10 Ways to Age Well
Aging is predictable in all living organisms; however, the rate of aging can vary greatly depending on our intrinsic genetic profile and our extrinsic lifestyle throughout the passing years. Many experts would suggest that there is little we can do to influence our genetic patterns, but we know that we can influence familial disease patterns such as heart disease. Chinese medical theory dictates that with a proper diet, exercise, meditation, and tonic herbs we can experience a better quality of life into old age.
1.) Nourish Yourself
What we see as aging, such as our personal appearance, flexibility, strength and so on, is simply a reflection of the aging that is occurring on a cellular level internally. As our age advances, our cells ability to divide and make new cells slows or halts. This is why it is necessary to provide the nourishment needed to support healthy cells. Chinese food therapy and tonic herbs help to nourish the body on a cellular level.
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2.) Build Blood and Qi in the Body
One of the most common patterns of imbalance in the elderly is 'Blood and Qi (Chi) Deficiency'. Qi is the vital energy and warmth producing quality of the body that allows the animation of the human body. All of the organs must receive abundant Qi and Blood to thrive and function properly.
Signs of Blood Deficiency include dry skin, dizziness, palpitations, withered skin, lusterless complexion, pale lips, a weak pulse, insomnia, tight muscles, inflexible joints, and thinning brittle hair. Blood is made up mainly of water, and water has amazing isolate properties; this is why older people who are Blood Deficient are intolerant of temperature fluctuations, and are always too hot or too cold.
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3.) Eliminate Toxins from the Body
Exposure to toxins can occur from environmental exposures such as pollution, occupational hazards such as paint, hair dyes, or chemicals, or pesticides in our foods. Many toxins act as free radicals and cause cellular damage in the body speeding up aging. Other pesticides and toxins seem to interfere with the mechanisms that stimulate the division of cells in the body. Cell division is the way you regenerate new cells that keep you youthful. Typically the body eliminates toxins through the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, and lymphatic system and so on. It is when the body becomes overwhelmed with toxins that the systems of elimination stop functioning optimally, and toxins become lodged more internally in the body.
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4.) Get a Good Night's Sleep
Researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center found that lack of sleep produces changes in the bodies, even in teens, that are related with premature aging. "We found that the metabolic and endocrine changes resulting from a significant sleep debt mimic many of the hallmarks of aging," said Eve Van Cauter, Ph.D., professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and director of the study. "We suspect that chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory loss."
There are many underlying causes of insomnia and sleep disturbances. One of the reasons that Chinese medicine is able to treat insomnia with such great success is because it has a number of practical theories that actually address the root causes of sleep disorders. It should be noted that in Chinese medicine a normal pattern of sleep would be the ability to fall asleep on your own around 10 or 11 PM, and stay asleep for 7-8 hours without interruption. Any other sleep pattern would be considered abnormal, and would be part of a pattern of imbalance.
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5.) Reduce Stress
The part of the DNA that controls cell aging is called a telomere. If you think of a strand of DNA as a shoelace, the telomere is the plastic tip on the end that provides protection to the DNA. Telomeres naturally get thinner and fray as we age, and the more worn they become, the less protection they provide. Chronic stress has been shown to speed up this process resulting in the premature death of cells, rather than normal rejuvenating mechanism of cell division.
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Stress is a normal part of our lives, and it is more specifically how we deal with stressors that determine if stress is going to affect us negatively. Many people find the stress involved with life drama stimulating, but creating drama is often an effort to avoid dealing with past emotional traumas. It is possible to re-program the nervous system so that it is not so over-reactive to normal stressors. Some of the most common ways to maintain a healthy nervous system are exercise and breathing meditations.
6.) Avoid Drugs (recreational or pharmaceutical), Cigarettes and Alcohol
We've all heard that a couple of glasses of red wine is good for us and no-one has proven that smoking in moderation (4 cigarettes a day) will have a dramatic negative impact on your health, it goes without saying that the over consumption of these substances can have a negative impact on your health.
