A common joke among many of us is that we pretend we are 21 years old with many years' experience, but why are we all so adamant on staying young? This article will look at all facets of ageing from brain health to joint health and what you can do to grow old gracefully, but most importantly, grow old healthily.
Common experiences of Ageing
It’s normal to experience changes in our bodies and mind as we age, here are some common experiences of ageing:
- Changes in vision
- Aches and pains within the joint
- Changes in memory
- Muscle and Bone weakness
- Change in mental wellbeing due to change in lifestyle
- Change in skin texture
- Change in sleep
Now, not all of these are preventable, but the majority of them are easily minimised with a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle.
According to the NHS, the general public, should be completing 150 minutes of gentle exercise or 75minutes of vigorous exercise each week. This recommendation changes slightly for those over 65 years. Instead, you are recommended to be physically active every day, with some activity being better than none at all. The focus of your exercise is recommended to be on strength balance and flexibility at least 2 days a week.
Exercise is important to maintain muscle mass, flexibility and bone density. Once retired from fulltime work, some people drastically reduce their physical movement, this can lead to a sharp decline in physical health. Here are a few things that you could try to get moving daily:
- Exercise during the ad breaks on TV.
- Purchase some home workout equipment to exercise daily.
- Take part in online or gym yoga and stretching classes.
- Organise a weekly walk with friends or family members.
- Commit to a subscription or gym membership to keep you motivated.
- Opt for an activity that you enjoy.
As we age there are a few nutrients that increase in our diet to act as preventative measures for certain age-related illness:
Protecting your brain health
According to a 2014 review on normal cognitive ageing from the journal of clinics in geriatric medicine, it is very normal to see a decline in conceptual reasoning, memory, and processing speed. Whereas there may be an increase in other skills such as vocabulary. The Journal of Ageing Research Reviews concluded that ‘Nutritional epidemiology has suggested a protective role of healthy diets and of several candidate nutrients for brain aging outcomes.' There are numerous nutrients that are involved in normal cognitive function including, iron, B-Vitamins, iodine, zinc and Omega 3s (DHA & EPA). The brain is highly enriched in DHA, which constitutes 15% of brain lipids compared with less than 5% in most other tissues. Numerous studies have found that diets high in fish and DHA intake are associated with improved cognitive health in older age, with a 10-30% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, brain atrophy, and cognitive decline, and effect sizes equivalent to two to four years of ageing. Whereas one study looked at participants with varied amounts of iodine in their diet and the result this had on brain structure. They found that those who consistently consumed low iodine intake foods had greater brain volume shrinkage. If you want to increase these nutrients opt for oily fish or omega 3 supplements, rice, milk, nuts and seeds.
Protecting your eye health
Common problems with eyes as we age include macular degeneration and the development of cataracts. According to the American optometric association, here are some of the common changes we notice as we age, including, difficulty reading, problems with glare, changes in colour perception, dry eyes or a need for brighter light to notice detail. We all know that Vitamin A is fantastic to maintain normal vision. However, did you also know that Zinc and DHA (omega 3) are essential for the maintenance of normal vision. An infamous study called the ‘age related Eye disease study’ or AREDS looked at how nutrition affects the development of eye disease as we age. The result of the study found taking AREDS or AREDS2 supplements reduces the risk of disease progression from intermediate to advanced AMD by about 25 percent. The AREDs study contains a blend of ingredients including derivatives of Vitamin A, as well as zinc.
Protecting your bone and joint health
As adults we reach our peak bone mass at 25-30 years dependent on gender. From 30 years onwards our bone mass begins to decrease. This is accelerated particularly in post-menopausal women. Not to mention the natural degradation of components of the joint, such as joint cartilage over time. For some this can lead to the onset of osteoarthritis. In the UK, approximately 8.5 million people have osteoarthritis.
There are a few things that we can do in our diet to ensure we give our bones and joints the best opportunities for long-term health. Firstly, ensuring that you are consuming enough Vitamin D and Calcium. These are essential for the maintenance of normal bones for structural elements. Not to forget other important nutrients such as phosphorus, manganese, vitamin K, C and Zinc. Then, what to consume for healthy joints. Vitamin C plays an essential role in collagen formation that is required for the normal function of joint cartilage. Opt for healthy plant-based fats as well as fish oils, these are considered to be anti-inflammatory fats. In addition, fibres can help with the reduction of inflammatory markers within the blood which may contribute to inflammation and pain, so opt for wholegrain carbohydrates, beans, legumes, fruit and vegetables. Popular supplemental ingredients for joints include glucosamine, MSM and chondroitin. Studies demonstrate that this can help to lubricate the joint and allow freedom of movement once again.
So, let's all age gracefully, but most importantly, lets age healthily.