Reducing the Impact of Aging
When we’re young, we can’t wait to grow older – old enough to be able to drive or date…old enough to drink at a bar or vote or sign up for the military. We never realize that someday, we’ll wish we could put the brakes on the aging process, so we live life to the fullest.
We eat whatever we want to eat, we veg out in front of the TV for mindless relaxation time. We put off taking care of our body and mind until later in life because right now, we’re having fun.
What happens is one day, you wake up and the clock is saying, “You’ve run out of time to slack off!” It’s never too late to begin taking care of yourself and slowing down the aging process, but the sooner you put a plan into action, the better you’ll be able to stave off the side effects of growing older.
Typically, when we think of getting older, we have a picture of wrinkles and gray hair. We aren’t considering things like insomnia and depression or mental acuity. But those are also part of the aging process and while they may not be visible to others, we can’t let our vanity and desire to focus on beauty make us forget about that part of growing old.
When you finally wake up and realize that it’s time to take better care of yourself, you’ll want to develop a whole body approach – head to toe – inside and out – physical and mental.
Anti Aging Plans Require You to Make Changes
They say old habits are hard to break. But if you truly want to have more time on Earth with your loved ones, then you’ll make the commitment to implement a different lifestyle today.
Don’t allow yourself to use excuses about how you’ve done something (like smoking) for so long that you can’t quit. That’s a story you’re telling yourself as a way to continue unhealthy behaviors.
Change your self-talk to something like this: “I’ve given myself 40 long years of smoking and that was plenty of time to enjoy that bad habit. It’s time to quit being selfish and take care of myself now.”
Now more than ever, it’s important to get your body and mind in a place where it can handle the changes that take place. You want to be strong – and some simple lifestyle tweaks can make you feel better than you’ve felt in years.
Not only will you slow down the aging process, but you’ll feel like it’s actually been reversed if you take the right steps to improve your health.
We’re going to cover a comprehensive plan and then you take the reins and implement it.
Whether you feel good now, and just want to prepare for the future, or you’re already suffering and showing signs and symptoms of aging, you’ll benefit from these strategies.
Awareness and Education Are Important
Before you can make progress, you need to agree to two things: that you’ll open your eyes and be aware of the changes taking place in your body and mind and that you’ll educate yourself on proper ways to handle any issues that creep up.
Many people (as they age) find themselves too scared to go to a doctor. They dread bad news so like an ostrich, they stick their head in the sand and wait until it’s too late.
Don’t let fear and uncertainty cause your aging process to take a turn for the worst. Instead, tackle everything head on – empower yourself by watching for changes (even subtle ones), making an appointment with your doctor for advice, and taking a proactive approach to any remedies or options you have available to you.
In later years, this is when many people start finding out they have cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis or diabetes. Small symptoms might start appearing – like blurred vision or unexplained weight loss.
Part of your anti aging regimen will be to attack anything that’s going to speed up the process – and all of those health issues, which are common in later years, can derail your youth plan.
Some things you already know you be doing for preventative measures. If you smoke, quit. If you’ve never had a mammogram, get one. If you’re a man over the age of 40, get your prostate checked.
Set an appointment with your doctor to get a complete exam if you haven’t had one in the past year.
You want to know your health stats so that you can improve on them. Talk to your doctor about your family’s health history so that he or she can be made aware of any potential problems down the road.
Get your weight, blood pressure, glucose readings, cholesterol, triglycerides – even your vitamin levels, because some things, like vitamin D deficiencies, can wreak havoc on your body.
Develop a Good Anti Aging Beauty Regimen
Although I’d like to believe we all have our health at the forefront of our minds each day, it’s hard to neglect the fact that it’s the mirror that gives many people the most cause for alarm when it comes to growing older.
Seeing fine lines creep up around the eyes and mouth, or watching our skin start to sag can open our eyes to the fact that we’re not young anymore – and we rush to find a solution for it.
Hair dye can cover the gray, but what about wrinkles and sagging skin – even unsightly age spots that appear on our face and hands?
There are obviously cosmetic solutions that a professional can provide, such as facelifts, botox, etc.
However, there are some things you can do to slow or reverse the aging process on your own. Unfortunately, in our youth we rarely consider the future when we’re out sunbathing and trying to achieve the perfect tan.
