Your health is not entirely predetermined by your genetic code. In fact, lifestyle and environment play a big role in determining how your genes get expressed, how healthy you will be, and how well you will age.
In other words, you can age proactively. But to age well requires that we first understand why we are aging. As we approach midlife, we begin to face accelerated loss of vital factors: our hormones, our nutrients, our sleep, and our telomeres. As a result of these losses, rapid aging ensues.
By selecting the right foods, getting enough exercise and sleep, minimizing your exposure to harmful chemicals, and supplementing your diet strategically with the right science-based supplements, you can make the most out of the genetic deck of cards you were dealt.
As a medical doctor focused on women’s health and aging, I often counsel women on the best ways they can optimize their health and aging. Here are my top tips:
1. Avoid refined and processed sugars.
Always read food labels to look for hidden sugar. Sugars entering your bloodstream attach to proteins, forming harmful molecules called AGEs. The more sugar entering your bloodstream, the more AGEs tend to be produced. Refined and processed sugars are more potent than those found naturally, such as in fruits.
AGEs accumulate and can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly other diseases as well as age your skin.
2. Eat the color wheel.
Phytonutrients found in colorful fruits and vegetables provide the essential vitamins, antioxidants, and micronutrients that we need for optimal functioning. In particular, B vitamins found in many fruits and vegetables help support cell turnover, energy production, and neurological function.
3. Don't be afraid of eating fats.
Your body needs healthy fats to absorb certain key nutrients. Low- or no-fat diets may lead to poor skin and nails. I recommend eating plenty of healthy fats, including those found in seafood, nuts, and avocados.
4. Move your body.
Physical activity is required for healthy metabolism as well as maintenance of your lean body mass such as muscle and bone. Exercise, especially outdoors, has been shown to reduce stress levels and cut the risk of depression, memory problems, heart disease, and diabetes. Even a 30-minute moderate-intensity workout can help lower your blood sugar.
5. Get enough shut-eye, every night.
Sleep is your body’s repair cycle. Lack of sleep is associated with depression, heart disease, and obesity. Our brains require adequate sleep (usually six to eight hours) to store memories, learn new information, and reboot to be able to function properly the next day.
As we age, our sleep quality and quantity can be reduced, and it may take more effort to maintain sleep. A calming bath in warm water with essential oils in the evening can help ready you for sleep. Keeping the bedroom free of work and worries can also free your mind for shuteye.