, lettuce and tomatoes are great — but use your imagination. Replace a plate of fries with a bell pepper (green, red, yellow or orange) stuffed with mushrooms. Rotate different varieties of squash and zucchini. Cucumbers aren’t just for sandwiches. And olives — how can you go wrong? Don’t be afraid to actually try some of those “unusual” vegetables available in the stores. Eat a rainbow of colors, as those colors represent something healthy that your body has an essential need for.

Get adequate amounts of protein in your diet. Try to remember that the healthiest protein sources for human adults do not come from mammals. You’ve heard this before — fish every day, poultry several times a week and eggs as often as you like. View dairy foods (even the so-called “fat-free” ones) as beverages or sweet treats and not as components of a healthy diet. Eat very lean red meats on occasion to add some variety to meals, but don’t fall into the “meat and potatoes” trap. And don’t forget — beans and legumes are a great substitute for animal protein once in a while.

Snack on raw nuts and seeds as they are good sources of essential, healthy fats. Don’t overdo it, though. They are calorie-rich.

Forget salt and sugar — you’ll get all you need and then some from the fruits and vegetables that form the base of your relationship to food. Add spices to spice up your life — switch to some real taste enhancers — herbs, spices such as turmeric, ginger, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper — condiments that taste great, are less filling and are health-promoting.

Lastly, don’t forget the importance of establishing a routine regimen of physical activity and exercise. Alternate this with a spiritual practice or some form of meditation, such as yoga. These routines will help you cope with daily stress.

Tier II — Your Nutrition Insurance Policy

Of course, day-to-day life has its ups and downs, and it’s not realistic to plan on always being able to keep up with your dietary ideals, no matter how motivated and well-intentioned you may be. Besides, there’s no way you can maximize your nutritional health through foods alone — you just can’t eat a dozen oranges, snack on a bushel of wild berries or wolf down 5 pounds of even the tastiest broiled salmon every day. Or even every other day. Also realize that the nutritional value of our foods has decreased over the years due to irregularities in soil nutrient content, over-planting and over-harvesting.

In the real world, everyone needs a nutritional insurance policy — and individualized, carefully selected and targeted high-quality dietary supplements are the answer.

As we discussed above, the “basic” policy is provided by a superior multivitamin, multimineral supplement. Daily use will smooth out the fluctuations in your needs and food choices and can fill in any temporary gaps that might occur on any particular day.

In general, a superior vitamin and mineral supplement for an adult should provide:

  • Vitamin A
  • Thiamin
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Biotin
  • Folic Acid
  • Pantothenic acid
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K
  • Calcium
  • Chromium
  • Iodine
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Molybdenum
  • Potassium

In addition to a superior multivitamin and multimineral supplement, you should add supplemental fish oil and a probiotic supplement. Quality products are essential to ensure you’re getting all of the good they offer and none of the bad – in terms of contamination, rancidity, certified strains, etc.

Beyond that, give consideration to adding a “whole foods” dietary supplement containing fruit and vegetable extracts or powders, if your dietary habits haven’t reached the healthy plateau yet. A fun and refreshing alternative is a “whole foods” liquid beverage packed with all of these nutrients plus a broad spectrum of phytochemicals, the dietary fiber of fruits and vegetables, and the other, so far unidentified, healthy food factors that nicely complement the purified vitamins and minerals in your basic supplement. A couple of these drinks a day can make up for any servings of fruits or vegetables you might happen to miss.

Tier III — Individualize and Target Your Coverage

The judicious selection and then faithful consumption of other dietary supplementation will allow you to focus on your greatest personal concerns. Want extra immune support? A concentrated bioflavonoid mix may be helpful. Joint support? Think glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, etc. If heart health concerns you, you may want to include CoQ10 and alphalipoic acid, among others in your daily “Tier III” supplemental nutrition plan for Healthy Aging. Looking for an edge in mental performance, memory, mental clarity, quick thinking? Consider folic acid, the omega-3 fish oils EPA and DHA, dark green leafy vegetables, blueberries, phosphatidylserine, N-acetylcysteine, vinpocetine and other brain-friendly phytonutrients.