The first step is to see what kind of damage that’s been done to your skin to date. You want to be on the lookout for skin cancer, and a dermatologist can give you a head to toe exam to rule out anything suspicious.
From this point on, use the sun sparingly – enough to get a healthy dose of vitamin D, but even then, slather sunscreen all over your face and body to ensure harmful rays are blocked out.
Some makeup like foundation has some sunscreen in it – but usually not enough to provide ample protection from the sun’s rays.
You want one that protects you from UVA and UVB rays.
Sun damage can result in dried out, wrinkled skin – not just cancer, so whether you do it for your health or for vanity purposes, cover up during the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM when the sun is most powerful.
Make sure your home isn’t too dry. You may need a humidifier to add moisture back into the air. Especially in winter months, a heating system can suck all of the humidity out of the air – and from your skin.
Liberally apply a moisturizer to your skin so that it stays hydrated and locks in moisture throughout the day.
Don’t just apply it to your face. Make sure you get your neck, hands and arms, too. Even your legs and feet need it at times.
Stay aware of any changes in your skin – not just mole changes, but discoloration and how your skin feels. Sometimes it can alert you to a health issue.
For example, if your skin starts feeling waxy or dry, and looks like it has a yellow hue to it, then it could signal a thyroid disorder. That would require a doctor’s test to diagnose and then treatment could be ordered.
Now that health issues have been covered for your skin, let’s talk about taking care of it from a topical standpoint. When you were younger, you may have been told you had oily skin.
So you purchased cleanser and toner and all sorts of things that helped dry out the oil. But now you’re older – your skin changes – and you might be battling dry, cracked skin instead of oily.
When your skin changes, your product line needs to evolve with it.
Everything from your cleanser to your moisturizer should be chosen based on the current state of your skin.
Sometimes this is annoying because it means we lose our favorite skincare products – and we can get very particular about what we prefer in terms of what goes on our faces.
But if you want beautiful skin, you’ll commit to the program and just get used to something new. Start with your cleanser. Don’t use anything that has a high pH – like soap – because it will dry your skin out. Choose a lower pH and make sure your face doesn’t feel too tight after washing it.
Clean off your makeup each night and exfoliate it if you notice dead skin cells lurking on your face, which appear as flakiness or extremely dry areas. Immediately afterwards, lock in the moisture with a good moisturizer.
You can choose a lotion or a cream based moisturizer – whatever you prefer – as long as it does what you need it to do. Creams help with overly dry skin, and lotions are lighter.
You can find moisturizers that are specifically for the eye area. The place below your eyes is thin and you don’t want to put a heavy cream there. You want something that will hydrate and puff up this often tired looking spot.
When you invest in new beauty products, like foundation, make sure they’re right for your skin type. You can get base makeup that is specific for anti aging or made to firm up skin.
As you get older, it will benefit you to get rid of the harsh makeup color pallets and replace it with something more subtle and neutral. No more blue eye shadows and bright red lipstick. Stick with neutral light brown shadows and toned down lip colors. This will take years off of your appearance!
Keeping a Happy, Sharp Mindset
Aside form your body, which we’ll get into next, your mind often suffers when you start to age. Not just in being able to remember certain things, but depression sets in, you become unable to handle stress the way you once did, and you find it difficult to get enough hours of sleep to function properly.
Stress leads people to an early grave. Not only is it horrible to have to live with, but it has a physical effect on you, too. Everything in your later years can contribute to stress, including:
· Decrease in income
· Health woes…and more
However, when it turns into a chronic situation, it can fast forward the aging process, so you have to learn how to handle it to your benefit.
Stress can take a toll on your body. It causes headaches, exhaustion, and increases your blood pressure, among other things. It can even contribute to you developing diabetes, so it’s imperative that you take steps to lessen the stress in your life as you age.
There are some things you can do before you go to the doctor looking for prescription relief:
1. Eliminate stress factors that you can control.
Do you have a son or daughter who is freeloading off of you? This is one common stress factor for many older individuals. In a poor economy, kids might leave the nest, but boomerang right back into your house.
You might then struggle to support you both financially. Make sure you set boundaries and guidelines that doesn’t allow anyone to take advantage of you and cause you more stress.
This is just one example of a stress factor that’s within your control. You have to be protective of your own health first or you won’t be around to be of much use to anyone in later years.
2. Get a professional to help you cope.
Sometimes it helps to talk to someone. It could be a counselor or a specialist who practices in massage therapy, acupuncture, or any number of stress relief options.
