If your aim is to be lively and robust in your 80s and 90s, you'll need to learn some anti-aging secrets that focus on the mind, body and spirit. You are an integrated model -- there are many aspects of a healthy life that rely on each other. Anecdotal information and science have both shown this to be true [source: Luskin]. Crush the spirit and the body will follow. Stimulate the mind and your mood will lighten. Exercise the body and your mind will be sharper. In many ways, these anti-aging tips are interdependent.
It is true that one of the biggest keys to a long and healthy life is choosing your parents wisely. That, of course, isn't truly a choice, but an acknowledgment of the enormous role that heredity plays in health. But you're not a slave to your family's past. New research shows that the brain has an amazing amount of plasticity [source: Doidge]. Impending health conditions can be planned for and bypassed (sometimes literally). Even mood and perspective can be relearned and practiced for stress-avoidance. What does stress avoidance have to do with it? Basically, it enhances cognitive ability -- that is, it keeps your brain sharp [source: Judge and Barish-Wreden]. But more on that later.
You can play a role in the length and quality of your life. You just have to learn how -- and take action. On the following pages, discover 10 techniques for maintaining your youth and health as you age.
10: Stimulate Your Brain
It's one thing to live a long life, but if you want to live a long and vibrant life, you're going to need a vibrant and sharp mind. The brain, like the rest of the body, needs exercise to avoid becoming sluggish and even disease-ridden. A study of nuns found that the more educated women had fewer instances of Alzheimer's disease. And even autopsy analysis found that while a particular brain may have exhibited signs of the disease, the effects weren't obvious in the women who had challenged their brains and had other interests outside their work [source: Roizen and Oz].
The brain needs to be challenged to keep neurological pathways open. Learn a new language, read or even simply practice awareness of your surroundings: smells, sounds, visual input. The old adage "use it or you'll lose it" has validity when it comes to your mind.
9: Eat Well
The standard advice from the U.S. government is to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables and three servings of whole grains daily for vitamins and minerals and the other healthful micronutrients in plants. Drink five to eight 8-oz. (227 milliliter) glasses of water.
Get no more than about 30 to 35 percent of your daily calories from fat, with about one-fifth of that from unsaturated fat (e.g., 1 percent milk, olive and canola oil); 15 percent from protein; and the remaining calories from carbohydrates -- which can include fruits and veggies, and should have an emphasis on complex carbs like oatmeal, whole wheat bread and wild rice.
8: Remember the Spirit
Good health and less suffering -- those sound like worthwhile goals, right? Studies show that religion -- or spirituality -- has a positive effect on physical health and does, in fact, help reduce suffering [source: Luskin]. Whether it's through meditation, prayer or learning to forgive, research indicates that you can learn to become happier and even more social through spirituality.
Kundalini Yoga Meditation has been shown to have a positive effect on people dealing with severe levels of stress, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder [source: Shannahoff-Kalsa]. Medical researchers who have investigated the connection between mind, body spirit -- particularly in the later years of life -- have found that a focus on spirituality and its power to elicit positive change is important [source: Williams].
Regular aerobic exercise is a must-do for anyone committed to slowing the aging process. Hundreds of studies show that exercise combats the loss of stamina, muscle strength, balance and bone density that increases with age.
Ready to get started? The American Heart Association advises doing a single set of eight to 15 repetitions, using eight to 10 exercises, two to three times a week for a comprehensive strength-building program. After you get the flow of the routine, it should take about 10-minutes.
6: Maximize Your Intake of Antioxidants
The evidence is "incontrovertible" and bears repeating, says Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg of Tufts University: Free radicals contribute to the onset of age-related diseases, and antioxidants neutralize free radicals.
Everyone should take a combination of antioxidants through diet and supplementation, he asserts. (There's more on supplements later in the article.) To get that antioxidant boost, Blumberg advises eating dark-colored vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, squash and spinach for carotenoids and blue and purple berries for flavonoids. Because foods contain many classes of antioxidants that work synergistically, they are the superior source of antioxidants, says Blumberg.
5: Consider a Good Supplement
So you want to ramp up the antioxidant quotient in your diet, but there are only so many spinach salads and digestion hours in day. That's where supplements could pick up the slack.