Need help deciding? Consult a naturopathic physician or nutritionally-oriented health care practitioner.

Despite what you may want to think, it is impossible to take every supplement that could help improve your health. That’s why the basis of your nutrition plan for Healthy Aging is healthy food choices. Your dietary habits are of the utmost importance. Nonetheless, everyone can benefit from first identifying their own most urgent needs and then targeting their personalized nutrition plan for Healthy Aging accordingly.

Healthy Aging — Go For It!

Although Mark Twain said, “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d druther not,” when you embrace a positive lifestyle — eating healthfully, exercising moderately and joyfully filled with a sense of purpose, passion and social engagement — you will find that Healthy Aging is a journey well worth pursuing.

A Blueprint for Healthy Aging

  • A healthy diet is the foundation of healthy aging.
  • Fill in the gaps with individualized and targeted dietary supplementation.
  • Build on that core with daily physical activity and exercise.
  • Never use tobacco products and drink red wine at dinner and in moderation.
  • Embrace your life as it is, and let a desire to improve — not ambition — guide you.
  • Become inspired by whatever makes you truly happy and fulfilled
  • Turn your back on stress and learn to relax.
  • Turn toward the meaningful people in your life and allow their love and friendship to restore your energy.
  • Rekindle your trust in others.
  • Exercise your mind and challenge it to retain a positive outlook and attitude.
  • Laugh once in a while and smile often.
  • Maintain balance in all things.
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Walking has increased benefits

A recent study shows that walking may have the same or greater benefit as running in terms of reducing an individual’s risk of heart problems and diabetes, according to a report from the American Heart Association.

There are advantages to walking
The report explains a study led by Paul Williams, Ph.D., which looked at participants in two groups: Individuals from the National Runners’ Health Study and people from the National Walkers’ Health Study. The energy used by walkers was equal to that of runners, and both groups similarly reduced their risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and coronary heart disease through the exercise.

The specific results also showed that walking may have been more beneficial than running. The individuals reported their energy expenditure through walking or running and researchers compared this to their medical records.

While running reduced the risk of hypertension by 4.2 percent in individuals, walking did so by 7.2 percent. In terms of reducing high cholesterol and coronary heart disease, walking had almost double the effectiveness in patients than running. The reduced risk of diabetes was about the same between the two groups.

“Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities,” said Williams, quoted by the AHA.

Running may be more efficient
As they both reduce the risk of heart problems, individuals can choose between walking and running in their daily routines.

A report published by MedPage Today explains the intensity differences between walking and running. Walking is grouped in the “moderate intensity” category while running falls in the “vigorous” group.

Those individuals who run, according to Williams, can expel double the energy that walkers do in an hour. When a runner and a walker cover the same distance, they use equal amounts of energy. However, the time it takes for the runners to do so is vastly less than that of the walkers. This makes running more efficient.

Nonetheless, for many, walking may be the option that works, simply because it isn’t so vigorous. “Walking may be a more sustainable activity for some people when compared to running,” said Williams.

Heart health is a major concern in the United States. According to a 2009 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 600,000 Americans die from heart disease yearly. Knowing that activity, whether walking or running, amounts to better cardiovascular health may get more people to put their sneakers on and get moving.

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Some diet additions that may help prevent inflammation

A new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham shows that certain foods may be able to help lessen inflammation – a natural bodily defense mechanism for injuries, which could lead to illnesses if it becomes excessive.

Furthermore, Andrew Weil, M.D., points out that inflammation – which could lead to conditions pertaining to heart health, as well as cancer and and problems affecting brain health such as Alzheimer’s – can be characterized by a body part or joint getting warmer and swelling, even to the point of being painful.

A statement from the researchers notes that poor weight management – specifically, obesity and being overweight – increases the amount of inflammation in the body, and could also damage cardiovascular health.

“The inflammation process has one goal: to respond immediately to detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body,” said the Employee Wellness director and adjunct professor of personal health at the university and lead study author, Lauren Whitt, Ph.D. “The trouble with inflammation occurs when the defense system gets out-of-control and begins to destroy healthy tissue, causing more damage than the original issue.”

