Over the years, thousands of people have searched for the elusive Fountain of Youth and great strides have been made in uncovering the secrets to aging healthfully and lengthening the lifespan. There’s no magic pill for good health and longevity, it takes commitment to give up poor eating habits, make changes to reduce stress and exercise regularly
Healthy aging is a current hot topic, and you can thank the baby boomer generation for today’s emphasis on more youthful aging. Let’s explore why people are living longer and better today than in previous generations and what you can do to be proactive about pro-aging.
Why are people living so much longer today?
Over the years, medical advances in technology, vaccines and antibiotics have fueled the changes that have overcome some major health threats to society.
Malnutrition, acute illnesses, infant mortality and war were major contributors to shorter life expectancy 100 years ago. In the period of 1918 to 1919 the influenza virus (the flu) infected more than 400 million people worldwide and killed nearly 40 million. Today people still die from the flu, but nearly at the mortality rates common in the past.
Poor living conditions and poor sanitation were also major causes of death. Each incident people experienced had a negative cumulative effect on their health. Even diseases that didn’t result in death left people more likely to develop chronic illnesses when they grew older and lead to poor life expectancy.
Even with the amazing advances we have made in medicine, some diseases are still constant—cardiovascular disease (CVD) is still the leading cause of death in the world, and although cancer, respiratory illness, and diabetes all trail behind, they’re still major health threats.
You can’t prevent the passage of time, but when you’re proactive about your life choices, you can control some of the risk factors in your life associated with illness and disease. Being proactive doesn’t automatically guarantee you won’t develop a chronic disease or illness, but not doing anything or actively taking part in known risk factors that are linked to chronic disease or illness may lead to health problems.
You may not realize just how much control you have over how long you live—and we don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. Seemingly casual choices you make every day may have the most profound impact on your health. In fact, it’s estimated that if everyone in the United States led a healthy lifestyle, more than 50 percent of the cases of cardiovascular disease and diabetes could be avoided, and more than 50 percent of all cases of cancer prevented.
The earlier in life you choose to follow a lifestyle of disease prevention, the more you can lower your risks of developing chronic disease. Chronic disease and illness come from many different factors, some of which you can control—such as lifestyle choices—and others you can’t—like your age and genetics.
The following tips show you how to avoid the most damaging and preventable threats to your health and aging:
- Don’t smoke—and if you already do, stop. Really. Smoking increases the risks for the top three killers: heart disease, cancer, and cardiovascular ailments, including strokes. It also damages your lungs and other parts of your respiratory system. At least 60 chemicals in cigarette smoke cause cancer, and as a cigarette burns, it produces the poisons carbon monoxide, ammonia, formaldehyde, arsenic and cyanide.
Smoking raises your blood pressure and decreases the flow of oxygen to your brain and body. It’s also a significant risk factor for other health concerns, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, stroke and osteoporosis. In the year 2006, smoking resulted in 435,000 deaths or 18.1 percent of the total deaths (includes 35,000 deaths from second hand smoke and 1,000 infant deaths due to maternal smoking).
- Limit alcohol consumption. If you drink alcohol, no more than two drinks a day are safe for men, and one or fewer drinks a day for women. A standard drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits. Women are more likely to have liver damage from drinking two or more drinks a day than men are, so it’s especially important for women to keep alcohol consumption to one or fewer drinks a day.
Alcohol is a depressant and can exacerbate the symptoms of depressions and other mental disturbances. Alcohol intoxication causes problems with coordination, speech, and decision making, leading to risky behaviors. At toxic levels of alcohol intake, vomiting, difficult breathing, seizures, and even death can occur. Alcohol has an addiction potential, with around 8 percent of adults having an alcohol use disorder. With addiction and chronic alcohol consumption, disease in the liver, pancreas, nervous system, and gastrointestinal system can occur. If you’ve had any history of addiction to alcohol or any other substance, you shouldn’t drink at all.
Many studies have found that consumption of alcohol at these quantities can have protective measures in cardiovascular disease. Consumption of red wine may be particularly favorable, since red wine contains certain polyphenol antioxidants associated with cardiovascular health.
If you’re pregnant, you should avoid alcohol altogether because researchers don’t know how much alcohol will harm a fetus, but they do know that a certain amount can be extremely harmful.
- Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. We can’t overstate the importance of a balanced and healthy diet as you age. A poor diet can lead to an increased risk of many health problems, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and impaired memory. Eating well, on the other hand, makes you feel and look better, keeps your body functioning optimally, wards off colds and sickness, and contributes to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which in turn helps protect you against heart disease and stroke.
- Exercise regularly. Over time, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity, a preventable, yet dangerous epidemic that poses a threat to people’s longevity. And it’s on the rise. As you age, regular exercise should be a cornerstone of healthy living. As your body slows down, you may be tempted to skip the exercise because it’s harder to do, you feel challenged physically, or you accept that being less active is part of normal aging. Don’t fall prey to this thinking! As you get older, exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous, it just needs to be consistent. Regular physical activity helps your body function more effectively.
- Manage your stress and develop healthy coping mechanisms. Stress causes the release of the hormones cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, which under acute stress have a protective effect on the body. But chronic stress allows hormones to hang around longer than usual and cause the formation of free radicals. Although these little buggers don’t cause death directly, they do contribute to aging.
- Get enough sleep regularly. You need sleep, both psychologically and physiologically. The body uses this time for healing and growth, and your body produces many hormones essential for proper functioning during the deepest sleep stages. Sleep irregularity can have a direct impact on some disorders, such as epilepsy and migraines, and has been associated with diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, clinical depression, diabetes, and other serious conditions.
- Visit your doctor for the recommended screening tests for your age. Several important tests can help protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis. Some of these tests find diseases early, when they’re most treatable, while others can actually help keep a disease from developing in the first place.
The Fountain of Youth is at Your Fingertips
The more healthy lifestyle behaviors you incorporate into your daily routine, the more likely you are to age well.
A recent study followed individuals over a 16-year period who adopted four key behaviors — not smoking, drinking moderately, regular exercise, and daily consumption of fruits and vegetables. When compared to people who did not engage in these healthy lifestyle choices, these people were three times less likely to suffer from a disability, chronic disease, or mental health issue. When practiced individually, each of these four behaviors increased the odds of successful aging by 30% to 50%. When all four behaviors were practiced together, the combined health benefits were greater than the sum of its parts.
*Agin, B., & Perkins, S. (2008). Healthy aging for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Pub.
**Sabia, Severine, Archana Singh-Manoux, Gareth Hagger-Johnson, Emmanuelle Cambois, Eric Brunner, and Mika Kivimaki.
“Canadian Medical Association Journal.” Influence of Individual and Combined Healthy Behaviours on Successful Aging. 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Aug. 2015.
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About Priority You MD
Priority You MD provides personalized, integrative healthcare for general wellness, anti-aging, athletic performance and weight management as well as more complex medical issues. In addition, our facility also provides aesthetic services and fitness training. Combining diet, nutrition and exercise with evidence based medicine and preventative therapies, our goal is to help our patients achieve and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
Priority You MD utilizes IV therapy protocols from Trim® Nutrition. These proprietary nutrient injections are formulated by doctors and compounding pharmacists who use the highest quality materials and follow strict manufacturing protocols in a class 10,000 compounding facility.
Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, Trim® Nutrition and Priority You MD’s clinical staff of physicians, pharmacists, registered nurses, and research and development specialists are dedicated to the mission of Making Bodies Better™.