I am not going to tell you how to live forever, or even promise you’ll live several decades longer. What I do offer, are ways to stay in better shape as you begin, inevitably, to run down. The big myth about getting old is that there’s nothing good about it. The future is frailer, weaker sicker. It’s downhill all the way. The really good news is that we are the first generation with the knowledge and ability to choose how well we age.
We all know the lifestyle advice about diet and exercise for staying healthy and avoiding chronic diseases. The good news is that they work just as well to help you age well. Whatever signs of ageing you are worried about – wrinkles, weaker muscles, less energy, poor healing and repair – you have a chance to improve them by getting the right food, sufficient nutrients and taking the best exercise. You can’t beat ageing, but you can put it off, and the science is on the side of lifestyle and not genetics.
The core principles of an anti-ageing diet and lifestyle:
A low-glycaemic Load, Mediterranean-style diet: A low-GL diet will keep your blood sugar levels even, thus reversing metabolic syndrome and reducing hunger. As a result, you’ll naturally eat fewer calories, which is key to living longer and healthier.
A high intake of anti-ageing antioxidants. Since the brain is made of highly complex fats that can easily be damaged by oxidants, it makes sense that having a high intake of antioxidants would protect the brain from damage. Antioxidants also protect against the oxidants that damage eyesight, created by the ultraviolet rays from the sun.
You can make sure that you are taking in a good supply of antioxidants by choosing naturally bright- coloured fruits and vegetables, and using plenty of flavourful herbs and spices in your cooking.
A diet rich in essential fats. Make sure you eat enough essential fats from oily fish and seeds, with an emphasis on increasing omega-3 fats, which have the most positive anti-ageing properties because they reduce inflammation.
Maximise your intake of vitamins and minerals: The essential vitamins and minerals for ageing are zinc, magnesium, B vitamins and vitamins C, D and E. A high intake of Vitamin C has been consistently shown to reduce your risk of cancer, as well as other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. B vitamins are emerging as key players in several of the diseases of ageing. Making sure that you have healthy levels, which can be tricky for older people, is vital. It is a good idea to increase your intake of vitamins by taking a daily, high dose multivitamin.
Exercise for longevity: According to Wayne Derman, Professor of Sports and Exercise Medicine at the UCT / Sport Science Institute, ‘exercise is the closest thing to an anti-ageing pill’. Along with the benefit of maintaining muscular mass, resistance training in particular also boosts your production of several hormones that start failing you as you get older. These include human growth hormone (hGh) and testosterone and DHEA.
“Remember, ageing well shouldn’t become a chore. The whole idea is that the changes you are making should make you feel better now. What you do now will play a big part in what your life is going to be like in 10, 20,or 30 years’ time” – Patrick Holford.