An age-old problem, by Lola Renton

Before we delve into the depths of the mythical fountain of youth, we have to clarify one or two things. We will all grow old and none of us can escape age spots and greying hair. We should accept this as a fact of life because with age, comes beauty as well – just a different kind.  It is not about living forever, but living well for as long as we can.  And that doesn’t have to involve regular trips to the doctor or thousands of pounds spent on lotions and potions. Nothing in the world will keep you young or healthy forever but understanding the ageing process is an invaluable tool to help you keep wrinkles and chronic disease at bay.

Do you want to look and feel good for as long as possible? Nutrition is key if you are looking to influence ageing. Pay attention to diet and increase your intake of seasonal fruit & vegetables, nuts & seeds, organic meat and wild fish. Reduce intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, as well as alcohol. Smoking is a no-no!

While your genes determine the colour of your eyes or the size of your feet, they do not have almighty control over your health and life expectancy. In fact, you could be born with a gene for prematurely sagging skin but that doesn’t mean you have to book in for a facelift right away. Several lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and environmental toxins have the ability to ‘switch’ certain genes on and off.  Even though the exact cause of ageing is still not fully understood, a recent theory seems to shed some light on the matter. Chromosomes have a little tail attached to their double helix structure called a telomere. Such telomeres have been compared to the plastic tips on shoelaces; they hold our genetic material together. Every time a cell divides, the telomere gets shorter until it can no longer hold the biological information in place and cancer, disease and death often follow. We haven’t found a solution for this telomere shortening yet, but taking good care of your DNA seems a good place to start.

Sugar is not only the enemy of every crash dieter but it is also the devil in disguise for the anti-ageing enthusiast. A surplus of sugar molecules in your bloodstream can literally caramelise your precious cells and turn your DNA into sticky golden syrup. This process is called glycation and none of your precious organs are safe from the effects of too much sweet nothingness. So – should you find yourself stalking the ice cream van around the neighbourhood, spare a thought for your long-suffering genetic material and ignore the tempting call of the beckoning music.

Free radicals are well known contributors to disease and ageing and we produce them every second of every day. They are by-products of daily metabolism and when you take into account exhaust fumes, pesticides, additives, plastics and household chemicals, our DNA stands little chance of survival. So the newspaper articles telling you to eat your berries and greens to get a good dose of antioxidant power are right for once. But living on just lettuce leaves and fruit is not the answer either. Nutritional deficiencies are common across the board but the older we get the harder it is to absorb all the goodness from our dinner plates. The body is an incredible machine which can run on very little fuel for quite a long time, but 15 or 20 years down the line, the cracks will start to appear. Once you are on the other side of 50, you should make your nutritional requirements a priority. Make sure that every meal and snack is packed with nutrients, essential fats and proteins. And for once in your life ignore the calorie count because, sometimes, a few pounds too little can be more dangerous than a few pounds too much. Your days of dieting should be well and truly over and the focus should shift now to pampering your organs and massaging your cells.

And finally, the biggest killer of them all deserves a mention when it comes to ageing…..STRESS.  It’s not only the number one cause of heart disease and overall mortality, it is also a significant contributor to premature ageing. It is not always the obvious stressful job or failed marriage that causes a few more greying hairs to appear, but rather something we always regarded as healthy. Exercise is no doubt an important part of a balanced lifestyle but caution is advised. Exhausting bike rides and long sessions in the gym exert just as much stress on your body as a busy day in the office. The risk of injury also dramatically increases with age and the recovery process can be long and painful.  Alternatively, choose relaxing recreational activities such as yoga, swimming or water gymnastics that are kind to your joints and keep your mind at peace. Doing regular gymnastics is also good because it helps stretch all your joints and muscles. If you want to start doing gymnastics or yoga visit, to get a good mat.

Of course it is impossible to avoid some degree of stress, but we can support our bodies as best as we can to deal with the challenges a modern lifestyle throws at us. Colourful fruit and vegetables, a low sugar diet, organic produce and a moderately active and holistic way of life are the most powerful weapons in your arsenal to slow down the ageing process. Even if old age is in the far distant future, now is not too early to think about prevention instead of looking for salvation in your doctor’s surgery when a hedonistic and gluttonous lifestyle has finally caught up with you.

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Lola Renton

About Lola Renton

Lola Renton is a leading Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons) and product consultant with a passion for anything edible. She is a published health writer for national publications and international magazines and a down-to-earth blogger in cyber space. In the confusing and contradicting world of nutrition, it is her aim to set the record straight and serve her followers delicate pearls of nutrition on an entertaining, light hearted plate.