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How to slow your ageing body clock

Weight gain

Health checks

  • Waist measurement, no more than 80cm (for women) and 94cm (for men) BMI, which should be 18.5–24 (unless heavier due to muscle)

Diet

  • Serve small portions and eat food low in fat, glycemic index (GI) and kilojoules)
  • Address food allergies and eat spicy food to boost metabolism

Exercise

  • Exercise for 30 minutes or more on most days
  • Cross-train to increase strength, aerobic fitness, balance and flexibility

Emotions

  • Learn to live in the moment to beat stress, which can lead to abdominal weight gain (from cortisol), cravings and increased appetite

Lifestyle

  • Avoid smoking
  • Get enough sleep— less than six hours can cause increased appetite and insulin levels
  • Home-cook food

Supplements/herbs

  • Chromium and lipoic acid to stabilise blood sugar
  • Gymnema sylvestre and L-gluatamine for sugar cravings
  • Lecithin and L-carnitine for fat burning

 

Skin

Health checks

  • See specialist for yearly skin cancer screening
  • Monitor own skin and see GP about changed moles, freckles or concerning new spots

Diet

  • Eat antioxidant-rich fruits/vegetables
  • Minimise sugar intake and browned or barbecued foods, which cause wrinkles via glycation
  • Cut alcohol and caffeine

Exercise

  • Do aerobic exercise (eg cycling, jogging) to boost circulation, enhance oxygenation to cells and keep skin supple from the inside

Emotions

  • Avoid arguments — studies show they slow healing
  • Minimise anxiety, which can dehydrate skin

Lifestyle

  • Reduce sun damage: use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, wide-brimmed hat and avoid sunbaking
  • Increase water intake to maintain skin moisture

Supplements/herbs

  • Glucosamine for collagen synthesis
  • Antioxidants to penetrate the dermis eg Q10, silymarin, catechins and pycnogenol
  • Fish oil for inlammation

 

Bones

Health checks

  • Get bone density checked over 65 or earlier if you you have a small build, family history of fractures or use corticosteroid medication

Diet

  • Eat more fish and high-calcium foods, eg dairy products, legumes and green leafy vegetables
  • Avoid soft drinks, too much alcohol and caffeine and excess salt

Exercise

  • Weight-bearing activities eg walking, running and strength training, to maintain bone mass and strength

Emotions

  • Seek counselling for depression, which increases osteoporosis risk, possibly due to hormone changes

Lifestyle

  • Avoid smoking and diabetes
  • Enjoy 10 minutes of sun exposure every day to increase your levels of vitamin D

Supplements/herbs

  • Calcium and HRT if needed at menopause
  • Vitamins K and D if deficient
  • Phyto-oestro gens, such as genistein

Heart

Health checks

  • Blood cholesterol for HDL, LDL and triglicerides
  • Once yearly screening for high blood pressure and diabetes

Diet

  • Adopt the Mediterranean diet, which is low in glycaemic index, saturated fats and sugar while high in fish, vegetables and fruit

Exercise

  • Exercise regularly, to a point of exertion
  • Walk 30 minutes a day and halve your risk of heart attack

Emotions

  • Minimise depression, anxiety and loneliness, all strongly linked to cardiovascular disease and heart attack

Lifestyle

  • Avoid high blood pressure, diabetes, gum disease, snoring and sleep defecit, which increase risks of a heart attack

Supplements/herbs

  • Fish oil for inflammation of arteries and lowering cholesterol
  • Q10 for blood pressure
  • SAMe for depression

 

Joints

Health checks

  • Blood checks for inflammation and rheumatoid factor if arthritis is suspected
  • X-rays to check for damage to cartilage and bones

Diet

  • Eat spicy foods —turmeric may help reduce arthritis
  • Cut saturated fats, sugar and salt
  • Eat more fish
  • Identify and address food sensitivities

Exercise

  • Improve circulation of synovial fluid between your joints via exercise such as swimming, walking, yoga and tai chi

Emotions

  • Do daily relaxation to minimise stress which produces inflammation that may contribute to some forms of arthritis

Lifestyle

  • Prevent weight gain
  • Warm up before exercise
  • Avoid repetetive strain injuries
  • Treat all joint injuries promptly

Supplements/herbs

  • Glucosamine and chondroitin for cartilage health
  • Ginger, evening primrose oil and fish oil to reduce inflammation and pain
  • SAMe for arthritis

 

Brain

Health checks

  • Memory checks and CT/MRI scans if problems such as stroke or Alzheimer’s are suspected

Diet

  • Cut out trans fats and cut back on saturated fats in red meats and dairy products
  • Boost omega-3s with fish, nuts and seeds and antioxidants with fruit, vegetables and green tea
  • Minimise alcohol intake

Exercise

  • Every form of exercise whether walking, jogging or gardening, increases circulation to the brain and reduces belly fat (which bumps up dementia risk)

