Age related illnesses | September 23, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
Ageing is the process of growing old, characterised by a progressive and general decrease in function, reducing the body’s ability to adapt to change and preserve homeostasis in the body.
Statistics reveal that more than 30% of the Australian population is comprised of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1961). Over the past two decades the amount of individuals 65 years and over have increased with the number of centenarians increasing by 263%, signifying an increase in life expectancy for both males and females. With an increase in the ageing population there has also been a demand for a higher quality of life than expected by previous generations, and yet this group is susceptible to age-related diseases such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, cancer and osteoarthritis. Natural medicines and a healthy lifestyle can be effective preventative measures to increase the length and quality of life, so that less years are spent suffering from chronic diseases.
It is estimated that genes contribute to 25% of the ageing process, whereas lifestyle and dietary factors account for the remaining 75%. This reflects how important preventative measures are and that we really do have control over how accelerated the ageing process is for us.
Risk factors that contribute to the ageing process include the following:
It is important to begin healthy dietary practices during adulthood to reduce your risk of age-related diseases. Include a diet that is rich in nutrients, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals. Diets high in fat, especially trans and saturated fats have been shown to adversely affect cognition and contribute to inflammation.
A Mediterranean diet that is rich in olive oil, vegetables, legumes, cereals, fish and fruits, with low consumption of animal fats, dairy and processed foods are good dietary principles to follow. Eating low glycaemic index foods is also useful for balancing mood, energy levels and most importantly blood sugars.
Maintaining a healthy weight and body composition is key to healthy ageing. Regular exercise is also very important to improve mood, assist with sleep and to maintain a healthy heart and circulation. Aim for 40 minutes, 4 or more times per week. Studies have shown that people who are sedentary and sit for more than 10 hours per day are more likely to age and die prematurely. Watching tv for more than 3 hours per day also increases the risk of mortality, while watching for more than 5 hours showed a more significant risk regardless of the amount of physical activity during the day.
Lifestyle changes should include regular social activities to improve mood and stimulating mental activities such as reading, crosswords, crafts and hobbies. Reducing stress is also an important element to address as high levels of stress hormones such as cortisol can cause damage to our DNA and accelerate the ageing process. It is important to have a healthy work/life balance and a positive outlook on life with meaning and purpose.
Oxidative stress and inflammation are key components of the ageing process and various disease states such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Antioxidants help to neutralize free radical damage and are important to include in the diet.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant to increase in the diet and can be helpful in boosting the immune system and in preventing macular degeneration. Vitamin c can be taken as a supplement with bioflavonoids to increase its effectiveness or foods rich in this nutrient include kiwi fruit, chili, capsicum, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and citrus fruits.
Vitamin E is also an antioxidant and important for the immune system and eye health but can also be helpful for cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and skin health. Dietary sources include nuts and seeds, wheat germ, egg yolk, olives and olive oil.
B complex vitamins are important for a healthy nervous system, particularly if there is fatigue, stress, anxiety and inadequate nutrition.
Folate is a common deficiency in this age group and can contribute to an increase in homocysteine levels. Folate is found in green leafy vegetables, cabbage, oranges, raw hazelnuts and peanuts.
Green tea. The polyphenols and catechins in green tea have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties.
A large study conducted in Japan found an association between higher consumption of green tea and a lower prevalence of cognitive impairment.
Curcumin. The polyphenol curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma Longa) has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been implicated in helping to slow down the ageing process. Numerous studies have shown its effectiveness in alleviating the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and enhancing cognitive function.
Co enzyme Q 10 is involved in the production of energy in the body and is an important antioxidant readily used by the body. It has been shown to delay the progression of neurodegenerative and heart conditions. It is a particularly important nutrient to supplement with if cholesterol medications are being taken as they deplete the body of this important nutrient.
To conclude, ageing is a multifactorial process of which genes, our environment, lifestyle and diet all play a role in its progress. Simple dietary and lifestyle changes can be implemented to delay its progression so that the risk of developing chronic diseases can be reduced.
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