By Anne Claire for Total Health Chiropractic
Ageing is inevitable and as you pass your 40s, you can observe several signs of ageing, like the appearance of wrinkles, hair loss, and even the emergence of new aches and pains. While this is normal, how would you feel if you were told that ageing is optional? Of course, all of us will get older but what we can control is the manner in which we do so. It is now increasingly understood that we can definitely slow down the ageing process as long as we are prepared to take specific measures to improve our quality of life.
And then of course this becomes a win/win because by staying healthy for longer we get to enjoy more quality time with our loved ones. In fact, the benefits are manyfold with no downside. So, what are some of these measures we can take?
To get started, here are a few ways to slow down the ageing process:
Improve Your Posture
This really is a biggie! Our spines are beautifully designed and if they maintain their correct shape and movement patterns throughout life, they will function well into old age. However, our sedentary lifestyle today causes changes to our natural curves resulting in dysfunctional movement patterns and inefficient distribution of weight, which will inevitably result in stiffening and pain. Worse still, with poor lifestyle choices, we lose bone density, the spinal disks shrink as they dry out and we lose height as we adopt that familiar posture of old age. While it is normal for adults to have postural changes as they age, certain health risks are associated with developing a hunched back, including breathing complications, vascular insufficiency (poor blood supply), spinal arthritis, and even difficulty performing everyday activities.
How do we improve our posture? Well, it’s simple really. First, you need awareness; you need to know what good posture looks and feels like. Then you need to start practicing it every day, both when you are standing and when you are sitting. Lift your sternum or breastbone, open your shoulders, pull your head back and engage your abs. This is your default and you should have reminders to prompt postural correction throughout the day.
Ergonomic accessories can also help. Ergo chairs, for instance, help you sit upright with a straight back. This is the chair our chiropractors use in the office. A well-designed and elevated ergonomic workstation is also useful. Make sure your computer screen is high and your arms are supported to take the weight off the shoulders. This is where we get our standing desks from.
If you are already experiencing pain and stiffness then almost certainly your posture is compromised. Remember PAIN means ‘Pay Attention Inside Now’. Your structure needs to be cared for and nurtured throughout life, so the sooner you start to develop some good postural habits the better.
Take Your Supplements
We all know that having a nutritious, balanced diet is a fundamental requirement for healthy ageing, but nowadays it’s not as easy as it should be. We often forget that, compared with food enjoyed by our grandparents, today's produce is often deficient in minerals, vitamins, and the vital components that we require for vibrant health. Worse still, our food is often laced with chemicals, hormones, toxins, and even carcinogens.
We should be as selective as possible and choose wisely, organic whenever we can. The Environmental Working Group has published a list of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ fruit and vegetables that are subject to the most chemicals and this is where we should start. Here are the 12 fruit and veggies we should try and buy organic and at the same time the ‘Clean 15’, those that are safer to purchase non-organic.
One of the problems we face is that even if you choose mostly organic produce, it is still difficult to meet your nutritional goals due to the depletion of nutrients within our topsoil nowadays. Therefore, it is wise to supplement those vitamins and minerals that have vital roles in keeping the body working at its best and looking young. Vitamin C wards off colds and improves skin texture, whereas Vitamin E boosts immunity and collagen production for reduced wrinkles. Zinc aids in wound healing and protects the skin from UV damage. In the summer, we can lose our electrolytes through perspiration so at this time it is important that we supplement, the three super important ones being sodium, potassium, and magnesium.
Prevention is always better than cure and if you are worried that you may have some deficiencies it is very easy to have a simple blood test. We can organize this for you here.
Exercise Your Brain
One of the scariest things about aging is that many people start to lose their mental acuity. They start experiencing brain fog, memory lapses, and confusion. Simple activities of daily life can become taxing, and if this continues this can lead to dementia and even Alzheimer’s Disease. Just like our body needs nutrition and exercise, so does our brain. Movement actually fires electro-chemical energy into our brain’s cortex charging it like a battery. Think about it – you rarely see people who have allowed themselves to become stiff and stooped maintain lively brains.
‘Use it or lose it’ they often say -- and this is definitely the case here. Lack of neuroplasticity or the making of new synaptic connections affects the brain’s ability to adapt and respond to experiences. Fortunately, there are practices you can take to build neuroplasticity and protect yourself from brain-related health issues like dementia. Definitely build more functional movement into your life, some of it vigorous, and vary it when you can to keep your body on its toes.
Many people spend their retirement playing golf and really reap the benefits. It can be a great exercise, improving movement, balance, strength, and agility. It also gives you a community and comradery.
You can also challenge your brain by playing different games and solving puzzles; board games, computers, and video games all count. They will engage your problem-solving skills and improve your reaction time. Try various new hobbies and art activities like drawing or painting or pottery perhaps to see if any work for you. They all help keep the brain active as will learning a musical instrument or learning to speak a foreign language.
As always, find something, or even better a number of things, that you enjoy. We are playing the long game here, and the intention is to create some good habits that will serve you well.
Get Enough Sleep
Another biggie, this really is one of the non-negotiables if we want to remain healthy long term. Sleep is that vital time when the body recovers from the day. It’s when restoration happens at the cellular level, making it crucial not only for our health but also for a youthful appearance. Michael Breus Ph.D. of the American Board of Sleep Medicine explains how sleep makes you look younger.
It encourages the release of the human growth hormone. This is dubbed “Nature’s Botox” because it restores tissues, cells, and even organ function. As a result, it improves the immune system, prevents age-related diseases, and regulates metabolism.
How much should we sleep? Well, adults up until 64 years of age must get 7-9 hours of sleep. For older adults over 65, it is recommended to get 7-8 hours per night. For those people who say they don’t need so much sleep and are okay on say, five hours, be careful as it will almost certainly catch up on you. The rule applies to everyone - make sure to get enough sleep for better overall health.
Make it Purposeful
Finally, it is an unwritten law that those with clear goals and a vivid vision of the future generally fare better than those who drift along. Yes, it’s true; if you want to live a long time, create a vision of your future that excites you and then work towards achieving it. First, you paint the picture in your mind’s eye, then you live that amazing life. There’s a reason retirees die young. If you don’t have fulfilling activities to occupy your time and interesting goals to pursue, then life becomes dull and the dimmer switch of life starts to dial down towards zero. You should always have 2-4 big goals that you are actively pursuing, even if you are retired. These should definitely include nurturing your health, helping others, improving your living environment, and connecting somehow with your community. In conclusion, slowing down ageing does not only improve your appearance but also ensures optimal health and helps you truly get the most from life. Use these tips today to make sure you age as healthily as possible and enjoy your life.