Healthy aging is something most everyone in mid-life and beyond thinks about. It is becoming a prevalent health topic these days, with advancements and treatments in anti-aging and regenerative medicine. Aging gracefully is not about trying to look like a 20-something, but it is about living your best life and having the physical and mental health to enjoy all that life has to offer. Like a bottle of fine wine, you get better with age with the right self-care.
At this point, I am assuming that you are among those of us who think that growing old is anything but graceful. Most likely, you would agree that there is nothing sexy about wrinkles, graying hair, spreading mid-sections, sagging jowls, fading vision, diminishing sex drive, and loss of memory. And maybe you are someone who has already spent more money than you would like to admit on health club memberships, diet plans, and even plastic surgery to look younger. However, you would likely be willing to spend time and effort if you could actually feel more youthful. Is there a way to stop or even reverse nature’s aging clock? Thanks to remarkably practical advances in anti-aging medicine, the answer is a resounding yes. Aging is a process, but it is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. Not everyone ages the same way. Our unique genetic blueprints and lifetime experiences mean that the process of aging affects each of us in different ways. Because of this, we cannot be treated in the same way. Your biochemical profile and factors that include your age, medical history, body type, gender, and lifestyle must be taken into account. It is interesting to know that we all are born with a natural repair process called anabolic drive, which continuously regenerates body tissue. Gradually over time, we lose this rejuvenating capacity and develop numerous conditions associated with aging: obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. But again, thanks to several enlightened forward-thinking scientists and anti-aging physicians, we can actually regain that anabolic drive and innate healing system by replenishing depleted levels of hormones, the fluids that regulate our organs and tissues, and neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers.
HOW DO WE AGE?
What do we mean by age? Yes, we all know to age means to grow older in years. But, to a biologist, a measurement of aging based upon your birth date is not very useful. After all, we all know of people who look ten years younger (or older) than their actual chronological age would indicate. Four main physiological changes occur with aging: (1) decreased muscle mass, (2) decreased water content, (3) decreased bone mass, (4) increased fat levels. These changes over time are accompanied by a host of unwanted symptoms. Aging is a physiological process that, at times, is only remotely connected to chronological age. On a cellular level, aging occurs every moment as old cells are not replaced by new ones. Apoptosis or programmed cell death is a normal part of life. While the seeds of advanced aging can be sown or planted at any age, generally speaking, the most noticeable changes occur between 40 and 50. Most physiological functions peak in the twenties, ride a plateau in the thirties and begin to take a sharp nose dive or decline in your forties. The exact point at which the decline into advanced aging begins is different for everybody. But, without any lifestyle or behavioral changes, or any healthy aging interventions, here is what you can expect to happen to your fifty-year-old body:
- Brain – the brain shrinks 6 percent in size, resulting in a loss of cognitive function. Learn more about brain health
- Vision – farsightedness and color perception among aging baby boomers is much more common in this age group.
- Skin – how fast you wrinkle depends on a host of factors including genetics, nutrition, and environment. The skin begins typically to lose elasticity by age 30 and beyond. Natural Solutions for Aging Skin
- Hair – fifty percent of men have some balding by age 50.
- Fat & muscle – the ratio of muscle to fat begins its decline around thirty, with fat deposits peaking around 50.
- Bones – the progressive loss of mineral content and bone density results in brittle bones, especially after menopause in women. How to Prevent Osteoporosis with Lifestyle Management
- Sex – women experience menopause usually around age 50 when estrogen levels drop, and ovulation ends. Men have less pronounced sex hormonal decline; however, more young men today are experiencing lower testosterone levels at an earlier age.
- Heart – by age 50, the heart will have beat approximately 2 billion times. The heart muscle begins to enlarge to pump more blood to compensate for the stiffening or hardening of the arteries.Seven Powerful Ways to Strengthen Your Heart
- Lungs – by age fifty, the lungs begin to lose some of their elasticity, and the capacity to breathe declines about 20 percent.
HEALTHY AGING: BODY, MIND, AND SPIRIT
Our bodies are operated by a complex network of neurotransmitters and hormones. The way they communicate and interrelate with each other determines the metabolic function for energy and movement and how we feel daily, both physically and mentally. At the same time, these neurotransmitters and hormones keep the body in homeostasis or balance. Your lifestyle and behaviors are unique to you. How you live, and the choices you make daily in terms of diet, exercise, nutrition, and relationships are cumulative and determine your overall sense of well-being and how you age. This further points to the importance of having the right balance between the physical body, the mind, and the spiritual component for improving your odds of healthy aging while minimizing your risk of chronic diseases. To appreciate the benefits of anti-aging intervention, you need to be an active participant, take responsibility for your healthcare, and work with your anti-aging provider to optimize your health. This means taking a few specific nutritional supplements, checking your hormone levels several times per year, eating a well-balanced diet (sometimes calorie-restricted), exercising, getting quality sleep, intaking adequate water, exercising your mind, meditating or praying (or both), and maintaining positive relationships (both personally and professionally). Working with a physician trained through the American Academy of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine is usually your best option. It is not uncommon for your primary care physician or internist to not be trained in the specialty of anti-aging medicine.
We are the first generation in history to have a say in our biological destiny or journey. To take full advantage of the wonders that await us in the next few years, we must bridge the gap with the treatments and self-care modalities available now that dramatically enhance the quality of our lives. Aging gracefully and healthy aging is possible, but you must take action today!