Everyone wants to know how to stay young and live longer. Researchers are looking at genes, cells, hormones, eating patterns, and other factors for clues about what causes aging and how to prevent or slow it. Research has identified three strategies that may make people live longer:
- Following certain types of eating habits
- Eating fewer calories
People who exercise are healthier than those who do not. Exercise has many established health benefits: improving and maintaining the ability to do daily activities, maintaining a healthy weight, while preventing or postpone disorders such as coronary artery disease and diabetes.
People who eat a low-fat diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables are healthier than people who eat more fat and starch. Also, people who live in Mediterranean countries and consume the so-called Mediterranean diet seem to live longer. This diet is generally thought to be healthier than northern European and American diets because it consists of more grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and fish and less red meat. In addition, the main fat consumed is olive oil.
Olive oil contains many vitamins and is monounsaturated rather than saturated.
Monounsaturated fats do not increase cholesterol the way saturated fats do.
Following a low-calorie diet for a lifetime may lead to longer healthier life, possibly because it slows the body’s metabolism, reduces the number of certain damaging substances in the body, or both.
These damaging substances, called free radicals, are by-products of the normal activity of cells. The damage done to cells by free radicals is thought to contribute to aging and to disorders such as coronary artery disease and cancer. However, no studies have been done to test whether a low-calorie diet could prolong life have been done in people.
These three strategies would require a major change in lifestyle for most people. Consequently, many people look for other, less demanding ways to prevent or slow aging.
For example, they may look for other ways to manage free radicals. Substances called antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and thus prevent damage to cells.
Vitamins C and E are antioxidants. So some people take large amounts of these vitamins as supplements in the hope of slowing the aging process.
Other antioxidants, such as beta-carotene (a form of vitamin A), are sometimes taken as supplements.
In theory, using antioxidants to prevent aging makes sense. However, we now realize the body sometimes uses free radicals in beneficial ways—for example, as part of the immune defense system.
Also, there is direct evidence that antioxidants taken as supplements do not protect against disorders such as:
- heart attack,
- stroke, or
- cancer, nor do they increase lifespan.
Also, such supplements have not been proved to be harmless.
Levels of some hormones decrease as people age. Thus, people may want to delay or slow aging by taking supplements of these hormones.
Examples are testosterone, estrogen, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), human growth hormone, and melatonin.
However there is no evidence that hormonal supplements have any effect on aging, and some of them have known risks. Also, some experts believe that decreases in certain hormone levels may actually prolong life by slowing the body’s metabolism.
Some people believe that Eastern practices, such as: yoga, tai chi, and qigong, can prolong life.
These practices are based on the principle that health involves the whole person (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) and balance within the body.
The practices may include relaxation, breathing techniques, diet, and meditation as well as exercise. They are safe for older people and probably make them feel better. whether these practices prolong life is difficult to prove, however they all are contributors to better mind set and positive thinking. Being energized and happy is the much preferred way to be.