3. Learn stress relief on your own.
There are many things you can do to reduce or handle stress better in your life.
Try learning meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or tai chi. There are many other stress management options you can look into as well, like EFT (emotional freedom technique), NLP (neuro linguistic programming), and visualization.
When stress gets to be too much, or when you get lonely and feel like it’s overwhelming, depression can set in. You have to be willing to recognize when your spirit is drooping to dangerously low levels.
Clear out the negative thoughts in your head and replace them with positive thinking. This takes practice and repetition – it’s not something that will improve overnight.
Do things that bring happiness to your life. Whether that means visiting friends and family or growing a garden – you have to get out of the house and start living life so that you’re not cooped up and feeling sad and alone.
There are some people who, as they age, focus on regrets and things they wish they could change. This doesn’t do you any good – it only leads you right into the ocean of depression, which makes it hard to breathe.
Instead, concentrate on what you’ve done right – and what all you can do from this point on in your life. Modify your outlook on life and start seeing things in a new way.
If you’re retired, then you may want to start a second career or volunteer somewhere in town so that you’re regularly around people and interacting with society. Or, if money isn’t an issue, travel and see the world – indulge in your hobbies and schedule in a daily dose of happiness.
If it helps, connect to a congregation for some spiritual fulfillment. It can be non denominational. Or, try a different kind of spiritual strategy like meditation that helps you achieve clarity and peace regarding your life.
If you’re married, use this time to rekindle the romance in your relationship. If you’re single, then it’s never too late to start again (if you want to). Romance and companionship can bring much happiness to individuals in later years.
Forgetfulness is common as we age. It starts with forgetting where we left our car keys, and sometimes never moves past that simple level. Other times, it progresses to a serious state of decline – if you’re suffering from a disease like Alzheimer’s.
Don’t be alarmed if you start forgetting some things. It’s natural to have a blip as we get older. But if you walk into the kitchen and you don’t know what the machine is in front of you (like a coffeemaker), then it’s cause for concern.
Sometimes a bit of forgetfulness is caused by a poor diet, lack of sleep, or stress load. Other times it’s a hormone imbalance wreaking havoc on your mental state. In serious cases, it’s a deterioration of your brain, and a doctor needs to be consulted for treatments that can help slow down the dementia process.
If it is serious, then it probably won’t be you who identifies it – it will be your friends and a family who notice changes in you. You might be moody or lack proper hygiene. Make sure you discuss your wishes with your loved ones should this type of memory loss ever occur.
To prevent or slow down any mental deterioration, you have to exercise your mind just as you do your body. Anything that helps your mind function will improve memory, such as:
· Puzzles – crossword or Sudoku for example
· Socialization – reliving memories and talking with friends and family
· Playing the piano – or any musical instrument
· Reading – any form of literature including fiction and non fiction
· Involvement in hobbies – like building model cars or painting
Another way to make sure your mind stays sharp is to get enough sleep. Insomnia is a common problem associated with aging and it’s a vicious cycle. If you don’t get enough sleep, your stress more, forget more, and get depressed – but when you’re stressed and depressed, it’s difficult to sleep!
Start by looking at your sleep environment. Does your bedroom double as an office and entertainment center? If so, move everything to another room and just use your bedroom for sleep.
Do things to help you unwind at night. Don’t turn off the nightly news and expect to drift right off. Turn the gadgets off 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime and spend that time relaxing in a hot bath and reading.
Make sure the air is set to something that’s comfortable for you – on the cooler side rather than too hot. Invest in a comfortable mattress and sheets as well as a cozy blanket and soft or firm pillow, depending on your preferences.
You might need to start using a white noise machine if you notice that you wake up to every small sound in the house lately. You can get a plain fan to use or buy a machine specifically designed for white noise at night.
If you still can’t sleep, then make sure you’re on a good sleep schedule. Napping on and off throughout the day and night won’t cut it. Your body needs large blocks of sleep time to fully care for itself.
If you startle yourself awake, then you might be in need of a sleep study to determine if you’re suffering from sleep apnea. There are machines and treatments that help you if it turns out you do suffer from this.
If all else fails, then your doctor may put you on a prescription medication. He may have you start with some melatonin over the counter and gradually increase to stronger medication if that doesn’t work.