Foods that may reduce inflammation
When it comes to specific foods that may help with inflammation, Whitt advises readers to try eating more citrus fruits that contain vitamin C and E for their antioxidant content. Tomatoes may be useful in the same way. In addition, she recommends consuming wild salmon, a great source of omega-3 fatty acid, which has been indicated as a major preventive substance against inflammation.

Whitt notes that consuming more of these types of foods on a daily basis shouldn’t be difficult, and decreasing inflammation could stop a person from having to purchase inflammation-lowering medications down the line. So even if foods that could prevent inflammation seem a little more expensive now, they might save money in the long run.

Weil’s advice is similar to Whitt’s, but he has a few more bits of advice to add to the variety. A large variety of foods may help reduce inflammation, and processed foods – particularly those from certain fast food establishments – are certainly not thought to help inflammation symptoms.

The expert also recommends drinking plenty of water or diluted fruit juice or sparkling water can have similar anti-inflammatory effects. He also recommends taking a daily fish oil supplement if regular fish isn’t available, and he also encourages ginger and turmeric if those aren’t already a regular part of the daily diet.

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A handful of supplements and strategies for healthy aging

As we get on in years, we’re more susceptible to all kinds of health problems that may have been easier to avoid when we were younger. Glancing at the website Aging Care, there’s a laundry list of health problems facing the elderly: dementia and other brain health issues, multiple problems pertaining to cardiovascular health, emotional problems, osteoporosis and other bone health issues.

While it may be a good idea for some individuals to conference with their physicians first, there are also a selection of supplements that some experts have recommended to keep us fit and healthy in our golden years. There are also a few lifestyle alterations that people can make to insure their health endures through their later years.

Physical activity
A 2010 article from the New York Times explains that getting in plenty of aerobic exercise may be one of the best ways to prevent health problems related to aging. Even actions like walking indoors, like going up and down the stairs, could do the job if it’s done frequently enough. Pointing to a 2006 study that appeared in the Journals of Gerontology, the news provider says that 45 minutes of walking three times a week improved the size of the brains of the people who exercised. Regular exercise decreases the likelihood of dementia, and the source indicates that it can have similar effects on people who are already coping with ongoing conditions pertaining to the lungs and joint health.

Meanwhile, Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends that people getting on in years consider taking daily multivitamins. It’s important to take these supplements when the stomach is full, so multivitamins could be considered a sort of follow up to a healthy breakfast. Substances that Weil notes may help if they’re included in the pills include Lutein, lycopene and other antioxidants for their illness preventive qualities. He also notes that it might be a wise to make sure your multivitamin contains certain quantities of vitamin C and vitamin D.

Inflammation might be the body’s natural mechanism against harmful elements, but in excess it can be harmful for health. Weil advises readers to check if supplements may help keep inflammation under control. He also points to aspirin as a substance that could potentially help reduce inflammation. However, as aspirin could lead to bleeding in stomach, it’s best to ask a physician if it’s a good idea to start taking it on a daily basis.

William Sears, M.D., and his wife Martha Sears, R.N., note that healthy aging can take the form of a tasty, fruity beverage treat. Smoothies that contain five servings of fruit, plus yogurt, flaxseeds, tofu and plant-based juice could provide energy between meals. Many sweet beverages like sodas and juice drinks contain high quantities of high-fructose corn syrup, so smoothies may be the better choice.

Fish Oil
The Sears couple describe people undergoing a regular intake of oils, including fish oil, flax oil, olive oil and nut oils can be as giving themselves a human “oil change.” A person’s longevity could be increased if they make these substances a regular part of their diet. In addition, we can add the Sears to the list of experts who recommend the Mediterranean diet, as they encouraged eating plenty of fish in lieu of meat. Regardless of a person’s age, getting plenty of fruits and vegetables every day can also be an important part of staying healthy, and is also included in the Mediterranean diet.

While it’s virtually impossible to keep our health from diminishing somewhat as we age, these steps could help minimize the effects f time and help us enjoy our lives to the fullest.

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