Aging well is possible. Recent scientific evidence demonstrates that lifestyle adjustments can ensure health through all ages.
Aging is usually associated and often accompanied by general deterioration of health and development of age-related conditions and diseases. This has led to the public fear of aging and attempts to defy it through variety of means. Biological aging however remains well established future that drives individuals, scientists, health practitioners, wellness industry to establish control over this process.
It is possible, nevertheless, to get old well and preserve health through all stages of life. Examples of this kind of aging are centenarians (those who reached 100) and supercentenarians (older than 110). The recent case study performed in US on a group of supercentenarians showed that majority of them remains independent or required minimal assistance. Interestingly, supercentenarians displayed either no or delayed signs of cardio-vascular diseases, rare diabetes and Parknson’s and 25% of the studied group survived cancer.
The life-style factors effect on healthy aging have recently received scientific support and justification. One of the most exciting areas of aging research was the discovery that aging can be controlled by metabolic factors and that activity of these factors can be regulated through diet. A diet plentiful with fruits and vegetable is recognized to be the source of vital microelements, vitamins and anti-oxidants that can control the processes initiated by oxidative stress.
Special attention has received the diet regime of caloric restriction that involves low calories but not malnutrition. Caloric restriction is scientifically established as a factor that can ensure reduced rate of aging and life prolongation in variety of organisms. The study of physiological consequences of caloric restriction revealed the link with anti-oxidative pathways and the functional activity of variety of genes among which are those controlling energy metabolism, aging and stress tolerance. The phase I study initiated by the US National Institute of Aging revealed that besides reducing body mass, caloric restriction reduced risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and improved biomarkers of longevity.
An example of effectiveness of dietary regime is provided by Japanese of the Okinawa Island. This group of people appears to have delayed aging process and have the lowest in the world occurrence of cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer. The scientists believe that Okinawan lifestyle could give clues to their longevity. Among the lifestyle factors is Okinawan’s diet which is characterized by low calorie intake (caloric restriction), lots of yellow-green vegetables, soy products and unsaturated fats such as canola-soy oil blend used for cooking. However it should be noted that other factors could play role in Okinawans healthy aging.
Physical activity is among other important factors that are found to ensure healthy aging. There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence suggesting preventative power of physical activity for chronic diseases. An analysis of recent evidence showed that physical activity can reduce breast cancer risk by 75%, heart and cardiovascular diseases by 49% diabetes by 32% and colorectal cancer by 22%. A recent Australian study established the link between late life physical activity with future risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in elderly men.
The third lifestyle factor that is increasingly recognized as a leading cause accelerating aging and age-related diseases is psychological stress. Psychological stress leads to the production of stress hormones and the initiation of a sequence of biochemical reactions that serve to adapt the system to new conditions. Stress hormones can play a protective role when their release and action last for a short time. If, however, stress persists and becomes chronic, stress hormones cause systemic damage of the brain, immune, metabolic and cardiovascular and other systems of the body. An accumulating amount of evidence suggests that chronic psychological stress leads to premature aging and the earlier onset of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases and metal health complications. One of the studies has demonstrated that psychological stress in healthy pre-menopausal women leads to the increased oxidative stress and shorter telomeres thus adding a decade to women’s current age. Stress management therefore becomes an important part of anti-aging strategies.
Existing scientific discoveries into the natural ways of healthy aging provide the foundation for the different approach to aging: the current trend of fear and rejection of aging should give way to the efforts of achieving healthy aging through the lifestyle adjustments including diet, physical activity and stress management.