The 76 Million Baby Boomers in the United States, ages 40-55, are now facing the fact that they are mortal. Inevitability, as their youth diminishes, baby boomers are being called the “age wave.” This resourceful generation is, however, setting forth a new paradigm for life – optimize it -give new meaning to old age.
Our forebearers (parents, teachers, society) were conditioned into believing that our bodies are biochemical machines, and, like all machines, we must run until we stop working. We were conditioned to accept senility, infirmity, and death. In 1900 the average life span was 47, but in 1990 it was 78. What happened? What will it be in 2090?
Our bodies are not just biochemical machines. We are not just passengers in our bodies waiting for them to sputter and spew black smoke. The mind influences every cell in our body. Human aging is dynamic and changeable, it can speed up, slow down, and stop for a while – even reverse itself.
We have more cells in our bodies than there are stars in the universe. If each cell is performing millions of chemical reactions, why can’t we optimize these reactions to preserve and conserve their efficient performance and retain our youthful vigor and appearance?
Attending a class reunion at any age can be a real eye opener. It is basically a contest to determine who looks great, who looks okay, or gee, what happened to him? Chances are that the people who look and act younger do not have “bionic genes,” they probably have made good choices. Interestingly, this disparity becomes more blatant as we age, i.e.; those who looked older at 35 look much older at 55 and 65.
By age 40, most adults notice the effects of aging:
- Decreased energy levels
- Reduced muscle strength and exercise performance
- Decreased sexual drive and performance
- Reduction in mental and visual acuity
- Decreased lean muscle mass
- Changing body fat distribution
- Hair loss
- Reduced moisture content in skin
How can you turn yourself into someone who looks and feels younger than his or her age-someone, who at 70 or 80 feels 55? Can you avoid being that one in three people who never makes it to age 65? Here are some condensed guidelines to follow-a start, and only a first step, on your journey to optimum living.
- Weight control. The greatest health challenge facing the U.S. is obesity. Obesity contributes to most all premature causes of death in the U.S., not to mention the terrible impact it has on quality of life. Studies clearly show those individuals who are 5-10 percent under ideal weight have greatest longevity and a more fulfilling quality of life. Successful weight loss requires not the latest fad diet book, but a commitment to intelligent comprehensive lifestyle changes and an understanding of what our foods contain. Remember that food is fuel. Eating is not a frequent social event.
- Stop smoking and tobacco use in any form. You are killing yourself, those around you, and you are aging before your time. A 45-year-old smoker has a biological age of 50. Ask yourself, is there anything pleasurable enough in smoking to make you five years older? Smoking causes wrinkles around your mouth, and cigar smokers have a greater incidence of heart disease than cigarette smokers do.
- Visit your doctor. Physicians should guide you to prevent disease and maintain health, not just to intervene when disease or sickness appears. Early detection of cancer, heart disease, and most degenerative tendencies will be rewarded by adding years to your health life. Find a physician with a deep understanding of, a commitment to, anti-aging medicine.
- Exercise. A regular, consistent exercise program that combines aerobic exercise with weight training improves not only your heart, lungs, muscles, joints sleep, diet and mental function, but also the neuroendocrine system, which prevents adult-onset diabetes, maintains youthful levels of growth hormones, testosterone and estrogen, and improves your sexual fun. So, give it 30-60 minutes a day. The results are addictive.
- Know your cholesterol. Remember your LDL (bad cholesterol) and your HDL (good cholesterol) levels. LD cholesterol elevation is responsible for the arteriosclerosis that causes heart attack, stroke, and diseased arteries. About 75 percent of deaths nationwide are due these problems, and 40 percent of individuals do no survive their first heart attack. For most people, arteriosclerosis is completely preventable. Very few people with LDL at 90 or less and HDL at 60 or greater will suffer from arteriosclerosis. Diet and medications are now available from your doctor that can get 90 percent of us to these ideal numbers.
- Eat a low-fat diet. Keeping your fat calories at or below 20% of your total daily calories will add six years to your life by age 45 and reduce the increase of arteriosclerosis and cancer.
- Take antioxidants and nutritional supplements daily. Our bodies are continually producing free radicals, but as we age, the mitochondria-the tiny powerhouses inside our cells-are less able to neutralize these damaging free radicals. Antioxidants protect the cells by neutralizing free radicals and preventing damage to our DNA and proteins. Vitamins C, E, and Folate have been shown to reduce the risks of heart disease and probably cancer, as well.
- Limit alcohol consumption. This is a mixed bag, as it is clear that consuming more than two ounces of alcohol per day will prematurely age your body. However, one glass of wine, beer or mixed drink -13 gm of alcohol – can reduce your incidence of heart attack.
- Take aspirin. If you are over 40 and your doctor agrees, take it daily.
- Get some sleep. Quality sleep time is essential for health and longevity. The portrayal of the successful CEO who doesn’t have time for sleep is an enigma. We need six to eight hours of sleep every night to replenish our biochemical functions, maintain normal hormone levels and reduce free radical buildup. Remember that sleep reduces daytime stress.
- Water. Approximately 35 percent of us are not drinking an adequate amount of water each day. Water is the vehicle that drives all of our bodily functions. We need an adequate amount of water to replenish this environment and eliminate toxins. Drink six to ten glasses of filtered or distilled pure water a day.
- Look your best. Contentment with your appearance and lifestyle is the most effective positive feedback your mind and body can obtain. Imagine the satisfaction you can earn by being 50, feeling 30, and looking 35 or 40. What a powerful motivation for life!
- Maintain a healthy relationship and sex life. Couples with stable, strong relationships and active sexual lives have a decidedly more positive outlook on life. The reduced stress and the security of a good relationship adds years to each person’s optimum living. This is a win-win situation.
- Hormone replacement therapy. All sex hormones decline with age. Timely replacement has been shown to protect against heart disease, elevate HDL (good cholesterol), lower LDL (bad cholesterol), reduce osteoporosis and reverse many other degenerative symptoms associated with aging.
- Reduce stress, eliminate depression. Stress and depression are powerful but silent killers. Recent research has shown that stress and depression can affect the heart as much as sky-high LDL (bad) cholesterol. Stress can also reverse the positive benefits of the other 14 factors mentioned. Avoid stress and depression at all costs. Find a method to deal with both.
Thus, aging is not one thing, but is many things. It is a catchall for everything from wrinkles to wearing out hearts. The lifestyles you know are good for you today also prevent future aging. The more good habits you adopt, the better your across-the-board protection from aging will be optimized. This reward will be like compounding interest in a bank account-the longer you do it, the more optimum life you will have.
The dividends are:
- Feeling younger and healthier right now
- Enjoying good health longer than you thought possible
- Maintaining a crisp, clear mind
- Sleeping as well as you did years ago
- Working productively as long as you want
- Enjoying a long, successful marriage/relationship
- Performing better in both the gym and bedroom
By far, the biggest benefit to following these steps out-lined is that you will look forward to tomorrow. And what could be more important than that?
Dr Richard W Maloney is a board certified plastic surgeon specializing in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery of the face and neck.
- Ageless Body, Timeless Mind by Deepak Chopra, M.D.
- Real Age: Are You As Young As You Can Be? by Michael Roizen, M.D.
- Ten Weeks to a Younger You by Ronald Klatz, M.D.