While we are busy congratulating ourselves on living longer, the epidemic of preventable chronic degenerative diseases that seem to be affecting us at ever younger ages suggests that perhaps we are not aging well.
When we look at the incidence of cancer, heart disease, and over 80 autoimmune diseases, not to mention mental health problems like depression, anxiety and dementia it’s time to take stock and get back to some basics.
What is healthy ageing? Here are 4 simple, accessible interventions that will not only help you age well but thrive.
1. A consistently good night’s sleep
This is a function of quantity and quality and you are meant to wake up feeling refreshed. For 90% of the population that means 7-9 hours of sleep each night and breathing well while you are asleep.
Poor sleep affects your brain in many ways including poor memory; emotions, lack of empathy and short temper; mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. It’s surmising how often people have been prescribed medications for these increasingly common conditions without a careful analysis of their sleep.
Poor sleep also affects hormone balance increasing insulin resistance that helps regulate blood sugar and is perhaps arguably the greatest driver of ageing and chronic disease; reduces leptin involved in fat metabolism; increases ghrelin which drives hunger. All predispose you to poor food choices, poor fat metabolism, obesity, diabetes and premature ageing. Poor sleep affects sex hormones reducing libido and increasing the ageing process.
Your genes are also affected with those connected to your immune system being down-regulated, while those associated with chronic inflammation being up-regulated making you more susceptible to disease. Chronic inflammation is ageing.
Sleep is your non-negotiable, built-in life support system.
Use it to your advantage.
2. Low blood sugar and insulin levels
Elevated blood sugar and insulin levels are associated with every physical, many mental diseases and aging. It pushes your biological clock way ahead of your actual age and the reverse is true; reduce it and reduce your biological age.
The lower blood sugar and insulin levels the better and this is a key to healthy ageing.
Here are three important principles:
i. Keep your carbohydrate levels low.
Depending on your activity levels this could be from 70-to-100 grams per day.
To find out what that means, measure your food for a week, you’ll soon get a handle on it Eat healthy fats including butter, coconut oil, olive oil, fat from pasture-fed and finished animals.
You need healthy fats for the health of every cell in your body, for the production of important hormones including testosterone, and to ensure you don’t feel hungry.
ii. Explore hunger as a positive feeling.
For millions of years, hunger has been a fact of life. In recent years, we have forgotten it or feared it. Embrace hunger. Try intermittent fasting.
iii. Eat only when you’re hungry.
That may be twice a day. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that, and the effects on your blood sugar and energy will surprise you.
Exercise improves every physical, mental and emotional health measure and treatment outcome. If you do a 20-30-minute series of intermittent functional or composite movements, that involve a range of muscle groups, then your metabolism will be elevated for 24-48 hours.
In contrast, a 10-mile run will elevate your metabolism for 6-8 hours, so less is more…that’s liberating, and anti-aging. When combined with weight-bearing exercises it’s a potent combination, reducing biological age and helping you sleep better with all of those benefits. Walking is something we have done for millions of years.
It’s safe, cheap, effective, sustainable and social. It turns out walking speed is a better predictor of your likelihood of living for the next 5 years. Moving your body is so important to healthy ageing.
In today’s ‘attention economy’, it is easy to get lost in the online world of 24/7 social media and news cycles. The real-life face-to-face relationships that have sustained us over millennia is easy to take for granted.
The longest study, over 75 years by the Harvard School of Public Health, identified that relationships were the best predictor of longevity, health and wellness.
Value and nurture those relationships with young and old.
Sleep well, eat well, move well and there’s a good chance you’ll feel younger and be well to enjoy all those relationships, that will make you feel even better. Be Well.
We explore all of these areas that are a part of healthy ageing in our health programs in Unstress Online.