Experts believe healthy ageing is possible. Our diet and simple lifestyle choices can substantially improve the quality of our lives. Can we slow down the inevitable process of ageing? We, as humans, have the utmost fascination with extending our youth. Since times immemorial, we have been looking for ways to increase our lifespan. But do you know how long we are supposed to live? A French woman called Jeanne Calment lived up to 122 years. But is it really worth living that long or is it the quality of life that really matters? Let’s find out…
What Is Ageing?
Ageing is a progressive decline in vital biological functions and our ability to adapt to environmental and metabolic stress. In simple words “ageing is the process of getting older with time.” As we get old, the key information required for cell survival is either lost or diminished — as a result there is malfunctioning or accumulation of defects that ultimately lead to our demise.
With the advances in science, medicine and technology, we have almost doubled our lifespan in just over a century and a half. But that does not mean we are spending those extra years without illness. World Health Organisation data shows that we are heading towards a chronic disease epidemic. One in three of us will suffer from chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes or arthritis by 2030. So, it begs the question – if just adding years to our age is really what we are seeking.
Factors That Lead To Ageing
The popular notion among the experts in the field of ageing is that we are not predestined to age. We age or show decline in our biological functions because we lose the key information required to perform life processes. So, in essence, if we can somehow preserve or slow down or even replenish the lost information, in theory we can slow down ageing or can even reverse it. Over the last decade, scientists have gained an in-depth understanding of the key mechanisms regulating human ageing and regard these as hallmarks of ageing:
- Accumulation of defects in our genetic code due to DNA damage as a result of interactions with our diet, lifestyle and environment. For example, smoking can drastically increase chances of getting cancer.
- Loss of telomeres (capped ends on our chromosomes) with every cell division. The more cell division or growth we have the faster telomere shortens. Research shows yoga and meditation can help preserve telomeres.
- Changes in the epigenome (switch that regulates genes) due to viral infections, change in diet or exposure to the toxin.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction leading to faulty energy production.
- Deregulation of nutrients like sugar and fats in the body leading to metabolic changes. For example in case of diabetes, body ability to sense sugar declines.
- Loss of regenerative stem cell as we age.
There is increased consensus among researchers across the world that addressing these hallmarks help us slow down the ageing process.
How Can We Slow Down The Aging Process?
While translating some of these factors into action might be out of our control, experts believe that in order to delay ageing we need to start early – in our 20’s or early 30’s when the decline hasn’t kicked in yet. Following some simple steps and making little changes in our diet can help us preserve our biological clock. Here are 8 science-backed tips for healthy ageing:
- Practice calorie restriction – Simple means reducing the amount of calorie intake during the day without depriving yourself of essential nutrients.
- Intermittent fasting (IF) – It is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and fasting. 16:8 (16 hours of fasting: 8 hour of eating window) or 5:2 (5 days of normal diet and 2 days of fasting. It is a popular way of reducing calories and giving your body time to process and rest. Note – men and women respond differently to IF.
- Moderate but regular exercise – Even 30 mins of regular exercise can help you stay fit longer.
- Quit smoking and limit alcohol – No amount of smoking is deemed safe, even passive smoking can cause long term cellular damage. Limit alcohol intake to 1-2 units of low calorie alcoholic beverage.
- Reduce the amount of sugar and carbohydrates in your diet – Excessive sugar and carbs can lead to faulty nutrient sensing and can lead to diabetes and fatty liver.
- Limit red and processed meat and meals – Red meats and some sea fishes contain large amounts of Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) which can trigger cognitive decline and heart disease.
- Add more green vegetables to your diet – Vegetables contain essential antioxidants, flavonoid and STAC (Sirtuins activating compounds) that can delay cellular damage.
- Consider personalised supplements – Supplements like resveratrol and nicotinamide have been shown to slow ageing in human cell cultures, not in real humans. Seek expert advice and caution before starting on any anti-ageing supplements.
The Bottom Line
While getting old is inevitable, getting frail with age isn’t mandatory. By making little changes in your diet and lifestyle early on, one can delay the signs of ageing and enjoy a better quality of life for longer.
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