Your Changing Nutritional Needs
As you age, your nutritional needs change. Now more than ever it’s important that your nutrition focus on supporting your body. You need to stave off diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease and keep your cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides under control.
You also have to feed your body for strong bones and give yourself the energy needed to get through the day. As you age, make sure you get enough of the following foods:
· Leafy greens
· Red wine (limited)
· Fish and other healthy proteins
· Healthy oils
· Yogurt with probiotics
· Whole grains…and more
These foods (along with a wide variety of fruits and vegetables) contribute to your health with calcium, antioxidants and vitamins that your body needs to survive and thrive in your later years.
Remember – you can’t eat like you did when you were younger, and not only for weight gain issues. Your body won’t absorb nutrients like it use to, so you may need more of the good items and less of the food without nutritional value.
If weight is an issue, now isn’t the time to follow a stringent crash diet. It’s better to change your eating habits to something healthy in a way that you can adhere to it for the long-term.
Watch your caloric intake and how that helps you lose or maintain a healthy weight. Try to cut down on things like salt, which narrows your blood vessels – and consume more organic and unprocessed foods.
As for drinks, in addition to the red wine listed above, lessen the amount of caffeine you consume if insomnia is a trouble spot for you. Try a soothing tea at bedtime instead. And make sure you hydrate your body with a big water intake!
Because we don’t absorb nutrients like we did when we were younger, you’ll want to take your lab results from the doctor and supplement in the areas where you’re lacking from your basic nutrition.
If your vitamin D levels are low, then get some vitamin D3 at whatever dose your doctor recommends. Same with calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Don’t try to live on supplements, though – it’s always better to get your nutrients from real food sources.
Hearing, Oral and Vision Care
Whenever you see comedy skits about older generations, it’s always reflected in the fact that the person can’t hear what you’re saying. This is a common problem as we age, but it can be remedied to some degree.
It’s never fun for anyone in the house if you constantly have to turn up the remote so that you can hear the TV. Make sure you get your hearing checked later in life to see if your hearing is functioning at a normal level.
If you notice that you can’t hear conversations and you’re always grumbling that the other person mumbles, it might just be you! Head to the doctor to have a checkup. It could be a simple case of wax buildup.
If it’s not something you can fix through treatment, then you might be able to get hearing aids that are discreet. These are often covered by insurance so there’s no out of pocket expense to you – and it can be life changing to be included in conversations again.
Oral care if just as important as your hearing – maybe even more so. If you don’t take care of your teeth, then you may not be able to eat as well, and nutrition during the aging process is vital to your health.
Just as a doctor can give you a starting point for your overall health needs, a dentist can let you know what work needs to be done in your mouth to keep you from losing your teeth.
If you’re already past that point, then he or she can help you with your tooth decay issues. You want to get this taken care of for more than cosmetic reasons. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream and sicken you if you let it fester too long.
If you’ve started slacking with your oral hygiene, then make sure you’re brushing properly from this day forward. Your routine should include flossing regularly, too – to reach areas where your toothbrush bristles can’t get to.
If necessary, your doctor may have to treat your teeth more drastically, including ordering dentures for you.
If you’re already wearing dentures, then that doesn’t exclude you from regular dental visits. You still have to go for maintenance purposes.
Vision changes as we grow older. You may wake up one day and realize that you need reading glasses. Regular eye exams are crucial to your anti aging regimen because addressing problems as they occur prevents them from rapidly spiraling out of control.
You don’t have to go as often when you’re younger, but you should go annually as you start to age. Eye doctors today can recognize signs of diabetes through vision exams, so your eyes reflect some health conditions that they can alert you to.
Your Ophthalmologist can also detect cataracts and glaucoma as well as macular degeneration or other eye issues. You may need surgery to fix the situation, or you may just need some sort of eye drops.
Keep Your Mobility in Tip Top Shape
Movement is something that degenerates as we grow older. For some lucky individuals, it never becomes a problem – but that’s for those who took care of their bodies in their prime.
Arthritis and osteoporosis are two issues that affect mobility. So are back troubles, which worsen with age. There are many things that can derail your ability to get around.
Back problems are nowhere in our youth and suddenly you get to be middle aged and a simple strained back knocks you on your feet! Some back issues go away on their own and some people need surgery to get better.