7.) Limit Your Exposure to the Sun
The sun is a life giving force that has been villainized of late. While over-exposure to the sun's rays will cause skin damage, exposing the skin to 15 minutes or so of sunlight daily insures the healthy production of Vitamin D that is vital to bone density and strength. Many elderly people in living facilities go for months without daily sun exposure, thus hastening their decline. In Chinese medicine, it is everything in moderation rather than a linear standard of bad-good, black-white solutions. If you have sun damaged skin, consider Total Redemption Nourishing Cream.
8.) Maintain a healthy weight with whole foods and regular exercise
The CDC lists the following increased health risks in overweight and obese individuals:
- Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of Type 2 diabetes)
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea
- Respiratory problems
- Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
Walking, Tai Qi, Qi Gong, and yoga increase blood circulation, decrease stress, maintain flexibility, all while helping to maintain a healthy body weight. Running is not considered a wise exercise method, especially as we age, because it depletes the 'Kidney Essence' that is central in aging in Chinese medical theory. Moderate weight lifting can help with maintaining bone mass and muscle strength, but heavy lifting and extreme workouts deplete the body of Qi and Blood and should be avoided. Brisk walks of around 10-15 miles per week are optimal for healthy aging.
10.) Learn New Things
Part of healthy aging is maintaining clear thinking. While the understanding of how the brain actually functions is a scientific work in progress at this time, many studies are showing that we are able to create new pathways and synapses in the brain throughout our life; this effort is especially important as we age. Avoiding senility can be as simple as reading new books, learning a new language, taking an art class, and even taking a walk in the woods.
Healthy Aging Strategies
While aging may be inevitable, aging well is a choice. It takes time and practice to learn new lifestyle patterns; don't expect to create all new healthy habits overnight. Simply, begin to implement one or two new things every few weeks to implement these healthy aging tips.
A diet of organic whole foods rich in vegetables, beans, and whole grains is vital for longevity. Avoiding processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats is necessary for promoting wellness. Healthy unsaturated fats are desirable, but highly refined and hydrogenated oils are detrimental to your health. These eating patterns are not new ideas, and are based on eating real foods.
Because absorption decreases with age, even organic foods may not provide us with enough vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals are necessary as catalysts that allow us to break down, absorb, and utilize our nourishing foods. A one-a-day from the corner drug store may not be the best choice, so visit your local health food store for vitamins and minerals that your body can easily absorb. Make sure to boost your Vitamin C intake to at least 1,000 mgs. as Vitamin C helps to maintain the tenacity of our cells. Micro-minerals, such as those found in seaweed, increase the cellular adaptability to stresses and environmental changes.
Free radicals are unstable cells that bounce around causing cellular damage internally and speed aging. Aging can also result from an accumulation of genetic errors due to damage from free radicals; the resulting changes in DNA result in cell mutations and malfunctioning; Cancer cells would be an example.
Anti-oxidants have the molecular compounds to stabilize the free radicals and stop the damage from occurring. Medicinal herbs are rich in antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids, phenolic acids, and esters in the essential oils of herbs. Some common sources of anti-oxidants include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Coenzyme Q10, and Manganese. Vegetables, herbs and fruits are rich in antioxidants and are the safest way to ingest them.
Another great trick for increasing the absorption rate of nutrients as we age is by going through NAET (Nambudrapad Allergy Elimination Treatments). In Chinese medicine, the decrease in absorption is mainly due to energetic blocks and imbalances that develop over a lifetime. These energetic blocks that do not allow you to absorb your nutrients can be cleared with NAET treatments. Go to NAET.com to learn more and find a practitioner in your area to promote absorption and healthy aging.
Until there is such a time that advances in gene therapy can promise to replace all of our worn out parts, it is our personal responsibility to maintain health and wellness with good personal lifestyle choices. Aging is a normal process that leads to our eventual deaths and there is an 'anti anti-aging movement' underway that reveres aging while promoting healthy aging life practices.