Emotions

  • Meditate daily — stress damages brain function and memory by shrinking the hippocampus in the brain
  • Maintain friendships — a good social network helps reduce dementia risk

Lifestyle

  • Reduce cholesterol and risk factors for stroke/diabetes
  • Wear headgear when cycling, skiing and renovating
  • Quit smoking
  • Read, do puzzles and continue education to boost brain function

Supplements/herbs

  • Ginkgo biloba to improve neural circulation
  • Withania to help you adapt to stress
  • B vitamins for brain function
  • Magnesium to stabilise nervous system

 

Bowel

Health checks

  • Foecal occult test involving a stool sample every two years over age 50
  • Colonoscopy (a thin tube and camera to view bowel) every five years over 50 or if bowel symptoms occur or you have family history

Diet

  • Minimise red meat intake and saturated fats
  • Eat plenty of green cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and chard, which protect against bowel cancer
  • Eat plenty of wholegrains and fibre
  • Eat yoghurt with live cultures
  • Drink adequate water

Exercise

  • Exercise enables oxygen to better fight cancer cells
  • Studies show an hour of vigorous activity every day is particularly protective

Emotions

  • Laugh more, prioritise sleep and do progressive relaxation to combat tension, which can compromise the natural peristaltic motion of the bowel

Lifestyle

  • Reduce bowel inflammation by avoiding any foods, situations or vices (eg drinking, recreational drugs) that cause bloating or bowel upset and inflammation

Supplements/herbs

  • Probiotics to promote good bacteria and nutrient uptake.
  • Slippery elm for mucous membrane health
  • Dandelion root for liver function and constipation

Bladder

Health checks

  • Bladder stress test
  • Urinalysis and culture via sample
  • Ultrasound or cytoscopy (a thin tube and camera inserted via urethra)

Diet

  • Eat more phyto-oestrogens, found in fruit, vegetables, soy, lentils, flaxseed and chickpeas
  • Minimise curries, tomatoes, corn syrup, caffeine, fruit juice, alcohol and carbonated drinks, which irritate the bladder

Exercise

  • Regularly squeeze the muscles of your pelvic floor and hold for 10 seconds to maintain muscle tone
  • Jumping, jogging and skipping to utilise your pelvic muscles

Emotions

  • Use long and short (spot) meditations to reduce anxiety —distress can lead to hormonal changes and muscle tension that affect both kidney and bladder and can cause an over-active bladder or fluid retention

Lifestyle

  • Avoid weight gain and conditions such as diabetes (they increase bladder problems)
  • Treat digestive problems, allergies — bloating, coughing and sneezing can reduce bladder function and muscle tone

Supplements/Herbs

  • Black haw root and cramp bark to relax muscular tension and spasm in the bladder
  • Uva ursi to reduce bacteria and smooth and sooth irritated bladder tissue

 

Fertility

Health checks

  • Have two-yearly pap smears to screen for cervical cancer and ask for a chlamydia test
  • In 20s, have thorough examination to discount polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis

Diet

  • Eat plenty of raw and cooked vegetables and fruit, whole grains and healthy protein, such as deep-water fish
  • Cut alcohol and reduce refined carbs such as white bread, which raise insulin and deplete nutrient stores

Exercise

  • Aerobic exercise boosts circulation
  • Rebounding on a trampoline increases lymphatic drainage
  • Yoga benefits flexibility and mood

Emotions

  • Foster a healthy sex life through intimacy, cuddling, open communication and sexual variation to increase desire
  • Address mood problems that can halve chances of conception

Lifestyle

  • Use condoms with new sexual partners to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia
  • Avoid smoking, obesity and diabetes, which reduce fertility

Supplements/Herbs

  • PABA to increase oestrogen
  • Siberian ginseng for uterine function
  • Folate to prevent neural tube defects in baby

 

Libido

Health checks

  • Hormone blood checks can indicate deficiencies of testosterone and oestrogen

Diet

  • Avoid extreme or restricted diets, which may reduce energy and libido-producing hormones
  • Cut back on all the usual unhealthy suspects like salt, sugar, fat, caffeine and refined carbs

Exercise

  • Exercise your pelvic floor daily (men as well) to improve tone and orgasmic response
  • Work out regularly to boost body image, which nurtures libido

Emotions

  • Schedule sex — make regular "dates" to increase anticipation and desire
  • Address mood problems that can lower desire and hormones that kickstart arousal

Lifestyle

  • Avoid weight gain, diabetes and vascular disease, which compromise erections
  • Cuddle, kiss and be intimate when not being sexual
  • Minimise alcohol and medication use — they can lower sexual response

Supplements/Herbs

  • Horny goat weed for testosterone boost in men and women
  • Chasteberry and red clover for hormonal balance
  • Ginkgo biloba to improve genital circulation

 

 

Stephanie Osfield

Stephanie Osfield

Stephanie Osfield is an award-winning freelance health journalist. She is an advocate of nutritional medicine and specialises in all aspects of health, from exercise and disease prevention to stress, depression and women’s health issues.

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