Taking care of your body is much easier than it’s made out to be.
A mechanic must perform separate maintenance on each system. His checklist is specific for the parts that he’s working on.
If there’s a problem with one part, that problem can usually be fixed without affecting any other parts.
But maintaining your body isn’t like maintaining a car or an airplane. That’s because your body is an intelligent, adaptive machine.
A problem with one part of your body usually affects several others as well. That’s the downfall. It’s because all of your body systems are interconnected.
The flip side of that argument is that because all of your body systems are interconnected, there are no specific checklists for maintenance work on different parts.
You can’t really do anything good for your bones, for example, without doing some good for your brain while you’re at it.
Taking care of your body is taking care of your body. Your whole body.
Why am I telling you all of this?
But I’m afraid that highlighting those advances might have made anti-aging sound awfully specialized — and, for the average person, inaccessible. And that’s just not true.
If you have tens of thousands of dollars burning a hole in your pocket, TA-65 will probably do you a lot of good. But even if you don’t, all is not lost.
That’s because when you come right down to it, anti-aging is just about maintaining good health for longer. And good health is good health, no matter how old you are.
I’ve given you strong evidence that your telomeres are the biological clock that controls your aging. And even though you may never have heard of a telomere until last week, almost everything you do affects your clock.
That means you can start to work on anti-aging right here, right now.
In today’s article, I’ll tell you some of the simplest and easiest ways to slow the rate of telomere shortening. Many of these will look very familiar. That’s because all of them have been recommended in previous THB articles. That just goes to show that good health is interconnected.
Taking care of your body is easier than you think.
You have the power to change your own health for the better.
The road to a longer, healthier life begins right here.
Eat Your Greens
Envious of Popeye’s brawny build? According to a 2009 study, his predilection for leafy greens may keep him young, too.
As we’ve discussed, telomeres shorten naturally with age. They are also shortened by an amino acid called homocysteine.
Homocysteine is not consumed in the diet. Rather, it is produced by the body in an important metabolic pathway. Problems arise when homocysteine levels get too high. Not only does it accelerate aging, but it also affects cardiovascular health.
To keep homocysteine levels in check, up your intake of folic acid (also known as vitamin B9). The New York Times recently proclaimed folic acid the world’s healthiest food because of its myriad benefits. It helps the body make new cells and is especially important for pregnant women.
So where can you find it? The word “folic” is derived from the Latin for “leaf.” It makes sense, then, that it comes from leafy green vegetables like spinach.
Maybe Popeye knew more than he was letting on.
A study published in JAMA this year reported an inverse association between omega-3 fatty acid intake and the rate of telomere shortening.
The study followed 608 patients over a five-year period. During that time, those who ate more omega-3s had less telomere shortening.
Granted, we’d like to see something more than an association. But I have no qualms about recommending that you eat omega-3s on the basis of this evidence because they’re good for you for so many other reasons as well.
Omega-3s are important for your brain, your heart, and your immune system. They may help to prevent cancer and several other diseases. They’re also anti-inflammatory, which means that they help with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
The JAMA study only looked at intake of marine omega-3s. That means that you should look for wild-caught, cold-water fish like Alaskan salmon, herring, and mackerel.
And for longtime THB readers, that’s a recommendation I know you’ve heard before.
Take Your Antioxidants and Multivitamins
As Dr. Sears explained last week, oxidative damage doesn’t explain aging. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore it, either.
Eating antioxidants is important to counteract free radical damage. Most berries, nuts, and beans are excellent sources of antioxidants.
Ideally you would get all the nutrients you need from your diet. However, for one reason or another, most of us don’t.
That’s where multivitamins come in. They help to fill in the gaps in your nutrition. Simply taking a multivitamin is associated with having longer telomeres.
What’s more, many supplements combine vitamins and antioxidants. (Technically, both vitamins C and E are antioxidants, but there are better ones out there.) Look for a combined supplement to make sure that you’re getting everything you need.
Skimp on Sugar
Bad news for your sweet tooth: eating too much sugar actually speeds up the aging process.
A partial list of the aging-related problems caused by sugar:
There is a good deal of evidence that links excess sugar intake with inflammatory disease. The body simply isn’t designed to handle large quantities of processed, refined sugar.
You wouldn’t put sugar in the gas tank of your car. It’s not designed to handle it.
If you wouldn’t do it to your car, why do it to your body?
Skip the sweet stuff for dessert tonight. Reach for a piece of fresh fruit instead.
Want to Feel Like a Kid Again? Go Play Outside
Though Americans spend billions of dollars every year trying to recapture their lost youth, one of the most effective ways to slow the aging process is simply to go play outside.
If that sounds like second-rate psychobabble, it isn’t.
Sun exposure is the body’s leading source of vitamin D. Vitamin D, in turn, may help to slow the shortening of telomeres.
In a 2007 study, women with higher levels of vitamin D were found to be at less risk of aging-related disease.
Vitamin D has many other important functions in the body. For example, it is also important to maintain bone strength and immune function.
However, most people do not get nearly enough. The current government recommendation is only 400 IU per day. But studies have shown that the body will use between 3,000 and 5,000 IU per day if it is available.
And you need more as you get older. That means that vitamin D is especially important for anti-aging.
The best dietary source of vitamin D is wild-caught fatty fish — which you should be eating anyway for the omega-3s.
Like I said, this is easier than you think.
But when it comes to vitamin D, there is simply no replacing the sun. Remarkably, the leading cause of vitamin D deficiency is insufficient sun exposure. The cure for that is simple: go outside already!
Get a Move On
Exercise is by far one of the most effective ways to slow the rate of telomere shortening.
It builds muscle, burns fat, and improves your metabolism.
It counteracts high blood pressure, high lipid levels, and obesity, all three of which have been associated with telomere shortening.
It will get you outside where your body can make vitamin D.
It’s good for your brain. Your heart. Your lungs. Your immune system. In fact, there’s really no part of your body that it’s not good for.
It even works to manage and prevent stress and depression.
Why does that matter?
Many times we overlook the role of good mental health. That’s unfortunate, because mind and body are just as interconnected as any two other body parts you might care to name.
Have you heard people say that stress aged them 20 years overnight? It’s an exaggeration, but stress really can age you by shortening your telomeres.
It’s not possible to eliminate stress anymore than it would be possible to eliminate your body’s stress response. Emergencies happen, and the fight-or-flight system allows you to deal with them effectively.
But chronic stress is a problem. The fight-or-flight system is designed for emergencies. It shouldn’t always be on.
Fortunately, studies have shown that there are several good ways to manage stress that will improve your health at the same time. Things like getting exercise…eating omega-3s… getting enough vitamin D…
Like I said, your body is interconnected. You can’t really do any good for one part without helping the others, too.
Tying It All Together
The points we have discussed above do not make up an exhaustive anti-aging to-do list. But they are all generally good for you. Nothing is specific to anti-aging.
There are other factors that affect your telomeres. But they are all generally good for you, too.
I am sure that over time research will uncover even more factors relevant to anti-aging. But I have no doubt that they will be generally good for you as well.
It’s because good health is easier than you think.
And as I said, anti-aging is just a matter of maintaining good health for longer.
Take care of your body and your body will take care of you. It’s as simple as that.
To Your Health,