The 10 Modifiable Factors of Aging
By Sarah Axtell, ND • December 27, 2016
The human life span has been documented to reach about 120 years, and the maximum life span is potentially 150 years or more. Those that reach ages over 100 have been found to lead active and productive lives. These people age more slowly and typically remain cancer free.
There are positive lifestyle factors that lead to a long life, such as effective stress management and a healthy diet. Negative influences such as smoking history, sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet lead to chronic and degenerative diseases and thus a shorter life span.
There are several factors that influence aging. The 10 factors below are modifiable- meaning YOU have the power to control how you age based on lifestyle changes and natural therapies.
1. Oxidative Damage- Oxygen can cause unstable and destructive chemical reactions in your body. I know what you are thinking- ‘But isn’t oxygen vital to life?” Yes, we absolutely need oxygen. But when oxygen becomes unstable, free radicals are produced, thus damaging our cells and DNA. Oxidative damage, however, is possible to reverse with antioxidants. Green tea extract, alpha-lipoic-acid, grapeseed extract, vitamins A, C, and E are all examples of antioxidants. We can get these nutrients from nutritional supplements or better yet we can obtain them from our food. Eating a colorful plate (think rainbow colors) is key to graceful aging. Aim for filling 1/2 your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at a meal.
2. Genetic Damage- The result of free radical damage on cells leads to DNA destruction. Over time, DNA changes can lead to cancer development. Ginkgo has been shown to protect mitochondrial DNA from oxidative damage. Folate (folic acid) is involved in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and proteins. It is a necessary component for the repair of DNA and the maintenance of a healthy genome.
3. Impaired Detoxification- As we age, toxins and cellular debris accumulate. Our body’s detox systems become overwhelmed and congested. To “unclog the drain,” we must improve elimination on both a cellular and tissue level. This is achieved by biotherapeutic drainage (a therapy combining herbs and homeopathic remedies available at Lakeside Natural Medicine); natural supplements and herbs to improve the efficiency of our organs of elimination (specifically our liver, kidneys, lungs, and gastro-intestinal system); castor oil packs (topical application of castor oil to improve detoxification); saunas; drinking 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water each day; and when necessary, chelation therapy to eliminate toxic heavy metals from the body.
4. Insulin Resistance– Insulin, a hormone secreted from the pancreas, is in charge of regulating our blood sugar levels. When blood sugar is high, insulin levels increase to drive the sugar into cells. Over time, however, when blood sugar is chronically elevated, our cells start to become resistance to insulin. This is consistent with diabetes. Elevated blood sugar levels and thus increased insulin levels increases your risk of many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, Syndrome X, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and cancer. Maintaining healthy blood sugar is essential in graceful aging. This is accomplished through diet, exercise, and natural therapies.
5. Impaired Protein Synthesis and Glycation- Advanced glycation endproducts, or AGEs, are formed either exogenously (outside the body) or endogenously (inside the body). They are formed exogenously during cooking when sugars are heated with fats and proteins. They are formed endogenously as part of the aging and disease process. The formation of AGEs has been implicated in many inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, Alzheimers, heart disease, and premature aging. AGEs increase oxidation and inflammation in your body. The good news is is that you can do something about this. You can control your exogenous intake through your diet and your cooking habits. Here’s how:
- Cooking with water prevents sugars from binding to proteins. Poaching and boiling is the best way to cook meat. Roasting and broiling is the worst way.
- Steam vegetables or eat them raw.
- Avoid brown baked goods, like brown cookies and brown bread crust. Stay away from the Cinn-a-bon! The sugar frosting on top of the brown pastry is carmelized (ie. HIGH AGE content). This browning of foods is called the maillard reaction, in which a chemical reaction takes place between an amino acid and a sugar.
- Avoid barbequed and smoked meats. These foods are through the roof high in AGEs. Blackened meats are very carcinogenic, increasing your risk of certain cancers, such as pancreatic cancer.
6. Chronic Inflammation– It is now widely accepted that inflammation is the source of many chronic diseases. Preventing the inflammatory changes that accompany aging enables us to age gracefully, thus prolong our life span. Inflammation is effectively managed though diet and natural therapies. An anti-inflammatory diet is advised for many people with elevated levels of inflammatory markers (we can measure these in your blood) and for those wishing to prevent disease and expand their life. Natural supplements that decrease inflammation include fish oil, turmeric, and probiotics.
7. Impaired Cardiovascular Function-As you age, it’s important to monitor cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and various laboratory markers, such as CRP, lipids, homocysteine, and fibrinogen. Age-related changes in the heart and blood include decreased pumping ability, less elastic blood vessels, and “sticky” blood. These changes are modifiable through diet, exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, effective stress management, and natural supplements, such as Crateagus, alpha lipoic acid, L-arginine, taurine, and magnesium.
8. Hormonal Imbalance– Hormones play a key role in aging. Hormones, such as sex hormones (estrogen, testosterone, progesterone), DHEA, thyroid, and cortisol, typically decline or become out of balance during aging. It’s important to support the body during physiologic hormonal changes (ie. menopause and andropause) and replenish necessary hormones, such as thyroid, DHEA, and cortisol. This can be achieved through natural medicines.
9. Immune System Depression-The elderly population are commonly referred to as an immuno-suppressed population. However, this is not necessarily a physiologic process. It’s possible to have a strong immune system during the aging process. It’s vital that the immune system is supported through the aging process to decrease one’s susceptibility to infectious disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. Vitamin D and probiotics are the two must-haves for a healthy immune system.
10. Neurodegeneration- Brain fog, dementia, and alzheimers are not a normal part of aging. They occur when there is neurotransmitter imbalance, toxic overload, nerve cell degeneration present. Improving these areas through neurotransmitter supplementation, detoxification protocols, and antioxidant supplementation. A diet rich in brain foods (avocados, fatty fish, walnuts, and coconut) and other natural medicines also enhance brain-function and prevent neurodegeneration.
As evidenced by these modifiable factors, there is much that can be done to prevent both disease and premature aging. May you live long and thrive!
For more information, read Prolonging Health, by J. E. Williams.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.