how to look and feel YOUNGER
Think about the fight against ageing and it’s Botox that comes to mind but ageing well, ultimately, has more to do with being healthy and strong than with cosmetic interventions. It’s fabulous to look 40 when you are 60 – but you want to be able to move l
we’re sure Tina Turner and Julie Christie have brilliant genes. They must do: they look natural and young, though they’re both 77 years old. Perhaps they get some highly skilled help but, says Dr Sara Gottfried in her new book, Younger, what’s most likely to be the secret behind their enviable looks and style is that they live well. This is because up to 90% of the signs of ageing and disease are caused by lifestyle choices, not genes.
Dr Gottfried is a champion of ‘healthspan’ as opposed to lifespan. Healthspan is the time you are disease free and healthy, able to enjoy life fully irrespective of your age. According to Dr Gottfried it is factors in our diet, lifestyle and environment that influence how many years of good health we enjoy and the rate at which we age.
Dr Gottfried has coined the term ‘inflammaging’: it is inflammation in your body that causes accelerated ageing (and disease). The quickest ways to age, therefore, are to gain weight, lose muscle mass, mess up your blood sugar, fail to get enough sleep, neglect to exercise your brain, wreck your gut flora with antibiotics and a bad diet, sit a lot, manage stress badly and eat inflammatory food, such as sugar, gluten and dairy. Even taking medications, such as anti-anxiety pills, can significantly raise your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
If this sounds like you it’s never too late to practise some damage control:
When you eat nutrient-dense food your immune system is stronger, you improve brain function, lose excess weight and your energy levels increase. Dr Gottfried recommends a predominantly plant-based diet with moderate amounts of animal protein. She recommends we eat 450g to 900g of vegetables a day, which helps to reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance. Inflammatory food such as dairy, gluten, sugar, grains, caffeine and alcohol should be avoided or kept to a minimum.
Healthy fats such as coconut oil are encouraged. She stresses that trans fats and seed oils must be eliminated due to the damage they do to the human body. (Learn more in ‘Good Fats Vs Bad Fats’ on page 14.)
Good oral hygiene is also crucial, as bacteria in your mouth causes inflammation (gingivitis), cavities and premature aging.
It is during sleep that human growth hormone does its repair work. Quality sleep can reset hormones, strengthen the immune system, and aid weight loss. As the quality of sleep improves you will notice less inflammation and stiffness.
On the flipside, poor sleep ruins blood-sugar control and raises levels of stress hormones.
Try to get to bed before 10pm and aim for between seven and eight-and-a-half hours of sleep every night. Keep your bedroom dark and free from electronics. If you struggle to fall asleep eat healthy carbs such as sweet potatoes at dinner to aid the release of serotonin and melatonin, which facilitate sleep. Test for and correct any vitamin D deficiency you may have.
Sitting too much leads to weak bones, loss of muscle mass, poor circulation and an overall increased risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Exercise can mitigate the damage as it dispenses with tension, builds muscle, conditions the heart, improves lung function and produces the feel-good hormones known as endorphins. Choose an exercise regime that you will stick to. Burst training (HIIT) is great for improving insulin sensitivity and strength training builds muscle mass, which keeps your metabolism operating efficiently. Try to incorporate both but schedule sufficient time for recovery.
Tension in the body leads to stiff joints and muscles and, ultimately, reduced mobility. Learn some stretching techniques that provide release. This improves injury-recovery time and increases range of motion. Incorporate frequent stretches in your daily routine, especially if you spend a significant part of the day sitting in front of a computer. Good options for release are yoga, Pilates, foam rolling, stretching and massage. Try to stretch each day for at least 10 minutes.
Magnesium can help your muscles to relax. Since most people are magnesium deficient, it is worth taking a supplement.
We are exposed to toxins on a daily basis. These accumulate in our cells and age us. Synthetic skincare products, pesticides, mould and pollution can all damage DNA. Mindfulness about toxins is, therefore, crucial.
Look for skincare products that are free from parabens and phthalates to reduce your toxin load.
Eliminate all chemical cleaning agents from the house.
Since your liver’s job is to filter and purify the blood (mainly when you are sleeping), make sure you get enough sleep, and don’t over burden your liver with alcohol. Eat lots of cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, which do an excellent job of cleaning up your gut and strengthening your immune system.
Avoid plastic water bottles and store leftovers in glass or ceramic containers.
Poorly managed stress shortens our healthspan: it drives up blood sugar and cortisol, both of which accelerate ageing. Our flight-or-fight response is not designed to be switched on constantly. Schedule regular downtime to relax and recharge: you’ll look fresher, and be healthier. Prayer, meditation, yoga, mindfulness and breathing exercises are all great modalities for dealing with stress.
Use your brain or lose it. Even activities such as crossword puzzles, games, baking or gardening support brain function. Research has also shown that people with ties to social groups, or who have an active social or family life, are less likely to experience cognitive decline so get on with that social life!
DR SARA GOTTFRIED