Aging

Aging

 

Aging is a natural process and not a disease. It is something we all will experience and, it is hoped, deal with in a positive manner. Ideally, numerous benefits attend old age: wisdom; the pleasure of watching your children, grandchildren, and great- grandchildren flourish; and having time to help others and to enjoy life fully.

But to many people, old age is synonymous with ill health and disability. Thats too bad, because most of the diseases we associate with aging—arthritis and other painful conditions, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, digestive problems, frailty, depres- sion, sexual dysfunction, and fatigue—are not an inevitable part of growing older. These “age-related disorders” are mainly caused by lifestyle factors, such as diet, exposure to environmental toxins, lack of exercise, and stress, along with genetic sus- ceptibilities. If youre young or middle-aged, you can prevent many problems by changing your habits now. If youre older and are already experiencing health diffi- culties, its not too late to bring balance and harmony to your bodily systems.

Normal aging occurs when old cells start dying at a faster rate than new ones are generated. Since the bodys tissues have a smaller supply of cells to draw upon, they begin to degenerate and malfunction. This process happens to everyone; its simply a natural part of life. It appears that our cells are preprogrammed to have a maximum life span. Yet the key is to prevent premature aging, where one ages faster than ones genetic programming would have ordained. In addition, most people will agree that quality of life is paramount to life span.

In recent years, we have come to understand more about the highly reactive kinds of atoms or molecules called free radicals. In many cases, free radicals assist the body by destroying invaders, producing energy, and helping to carry oxygen through the bloodstream. When they are present in overwhelming numbers, however, they attack healthy cells, sometimes destroying them or mutating their DNA. When cells die before their time or are damaged, the normal aging process is accelerated, and the body becomes vulnerable to life-threatening ailments such as cancer, arteriosclerosis, and many degenerative diseases.

It is becoming more and more difficult to keep the number of free radicals in the body down to a healthy level. Many aspects of modern living, including unwholesome diet and exposure to pollution, tobacco smoke, environmental contaminants, and even the sun, put us in contact with more free radicals than any previous generation ever encountered. Luckily, nature has equipped us with the means to neutralize free rad- icals in our bodies. Substances called antioxidants accomplish the task, and theyre found in many fruits and vegetables and in some herbs. A combination of healthful eating, combined with antioxidant supplements and wise living, can prevent exces- sive damage from free radicals.



Other major causes of several age-related diseases are diet and nutritional deficiencies. Studies on laboratory mice prove that a reduced-calorie diet signif icantly extends their lives. Research is starting to show that this is true for humans as well. In addition, diets that are high in fat and sugar lack many essential nutrients, fiber, and antioxidants. Poor diets also contribute to gastrointestinal disorders, which can inhibit the bodys ability to absorb important vitamins and minerals. Sometimes, how- ever, a good diet is not enough to keep deficiency at bay. As a result of normal or accel- erated aging, older people are often simply less efficient at absorbing nutrients, even if they eat well. If you have reached old age, you will need to redouble your efforts to take in nutrients.

Aging is accelerated by a lack of exercise. If you dont regularly exercise, you increase your risk for almost every kind of disorder, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

Hormone balance is a key to healthy aging. This is particularly true of the stress hormones such as cortisol and DHEA. A deficiency or an abnormal elevation of these hormones (particularly cortisol) accelerates aging and immune system breakdown. In reality, all of the hormones are important for healthy aging. Thyroid, estrogen, pro- gesterone, and testosterone, as well as growth hormones, must be kept at balanced lev- els to slow the aging process. Researchers are finding that growth hormones may play a special role in slowing down the “aging clock.

It is also important to keep blood-sugar levels in the normal range. Elevated lev- els of glucose lead to a process known as glycosylation. This contributes to a weak immune system and speeds up aging. An example of this process is diabetes.

Finally, the effects of stress appear to play a role in aging. People who experience prolonged periods of intense stress are more likely to develop chronic diseases. One major stressor is loneliness. This has become a big problem with the elderly, who lack companionship and stimulation. Many older people cut back on social obligations, intellectual activities, and sports and exercise. Giving up these essential activities has been linked to a shorter life span and an increased risk of disease. It is up to all of us, whatever our age, to create families and communities in which the elderly are wel- come, active members.