There are many exercises you can do that help keep your back in a strong, supportive position. Look into Yoga as a way to work your core and keep you strengthened for your later years.
Don’t be sedentary year round until it’s time to plant a garden and expect your back to behave. It will flare up and cause all sorts of pain – sometimes excruciating in nature.
If your back pain doesn’t go away – or gets worse – make sure you see a doctor who specializes in this like a chiropractor or orthopedic doctor. They may give you a piece of equipment that supports you or recommend surgical options.
Bones are another form of support your body needs to help you stay mobile. Our bones become more brittle as we age, so it’s important that you do everything you can (like drinking milk, eating leafy green vegetables and taking a calcium supplement) to keep your bones strong.
The last thing you want is to have a fall and crack a bone. It will take longer to repair. And a hip replacement from a spill can mean major surgery. During later years, it’s not about building new bone – it’s about not losing bone as fast. That’s what you can control.
When you get your panels back from your doctor, check your vitamin D levels. If you’re low on vitamin D, then it can make it hard for your body to absorb calcium. So can some of the medications that you’re on for cholesterol or blood pressure management.
Make sure your doctor performs a bone density screening so that you can see what risk factors your body is presenting and address that as needed. Aside from supplements, you’ll also want to exercise and keep your bones healthy by helping them retain their calcium stores.
If your doctor sees a problem, he or she may put you on medication to treat the issue. Don’t just start taking treatment on your own – you never know what will help your specific condition and whether or not it will interfere with any medications that you’re on.
Joint pain management becomes an issue later in life. If you don’t suffer from this yet, then you’ll want to do everything you can to prevent it from occurring. Here are some things you can do for prevention and treatment on your own:
· Lose weight to keep the stress off your joints.
· Get plenty of exercise – including stretching.
· Eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D.
· Supplement your diet with Glucosamine and Chondroitin.
· Rest when your joints are swollen or inflamed.
· Use ice, compression and elevation to relieve soreness when it flares up.
Take special care to keep your mobility in tip top shape. Once that’s gone, it can lead to depression, increased stress, and poor hygiene, so do everything you can to prevent and treat any issues quickly.
Become a More Active Person
Physical activity is so important to your health as you age. Keeping extra pounds off benefits you in many ways – protecting your heart, keeping you mobile longer, preventing depression and more.
But being underweight can be just as harmful as being overweight – so when you make a plan to address your body type, don’t assume that because you’re thin, it means you don’t need to increase your physical activity.
When it comes to aging, extra weight can cause sleep apnea, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. It makes it very difficult to manage other diseases like arthritis, too.
Don’t just jump off the couch and expect to run a marathon, but do push yourself toward the goal of enhanced fitness. You want to focus on several areas of physical exercise:
· Strength Training
Make sure your doctor knows that you’re about to embark on a new exercise plan. He or she will be able to advise you on the best way to start out based on your current level of fitness.
Set some goals for yourself, like taking 10,000 steps per day using a pedometer to measure it – or exercising for 30 minutes or an hour each day. Make it fun, so that you don’t dread it.
Like to dance? Consider getting a Kinect for your home where you can dance right in your living room to songs built into a game – and some you can buy and download, too.
Try a variety of activities to prevent boredom, like biking, swimming and hiking. But don’t do more than you’re ready to do. You don’t want to suffer an injury that will set you back.
Incorporate a nice stretch routine before you begin and as you cool down, too.
Don’t just make it all a focus on cardio, either because strength training with hand weights or resistance bands can help you function better as you age. The old cliche “Use it or lose it” is perfectly true.
Aside from Yoga as a way to warm up and cool down, you might also try out these forms of exercise that help increase flexibility and physical training in a gentler way:
· T’ai Chi
· Water Aerobics
Growing older doesn’t mean you have to dread what’s to come. Whether you’re already experiencing symptoms and signs of aging, you just want to prepare for your future, you can start now and see great results from your efforts.
Don’t just focus on one area (like crow’s feet around your eyes) at a time. You need to make a plan for a whole body approach – in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you.
You can set up systems one at a time, though. For example, spend one week revamping your beauty regimen. Shop for replacement products, get in the habit of using them regularly, and then spend the following week continuing on with that plus adding a new system – like better nutrition.
Keep adding tweaks and changes in your lifestyle until you get to appoint when you feel comfortable that you’re doing everything in your power to stave off the aging process – living the best life you can so that you can live it longer!