Laura Thompson is a local Nutritional Therapist, Acupuncturist and creator of the Healthy Gut Plan, offering advice on a range of health issues.
The prospect of getting older for many of us, including myself, is a terrifying thought. Aging is inevitable and begins from the day we are born, but how come some people age better than others? What is their secret and how can we slow down the hands of time?
Some people are lucky and have inherited the longevity gene but what can we do to improve our health and keep that youthful enthusiasm for life?
Aging today is not like it was for our mothers. Women today spend more time and money on maintaing their looks. Some resorting to surgical procedures or Botox as a means of keeping that youthful look. For some of us, keeping it as natural as possible is important, so how can we stay young naturally?
The modern woman may spend more money on their looks but these women are usually juggling careers, rearing children and in some cases taking care of elderly relatives, adding a lot of extra stress. All this extra stress takes its toll on our looks.
So here are some useful tips on how to age as well as possible. Firstly the choices that we make everyday about what we eat, whether we exercise and how stressed we let ourselves become determine longevity.
1. Try to include a wide variety of foods in your diet. It is tempting to eat the same foods all the time. Many of us do the same weekly shop and rarely vary it. Eat a rainbow of colours, particularly in our fruits and vegetables. The more the merrier. Remember that these fruit and vegetables feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, vital for a healthy immune system and that all-important serotonin (the happy hormone). All this colour is what makes these foods rich in anti-oxidants, which help to fight free radicals, which can contribute to aging.
2. Eat lean fresh meats, but not everyday. In particular, avoid processed meats, which are laden with sodium nitrates which have been linked to some cancers.
3. Include some of the good fats essential for good skin and a healthy heart. Oily fish, flax and nut oils are all great for slowing down the aging process, feeding our brains, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping our mood good. Avoid the bad fats particularly trans fats and saturated fats.
4. Cut down on the sugar. Over the last fifty years, we in the western world have doubled our consumption of processed sugars all found in biscuits, drinks and confectionaries and, as a result, rates of obesity and heart disease have soared. Sugar makes you fat, it leeches your body of many vitamins particularly vitamin B. Vitamin B is important for your metabolisim, boosting your energy. It keeps your skin hair and nails strong. When your blood sugar levels rise, sugar attaches itself to the collagen fibres in your skin breaking it down and making your skin saggy and less plump.
5. Alcohol – I know this is hard! I love a nice glass of wine as much as anyone, but it should be drank in moderation. Nothing destabilises a healthy eating plan or diet like it. Too much the night before causes sugar cravings the next day, breaking that willpower. The best alcohol is a small glass of wine or a clear spirit like gin or vodka taken with soda water and some fresh lime. Beer is probably the worst, particularly for men, as it floods the body with the female hormone oestrogen giving them moobs or man boobs.
6. Water is needed by every cell in our bodies. Nothing ages us more than dehydration. Aim to drink at least six to eight glasses a day.
7. Stress affects us all at some stage but try to find ways to relax and learn to say no instead of taking on too much! Worrying never solves anything so try to live in the moment.
8. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night.
9. Exercise every day; particularly pay attention to your muscles. Light weight-bearing exercises will preserve muscle mass and keep your bones strong.
10. Look after your brain health, keep it active by doing crosswords or learn a new skill. All proven to help ward off Alzheimers.
11. Stay positive. Perhaps the most single common thread amongst people who live to a good age is their attitude. See the good in everything, avoid negative people and situations. Have fun and never be afraid to be silly. Laugh as often as you can: it really is the best medicine of all.