 SYMPTOMS

 

Frequent illness or chronic disease

Painful conditions and stiffness

Memory loss or impairment

Digestive problems

 
Weight loss

Decreased sex drive

Poor skin and/or muscle tone

Frailty

 
ROOT CAUSES

 

Free radical damage

Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies

Genetics

Environmental toxins

 
Poor digestion and detoxification

Lack of exercise

Hormone imbalance

Elevated blood-sugar levels

Stress and isolation



 Testing Techniques

 

T  The following tests can give you an assessment  of the degree of your aging: Oxidative  stress analysis—urine or blood testing

Antioxidant testing (urine, blood,  or biophoton scanning)

Blood profile for cardiovascular, immune,  and blood-sugar markers

(glucose and insulin) Stool analysis

Detoxification profile—urine

Hormone analysis by saliva, urine, or blood (estrogens, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, melatonin, IGF-1, thyroid panel)

 

TREATMENT Diet

Recommended Food

Older people often have difficulty absorbing nutrients. When digestive enzymes arent working at their optimal level, deficiencies, especially in the B-vitamins, can result. To compensate, eat plenty of whole grains and leafy greens, and add brewers yeast and wheat germ to your meals.

Make sure you get enough fiber. Whole grains, oats, flaxseeds, and raw vegetables can prevent constipation and will reduce toxins in the digestive tract.

Yogurt and other fermented sour products (sauerkraut, kefir) encourage healthful bacteria in the digestive system. These bacteria fight colds and other infections.

Deeply colored fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants such as carotenoids, the substances that neutralize free radicals. They can also discourage the build-up of arterial plaque, so its important to eat several servings with each meal. Remember, “think color!”

Vitamin E and selenium work together to prevent many different diseases. To lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and arthritis, eat plenty of seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils.

Be sure to incorporate sufficient quality protein into your diet. Beans, soy prod- ucts, fish, and lean chicken and turkey will give you energy.

Vitamin C helps fight free radical damage, reduces cancer risk, and strengthens the immune system. Good dietary sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, red peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, asparagus, and avocados.

Garlic and onions also have antioxidant properties and improve circulation, so enjoy them freely.

Whether youre thirsty or not, drink a glass of purified water every two waking hours. Dehydration is linked to kidney malfunction, malabsorption of nutrients, chronic constipation, weight gain, high cholesterol, fatigue, and headaches. It can also cause disorientation and memory loss; many people who are thought to be senile are actually just severely dehydrated.

The skins of red grapes reduce plaque in the walls of arteries. They also have antiox- idant properties, so drink a glass of red grape juice or an occasional glass of red wine.



Food to Avoid

Reduce your total caloric intake, while maintaining good nutrition. As you get older, your metabolism slows down, and you require fewer calories to support your activi- ties. Also, studies on laboratory mice have shown that a reduced-calorie diet signif- icantly extended their lives. You can reduce calories by cutting out processed and junk foods, alcohol, sugar, and white flour—but dont skimp on nutritious foods that will keep you healthy.

In addition to the previous suggestions, avoid red meat and processed foods, as well as any food made with additives and preservatives. These foods are all high in free rad- icals. Whats more, they clog up your digestive tract and inhibit proper functioning.

If you have trouble sleeping, dont consume alcohol, caffeine, and simple sugars in the evening. These substances keep you alert. Instead, eat complex carbohydrates, which can promote relaxation and a good nights rest.

 

Detoxification

 

Keeping the digestive tract clean is essential for preventing disease, especially if youve spent a lifetime consuming and breathing toxins. Fresh juices and “super green foods,” such as chlorella and spirulina, are excellent. Supplements such as milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and many of the antioxidants support proper detoxification.

 

Super Seven Prescriptions—Anti-Aging

 

Super Prescription #1    Super green food supplement

Take an organic super green food such as chlorella or spirulina or a mixture of these each day. Take as directed on the container.

Super Prescription #2    Green tea

Green tea contains a rich source of antioxidants and substances that assist detox- ification. Drink the organic tea regularly (2 cups or more daily), or take 500 to 1,500 mg of the capsule form.

Super Prescription #3    High-potency multivitamin

Take a high-potency multivitamin and mineral formula daily, as it will contain a strong base of the antioxidants and other nutrients that protect against aging.

Super Prescription #4    Essential fatty acids

Take 1 to 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil or 3 grams of fish oil daily, or a formula- tion that contains a mixture of omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids.

These essential fatty acids are needed for healthy cell functioning and replica- tion, as well as for many other body processes.

Super Prescription #5    Garlic (Allium sativum)

Take 1 to 2 capsules of an aged garlic product daily.

Garlic benefits the immune and cardiovascular systems. It also improves detox- ification and has antioxidant properties.

Super Prescription #6    Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus Senticosus)

Take 600 to 900 mg of a standardized product daily. As with most types of ginseng,

Eleutherococcus works to help the body adapt to mental and physical stress.

Super Prescription #7    Ginkgo biloba

Take 60 to 120 mg twice daily of a standardized product containing 24 percent flavone glycosides and 6 percent terpene lactones.



