Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean that you have to put up with illness. Healthy ageing is possible and achievable. If you’re still young, start now. If you are already of an advanced age, start now. It’s never too late to get healthy. Find out how below!
|Over the last few decades, life expectancy in the developed world has been steadily increasing, while healthy life expectancy has been decreasing. That means that you might expect to live longer but with a poorer quality of life. Today I want to talk about how you can take action now to take care of your tomorrow.|
START YOUR PREPARATION AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE
Diet and lifestyle changes play a big role in how well you age and how long you live. Even if you have a genetic predisposition for serious illness, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer or Alzheimer’s, it will not manifest if the gene is not expressed. How does that happen or not happen? Gene expression, again, is affected by diet and lifestyle choices. So, the sooner you introduce healthy habits, the better. It’s never too late to make impactful changes!
The role of nutrition is often underestimated. But did you know that nutritional interventions have shown amazing results? We now know that the right diet can reverse not just type 2 diabetes, but also cognitive decline. Of course, dietary changes require a bit of effort and attention – more than popping pills. With the right diet, some of the meds might even become obsolete. In later life, eating a really good diet is more important than ever.
REAL FOOD – MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER
As you age, you lose lean body mass – muscle – which leads to a reduced metabolic rate. That means you burn (and need) fewer calories than before, which can contribute to weight gain. The loss of muscle tissue can be a sign of less activity. It also means that staying active gets harder – a vicious cycle.
Achieving the fine balance between eating fewer calories and taking in the same amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrient requirements can be tricky. That’s why good quality food has never been more important!
Processed foods and ready meals are not nutrient-dense – quite the opposite. They tend to be high in sugar, salt and trans fats or vegetable oils while lacking fibre, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Everyone – of any age – needs real food. As you age, there really is no alternative. Real food is the kind of food your grandmother would recognise: meat, fish, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains. The sooner you switch to real food only, the better the foundation your health depends on is going to be.
What you eat is one thing, whether you absorb it is another. As you age, stomach acid production declines. For a long time, this was thought to be a ‘normal’ symptom of ageing, but it is not. And yet it is a common problem.
Low stomach acid levels can be a result of dehydration, infection with the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, the widespread use of acid-blocking medication or a combination of the above. Also, stomach acid secretion is an energy-intense process, and the diet might just not supply enough calories for adequate stomach acid levels. As a result, folate, vitamin B12, iron, calcium and beta-carotene cannot be adequately absorbed.
H. pylori infections take decades to develop and can cause atrophic gastritis, a painful condition in which the stomach lining is chronically inflamed and for which one symptom is declining stomach acid. In many cases, this can be reversed by eliminating the infection. It is therefore worth getting tested for H. pylori if you feel that something is not right with your stomach.
Acid-blocking medication is another common culprit when it comes to low stomach acid levels, resulting in malabsorption. These kinds of drugs are prescribed when patients complain of acid reflux or heartburn, which are commonly considered symptoms of too much stomach acid. Ironically, too little acid can cause the same symptoms and is much more common.
Acid-blocking medication makes the problem worse. Having said that, it is crucial that you do not just stop taking the drug, if you are already on them (or any other medication for that matter). You must speak to your doctor about it.
Low stomach acid levels do not just affect what goes on in the stomach, but also what happens further down in the digestive tract. It makes the upper intestine slightly acidic, too. If that is not happening, sometimes the wrong bacteria can settle there. Those bugs can then absorb the nutrients meant for you – thus depriving you of them. They will thrive on your food and proliferate. This is called ‘small intestinal bacterial overgrowth’, (SIBO) a condition that can promote malabsorption, too.
6 WAYS TO AGE BETTER – STARTING TODAY!
1. Eat real food. Ready meals and fast food just don’t cut it. As you age, you need all the nutrients you can get. Buy ingredients rather than meals and your body will thank you for it. A slow cooker is an inexpensive gadget that makes cooking a doddle, even if you think you can’t cook. It turns even the more affordable, tougher cuts of meat into melt-in-the-mouth stews. Batch cook and freeze a couple of portions. That way, you can stock your freezer with home-made ready meals.
2. Eat good fats. Fat is required to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins vitamin A, D and E. Fat is unfairly vilified. For sure man-made vegetable oils are pro-inflammatory, harmful to cognitive health and may actually increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. To maintain good cognitive and mental health, you need good amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is predominantly found in oily fish. Aim for 2-3 servings per week. Make sure you also include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds and their oil in your diet.
3. While the official dietary guidelines restrict fat, they encourage us to consume 9-13 servings per day of carbohydrate-based foods. Although the advice says not to take those in the form of sugar, all carbs still end up as sugar in the bloodstream in the end. Refined carbohydrate foods (white bread, white rice, cakes, biscuits, etc.) raise blood sugar levels fast and high. Yet, when appetite is waning, sugary foods may still be the most attractive option. Sadly, a high carbohydrate, high sugar diet is detrimental, especially if you are suffering from diabetes and are at risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. To reduce the sugar in your life, follow a diet with a low glycaemic load. It means very little sugar and more carbs from vegetables than grains, but because it consists of real food and allows healthy fats, meals are tasty and filling.
4. Try green smoothies, which are a delicious way to benefit from the vitamin C, antioxidants and enzymes of raw plants, without having to chew them. They are easy to prepare and consume.
5. Consider supplementation. Think about getting your Vitamin D tested. You can order an easy-to-do and affordable home test kit at https://www.vitamindtest.org.uk and if you are not sure about the dose you need to supplement with, this is something I can help you with. Vitamin D is a nutrient of concern for all ages. You make most of your vitamin D within your skin under the influence of sunlight. Anyone living far from the equator, where sunlight is scarce in winter, is likely deficient. If you are older and perhaps less mobile, you may have even fewer opportunities to enjoy the sun. Yet, vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for bone health. It is needed for the absorption calcium – which may already be limited if stomach acid levels are low. Vitamin D is also essential for a healthy heart, cholesterol metabolism, the brain and more. Unfortunately, there are not many good food sources for it, but oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks do contain some. It is possible to get tested and supplement accordingly. Good quality dietary supplements may also help improve the absorption of vitamins and minerals or top up nutrient levels from food. Just make sure to get advice from someone like me who is trained in the use of dietary supplements. They can interact with medication, and different products are not absorbed in the same.
6. Take the guesswork and get faster results by working with a qualified and Registered Nutritional Therapist. This can be a powerful way of equipping you with knowledge of what may be going on in your body and helping you to make positive changes to benefit your long-term health and wellbeing. For more information on what this involves, book your free health call with me now!