Healthy Aging

by Dr. Sylvia Marasco, ND
Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine

Healthy aging is not only about increasing life span in years, but it is also about maintaining a healthy body and mind well into our senior years.  There are several factors involved in the aging process and two of them include telomere shortening and free radical damage.  Both of these are defined below.

Telomere Shortening:   Our DNA have end pieces called telomeres and the shorter these pieces become the quicker the aging process occurs.  In other words, every time our cells reproduce tiny pieces of DNA come off gradually and this will determine the aging process on a cellular level.

Free Radical Damage:  Free radicals are reactive molecules that attack and destroy cells.  The more free radicals that one is exposed to the quicker the aging process. Some habits and exposures that increase cellular damage this way include cigarette smoking, sunlight, radiation and air pollution.  Inside the body, free radical damage is caused by the oxidation of cells.

The good news is that both of these processes can be slowed down by simple dietary and lifestyle changes.  Here are a few tips to slowing the aging process.

1)      Eat a well balanced healthy diet:  This diet should include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, adequate protein, fiber and healthy fats.  Fruits and vegetables in particular are high in antioxidants like vitamin C, beta carotene and flavonoids that prevent free radical damage, slowing down the aging process.

2)      Supplement with vitamin D3:  Vitamin D3 has been shown to decrease telomere shortening preventing the cell damage that decreases life span.  Remember that our most common source for vitamin D is the sun and with our long winters and short summers, it is not uncommon for deficiencies.  Also, adequate vitamin D levels help to prevent a variety of chronic diseases that are rampant in our culture.  Supplemental dosage of vitamin D3 can easily be determined by a simple blood test from your health care provider.

3)      Exercise and body movement:  Did you know that it is estimated that for about every hour of exercise there is a two hour increase in our lives?  There are many reasons for this including maintaining a healthy body weight, the elevation of mood and positive attitude and the prevention of cardiovascular diseases all factors that increase quantity and quality of life.

4)      Manage stress with breathing exercises:  Dr. Andrew Weil suggests practicing 4-7-8 breathing.  Here is how it is done:

  • Sit up straight
  • Breathe in through your nose and count to four
  • Hold your breath and count to seven holding the breath
  • Exhale out your mouth for a count of eight making a swooshy sound
  • And do this for four breaths.

Healthy aging is absolutely within your control.  Take charge and enjoy the benefits!