This popular herb improves circulation, has potent antioxidant properties, improves memory, and reduces ones tendency to get blood clots.

 General Recommendations

 

Enzymes aid in the digestion of food and are essential for all the metabolic activity in the body. Take 1 to 2 capsules with each meal.

Cordyceps sinensis is a revered fungus used in Chinese medicine as a supplement to combat fatigue and the aging process. Take 2 to 4 capsules daily.

Royal jelly, the substance produced by worker bees as the sole food for their queen, contains a wide range of nutrients. Take as directed on the container.

Alpha lipoic acid is one of the most important antioxidants in the body. Take 50 mg twice daily.

CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant and a nutrient involved in many aspects of cardio- vascular function. Take 50 to 300 mg daily.

Reishi extract, revered in Chinese medicine, is made from the “mushroom of immortality. It improves liver and immune system function. Take 2 to 4 capsules daily.

Ashwagandha, known as “Indian ginseng, is a revered herb in Ayurvedic medi- cine and is used as a tonic for people with chronic disease. Take 1,000 to 3,000 mg daily.

Panax ginseng is revered in Chinese medicine as an antiaging herbal therapy. Take a standardized product containing 4 to 7 percent ginsenosides at 100 to 250 mg twice daily. Do not use if you have high blood pressure.

DHEA is a hormone that research shows is an accurate marker of aging. If your level is low, talk with your doctor about starting at a 15 mg dosage.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is indeed excellent for aiding the digestion; it also pre- vents blood clotting and has anti-inflammatory properties. Instead of drinking sug- ary ginger ale, try ginger tea, made by boiling water over fresh ginger. You can also take 1 to 2 grams of a powdered capsule or a tablet, divided over the course of a day. Or you can use 1 to 3 ml of a ginger tincture three times daily.

 

Homeopathy

 

See a homeopathic practitioner who can prescribe a remedy to strengthen your par- ticular state of body and mind.

If youre an older person who has already developed an illness or a painful condi- tion, you will find homeopathic suggestions listed under the specific disorder thats plaguing you.

 

Acupressure

 

See pages 668–675 for information about pressure points and administering treatment.

Stomach 36 is a good point for keeping up health in general. It strengthens the entire body but gives particular support to the immune and digestive systems.

 

Bodywork

 

Bodywork is more important than ever in old age. Not only does it increase circula- tion and reduce aches and pains, it can supply significant emotional benefits to peo- ple who are deprived of nurturing physical contact. If you are isolated or depressed, or if your body has become rigid from lack of touch, you might find massage both relaxing and invigorating.

 

double-blind clinical trial studied the effects of 1,500  mg of Panax ginseng on forty-nine elderly people. This herb was found to improve coordination and reaction  time, as well as to increase alertness and energy.



Reflexology


Work the entire foot to provide support for all the systems of the body.

If you want to concentrate on just a few areas, work the kidneys, the liver, and the colon to encourage detoxification.

 Hydrotherapy

Hot and cold hydrotherapy will get your circulation going and increase your energy.

 

Aromatherapy

If you feel tense or irritable or have trouble sleeping, lavender can help you relax. Try it in a bath or as an inhalant, or slip a lavender-filled sachet under your pillow.

If you are depressed, bergamot, clary sage, geranium, or rosemary can be uplifting. A few drops of jasmine, ylang ylang, sandalwood, or patchouli in a bath will reignite sexual desire.



Stress Reduction

 

Exercise, prayer, reading, yoga, positive mental imagery, and many other techniques should be used to reduce the effects of stress and aging.

 

 Bach Flower Remedies

 

You may find the following suggestions useful, but also consult the chart on pages

648–650 to find the appropriate ower remedy for your particular personality and ten- dencies. Once youve found the right remedy, place 10 drops under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.

If you have experienced a loss and feel sorrowful and depressed, try Mustard. Hornbeam will help if you feel too fatigued to participate in everyday activities. If you are unhappy with present times and tend to dwell on the past as a period of

perfect happiness, Honeysuckle will help you cultivate a more positive attitude toward the here and now.

 
Other Recommendations

 

Keep moving. Regular exercise plays a significant role in preventing heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, and many other disorders. For maximum benefits, your exercise plan should include aerobic exercise (for your heart and lungs), weight lifting (to keep your bones strong), and stretching. It is never too late to start. Peo- ple who begin exercise and weight-lifting programs as late as their nineties show marked improvement in their general health. If youre older, ill, or overweight, con- sult with your doctor before beginning an exercise plan.

If youre having problems digesting your food, your body may not be producing suf- ficient enzymes. Take an enzyme supplement daily.

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