Meet the youth boosters
As you age, the ability of your body to power up energy can decline, robbing you of the youthful energy you once enjoyed. The key hormone in energy metabolism is insulin. When insulin is working well, it plays a critical role in mobilising blood sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells to be used as energy. However, when insulin cannot do its job blood sugar builds up in the bloodstream.
Studies stress the importance of managing your blood glucose levels within acceptable levels. Currently a lab value above 6.1 mmol/L is widely accepted as an indicator of impaired insulin activity. However some experts question this level. They argue a fasting blood glucose level below 4.7 mmol/L (85 mg/dl) is far more acceptable. If left unchecked, sugar weaves a destructive path through the body. Too much sugar not only leads to middle age spread - excess blood sugar is a major factor in many chronic health problems.
Declining blood sugar control can signal the development of diabetes, the fastest growing lifestyle disease in Western countries which is tipped to emerge as a serious health crisis. Slash your diabetes risk by eating less sugary foods and performing regular physical activity. The upside of effectively managing your blood sugar levels is other markers such as cholesterol and triglycerides also improve.
1. Watch your diet
The food we eat has a powerful effect on ageing, even cancer prevention. Cancer is a disease caused by genetic mutations. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, cancer results from the accumulation of mutations in genes that regulate cell proliferation. One of the best ways to ensure healthy gene activity at a cellular level is to eat a fresh, wholesome diet.
Adopt a traditional Mediterranean diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with fish and beans as protein sources. Dairy products and poultry should be kept to a minimum, and only eat small amounts of good quality red meat. Olive oil is a major component of the Mediterranean diet. Pure extra virgin olive oil is a rich source of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. Olive oil is superior to canola and soy bean oil which are often listed on food labels as ‘vegetable oils’.
Superfoods are powerful, nutritionally dense, antioxidant-rich foods. The superfood list includes foods sourced from all over the planet - pomegranates, blueberries, mangosteen, bee pollen, chia seeds, goji berries, coconut oil, cacao (raw chocolate) and acai berries all have tremendous healing abilities. In fact, health experts now tout these superfoods as the medicine of the future.
2. Have a thyroid check
The symptoms of an underactive thyroid are often overlooked. The warning signs - memory problems, slow heart rate, foggy thinking, dry skin and a reduced tolerance to the cold - appear gradually and are often attributed to normal ageing.
A complete thyroid screening test should be performed routinely in people aged over 65 years. If you suspect a problem, discuss a thyroid check-up with your health practitioner. A proper diagnosis is achieved by measuring blood levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroid antibodies and the major thyroid hormones, free thyroxine (T4) and free triiodothyronine (T3). In addition, manage your weight. An Australian study published in Internal Medicine Journal concluded obesity is a significant risk factor in the development of an under active thyroid gland in later life.
There are specific nutrients to support thyroid health. Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosis) is a prized seaweed species traditionally used in Western herbal medicine as a thyroid tonic. It is also a rich source of iodine to support thyroid hormone production. And, according to a Medical Hypotheses study, zinc and selenium are necessary minerals to assist activity of the thyroid hormones.
3. Take the youth boosters
Nature provides many tools to assist feelings of vitality, harmony and balance, and to support wellbeing at any age.
Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus): Often called the ‘vision herb’, this is an effective eye tonic. Bilberry is prized for its ability to help maintain visual acuity and night vision.
B vitamins: Essential for energy metabolism. Pyridoxal 5-phosphate, the metabolically active form of vitamin B6, is necessary for the activation of mood regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
Chromium: A trace mineral that plays an important role in supporting healthy blood metabolism. Not all forms are equally effective; chromium nicotinate and chromium picolinate demonstrate higher activity.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Used to generate cellular energy. CoQ10 is vital if you are taking a statin medication to lower cholesterol. It is well accepted these drugs severely deplete CoQ10 levels. Taken orally, CoQ10 can maximise energy output.
Vitamin D3: An important nutrient to cut your risk of premature death. In his ground-breaking book The Vitamin D Solution. A Three-Step Strategy To Cure Our Most Common Health Problem Michael F. Holick PhD, MD advocates maintaining a blood level of 25-hydroxyvitamin D of at least 100–150 nmol/L.
Lutein: A plant-based pigment sourced naturally from the diet. In supplement form this powerful antioxidant can help preserve eyesight by preventing damage to the delicate photoreceptor cells found within the macula of the eye.
