Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Secrets Of Feeling Younger

You've heard people say it: Today's 50 is yesterday's 40... 60 is now more like 50. Yes, some of that's because life expectancy is rising. But that's not all. It's also because the social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s opened a path to timelessness. The baby boomers have taught the world a lesson with regard to defying aging through a youth-focused mind-set and health-conscious lifestyle. Anyone of any generation can choose to live youthfully -- it's not just for baby boomers.
One example of youth-focused living is the group of seniors who tour in their own rock show (no, I don't mean the current tour of the Rolling Stones), belting out witty takes on aging like "Stairway to Heaven," "Every Breath You Take" and "Forever Young." These seniors and many like them choose to live not by the calendar or number of candles on their birthday cake but from their heart -- and to enjoy all their time on earth. To learn more about how to "age gracefully," I spoke to Edward L. Schneider, MD, dean emeritus and professor of medicine and gerontology at the University of Southern California (USC) and author of AgeLess: Take Control of Your Age and Stay Youthful for Life (St. Martin's).
Dr. Schneider told me that there are two secrets to taking control of your aging...
Keep living. If you drop out of life and just watch TV all day, you're going to feel your age (and more). Staying active and engaged is the real key to aging gracefully.
Stay healthy. Even if your spirit says, "I'm young," your body won't keep up if you don't take good care of it.
To maintain youthful zeal, Dr. Schneider recommends a number of basic elements to good health. They sound simple -- no high-tech treatments or high-priced medications. That's the beauty of it.
Physical activity is the single most important thing you can do. This doesn't have to mean intense workouts at the gym, stresses Dr. Schneider. Just get off the couch.
Dr. Schneider recommends: Put on your walking shoes, and join a few friends for a daily morning trek through the park. It's never too late to start moving, and exercise will make you feel better all around, mind and body. According to one study, walking 30 minutes five or more times a week at a rate of two to three miles an hour reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease by a big big 30%.
Important as it is to get moving, that's not enough -- you also need to pay attention to weight training. Falling down and breaking a hip is just about the worst thing that can happen to an older person.
Dr. Schneider recommends: Invest $10 in a set of hand weights, and use them every day. Weight training keeps bones strong and intact as you age.
Older people often find it difficult to get to sleep at all, let alone get a good night's sleep. But getting sufficient sleep is essential to remaining active, cheerful and alert.
Dr. Schneider recommends: Alternate hot and cold. Soak in a hot bath or shower, and then slip in between cool sheets in a cool, dark room.
Good nutrition is the secret to preventing the degenerative diseases of old age, yet for one reason or another -- social isolation, dental problems, reduced taste or smell or physical or mental health issues -- many older people fail to eat properly.
Dr. Schneider recommends: Sprinkle antioxidant-packed berries on whole-grain cereal for breakfast... have a salad garnished with a few chicken strips or shrimp for lunch... or opt for the salmon instead of the prime rib the next time you go out for dinner. Try to eat omega-3-rich coldwater fish (such as salmon, tuna or sea bass) at least twice a week, and aim to meet the USDA recommendation of nine daily servings of fruits and veggies. If you live alone, make an effort to get together with friends for at least a few meals each week.
According to contributing editor Andrew L. Rubman, ND, even a good daily multivitamin cannot provide all the nutrients you need, so talk to a trained physician -- preferably a naturopathic one -- about supplementation. (Caution: Many older people have chronic health concerns for which they take multiple medications. This makes consulting an expert an absolute must before taking supplements.) Dr. Schneider recommends...
Calcium. If you're age 50 or older, take 1,500 mg daily. For maximum calcium absorption, be sure your supplement includes magnesium.
Fish oil. Take 1,000 mg to 3,000 mg daily. This is one of the best things you can do for your heart, notes Dr. Schneider. Note: Do not take fish oil if you have a bleeding disorder or if you are taking blood-thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin) or aspirin.
Folic acid. Take 800 mcg daily. Folic acid is a B vitamin that lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid in the blood that damages blood vessel walls and contributes to cardiovascular disease.
Stress is not going to go away, so the best thing you can do is learn how to cope with it.
Dr. Schneider recommends: Develop your own coping mechanisms, such as exercise, meditation or talking things over with a friend. Try to keep a perspective on what's really important, and don't sweat the small stuff.
Of course, there's lots more you can do to stay healthy as you age -- get regular check-ups, control chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, stay sharp by reading books and doing crossword puzzles, keep up with your friends and community connections and steer clear of unhealthy habits such as drinking too much alcohol or smoking.


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