Because we don't always eat as we should, Dr. Jeffrey Blumberg of Tufts University advocates taking daily supplements of the "classic" antioxidants: 200 to 250 milligrams of vitamin C, 100 to 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin E, and a mixed carotenoid supplement of 6 to 10 milligrams. "I always tell people that taking antioxidants is 'like driving with a seatbelt,'" says Blumberg. They can protect your life, but they are not a license to drive recklessly.
You may have heard people say "I'll sleep when I die." Truth is, their lack of sleep may actually precipitate death. Research shows that if you sleep less than six hours a night, you are at far greater risk of having a heart attack or experiencing a stroke [source: Roizen and Oz]. What's more, your mind seems to deteriorate at a faster pace.
On an emotional level, a lack of sleep makes you less peaceful and more prone to anger. Sicknesses related to viral infections are also more prevalent among people lacking proper rest. Eight hours of sleep each night is important for your current physical health, as well as your mood and your longevity [source: Roizen and Oz].
3: Use a Wrinkle Reducer
Unless you've been hyper-vigilant about shielding yourself from the sun (think living in a cave) since you were knee-high, the signs of aging skin -- fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots -- are likely to emerge by the time you enter your fourth decade. "Ninety-five percent of wrinkles are due to sun exposure," says Doris Day, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center.
Consider a wrinkle eraser that includes retinol, a form of vitamin A, to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, fade brown spots and smooth skin tone. Retinol or tretinoin topical creams exfoliate the skin and increase the production of collagen. The creams come in a concentration of 0.02 percent and 0.05 percent so just about everyone can tolerate it, and they may even help some people who have early signs of sun damage or skin cancer. Expect to spend about $10 to $15 a month.
2: Restore Your Hormones
Loss of energy, libido and stamina are the symptoms that usually drive patients into the waiting rooms of anti-aging doctors. They're also the "classic" symptoms of declining hormone levels and the reason hormone-replacement therapy is the No. 1 weapon in the arsenal of prescription anti-aging medicine. Production of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in women and testosterone in men decreases rapidly after age 35, says Nadu Tuakli, M.D., of the Anti-Aging and Longevity Institute in Baltimore.
Anti-aging physician Richard LeConde, who prescribes testosterone for his female patients, notes a dramatic improvement in their well being not seen with estrogen and progesterone alone. It definitely "produces an awakening in men," he says, but reports that most of the women for whom he adds testosterone "refuse to give it up."
1: Human Growth Hormone Therapy
Though controversial and only within the reach of those willing to shell out up to $300 a month, human growth hormone (HGH) is the "best treatment we currently have for preserving vitality until the end of your normal genetic lifespan," says LeConde, who at age 52 has been injecting himself daily with HGH for the past 5 years. The 30-gauge, one-quarter inch (6.35 millimeter) needle, he adds, is a "very low obstacle" for his patients, most of whom are over age 50 and report reduced body fat, increased muscle tone, enhanced sexual performance, elevated mood and firmer skin from HGH treatments, according to LeConde.
HGH has been approved by the FDA to treat adult human growth hormone deficiency but not as a routine anti-aging therapy. That will take years because "everyone is a candidate for HGH," says LeConde. In the meantime, he adds, "those of us over 50 can't wait for the FDA to approve one of the safest, most effective interventions we have." What will scientific research have to say about HGH? Only time will tell -- we recommended starting your anti-aging regimen at home by living healthy in the meantime.
Lots More Information
- 5 Stereotypes About Aging (That Just Aren't True)
- Top 5 Anti-aging Vitamins
- 5 Anti-aging Diets
- Top 5 Natural Anti-aging Techniques
- Doidge, Norman. "The Brain That Changes Itself." Penguin Books. Dec. 18, 2007. (March 17, 2012)
- Judge, Kay and Maxine Barish-Wreden Drs. "Keep Your Mind Young and Alert." Chicago Tribune. Dec. 7, 2009. (March 17, 2012) http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-health-diet-aging-brainpower,0,3680833.story
- Luskin, Frederick. "Transformative Practices for Integrating Mind-Body-Spirit." The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. Oct. 22, 2004. (March 17, 2012) http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2004.10.S-15
- Roizen, Michael F., M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. "You Staying Young." Free Press. 2007. (March 17, 2012)
- Shannahoff-Kalsa, David. "Kundalini Yoga Meditation." The Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine. Dec. 31, 2007. (March 18, 2012) http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2007.0684
- Williams, Anna-Leila. "Perspectives on Spirituality at The End of Life." Cambridge Journals. Aug. 6, 2006. (March 17, 2012) http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=531196