Magnesium: According to a study in Neuron, taking extra magnesium boosts brain power and improves memory.
Phosphatidylserine (PS): Protecting brain health requires early intervention decades before the symptoms of cognitive decline appear. PS works well with brahmi (Bacopa monniera) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), two well known brain tonics to safeguard memory and learning.
Probiotic formulations: Help to top up the friendly bacteria normally found in the digestive system, and reduce gas and bloating. A combination of lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium bifidum and bifidobacterium lactis is indicated in medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Resveratrol: Found in grape skins, grape juice and berries of Vaccinium species, including blueberries, bilberries and cranberries. Resveratrol is a potent antioxidant that protects the body from harmful environmental toxins.
Rhodiola rosea: Considered a powerful tonic as it enhances physical endurance and mental clarity. This herb demonstrates a remarkable ability to combat the negative effects of stress.
Zizyphus spinosa: A natural sedative to calm the nerves. It has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to reduce fatigue related to disturbed sleep. Taken at night zizyphus promotes relaxation and improves sleep quality.
4. Yoga, fountain of youth
You know that yoga eases stress and boosts strength and flexibility, but did you also know that it prevents age-related disease? According to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, women who regularly practised yoga had lower levels of the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood – IL-6 is responsible for triggering the inflammatory response which is involved in heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.
5. Discover your risk factors
1. Do you exercise more than four times a week? There is little doubt exercise is a youth booster. Exercise improves strength, flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, bone density and mental function.
2. Are you keen to learn new skills? Studies show those who remain mentally active are more likely to avoid age-related cognitive decline. It’s definitely a case of ‘use or lose it’.
3. Do you smoke? Cigarettes contain a multitude of toxic compounds in every puff. One of the best ways to slow accelerated ageing is to quit smoking. It’s never too late to kick the habit for good.
4. Do you drink alcohol daily? There is consistent evidence that regular alcohol intake increases disease. Alcohol places stress on the liver and robs your body of nutrients. Save a tipple for special occasions or abstain completely.
5. Do you sleep well? When you don’t sleep properly, your body does not get the required down time to rejuvenate. The first step is to eliminate the major sources of caffeine - tea, coffee and soft drinks.
6. Do you eat sugary foods? Diet plays a major role in longevity. Sugary foods lead to weight gain. Being overweight triggers so-called Western ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
7. Do you take vitamin supplements? They are a healthy insurance policy, topping up what may be missing in your daily diet. Speak to your healthcare practitioner who can tailor a personalised nutritional prescription.
8. Are you stressed? Stress makes you feel tired and worn out. The busier you are, the more important it is to allow time to relax and bring focus to your life. Exercise, meditation and yoga are powerful antidotes to stress.
9. Are your hormones in balance? The dynamic interplay of your hormones keeps you feeling young and vibrant. Stress, diet and environmental toxins can upset the balance, leading to mood swings, fatigue and weight gain.
10. Do you have regular dental checks with a holistic dentist? Root canals that harbour bacteria and toxic dental materials such as old mercury amalgam fillings can trigger an unwanted immune response in the body. Find a dentist who has a whole body approach to oral health.
11. Do you have osteoporosis? Bone loss is accelerated by acidic foods such as alcohol, soft drinks, tea, coffee, and a high protein diet. Save bone strength naturally by eating a low acid diet high in plant-based foods and performing regular weight-bearing exercise.
12. Do you drink enough water? Water makes up more than two-thirds of the weight of the human body, and without water the body would stop functioning in just a few days. Drink at least 1.5 litres of water daily to keep your levels optimal.
13. Are you exposed to electromagnetic radiation (EMR)? Until the experts agree on safe levels it makes sense to limit exposure. Mobile phones, mobile phone towers, computers, microwaves, electric blankets, clock radios, and overhead power lines are a major source of EMR.
0-4 If you answered ‘yes’ to four or fewer, chances are you are ageing healthily.
5-8 It’s likely you are ageing faster than you need to. Time to make some healthy changes!
9 and over You are not ageing well at all, and your health is probably already suffering. The good news is, you can substantially advance your health by taking better care of yourself.
Need more info?
* Life Extension provides scientific information on longevity and anti-aging supplements. www.lef.org
* The Weston A. Price Foundation is an online education foundation with the mission of disseminating accurate, science-based information on diet and health. www.westonaprice.org
* The Vitamin D Council is committed to educating the public on the serious impact widespread vitamin D deficiencies are having on global health. www.vitamindcouncil.org