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Q: I just turned 70, and my husband is 75. We’re generally healthy but have experienced mild signs of aging, such as stiffer joints, more wrinkles, and decreased desire for lovemaking. He is especially concerned about preventing Alzheimer’s, which runs in his family, and I am concerned about heart disease, which runs in mine. How can we continue to enjoy vibrant health and prevent the diseases our parents had in these later years of our lives?
A: First, we need to change how we think about aging and realize that our genes are not our destiny. What we inherited from our parents shows potential for disease or health. But our environment—both inside our cells and outside our bodies—determines how those genes are expressed. We have the ability to change our environment and diet to address these issues and help our bodies age in good health.
Health visionary Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, explains these messages in her new book Radical Longevity. Gittleman, who is now in her 70s, should know. The author of more than 35 books draws on more than four decades of experience and research in age-defying and restorative medicine to create a fundamentally different guide to reversing the symptoms of aging and overcoming the root causes.
To develop a plan for healthy aging, Gittleman recommends looking in detail at your individual symptoms and lifestyle risk factors so you can determine the areas you may want to target. With your personal issues in mind, follow the general rules below that Gittleman says work together to suspend or slow the aging process, help prevent degenerative diseases, and lead you to look and feel younger than your peers.
Gittleman’s 7 New Rules for Healthy Aging
1. Immunity is everything.
Our immune systems determine how we handle bacteria, mold, fungus, virus, parasites, heavy metals, and chemicals. For strong immunity, Gittleman says that the most important nutrients are vitamin D, vitamin C, quercetin, zinc, and, surprisingly, melatonin, which Gittleman calls “the immune warrior hormone.” She also recommends using a humidifier to create an optimal humidity range of 40–60 percent to avoid dry air, which is a risk factor for developing respiratory infections.
2. Take on toxic overload.
We’re exposed to a deluge of health-sapping chemicals in our modern lives, and our efforts to have vitality and a long life, in large part, rely on our ability to rid ourselves of toxins. The key is identifying which toxins you may have been exposed to—they could be heavy metals (aluminum, cadmium, fluoride, lead, mercury, or nickel); glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed killer; mold; parasites; or electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from cell phones, Wi-Fi, and smart meters.
For each type of toxin, Gittleman offers targeted solutions. For example, to protect yourself against EMFs, she recommends keeping your cell phone on airplane mode or off when not in use, using the speakerphone function, and keeping conversations brief. She also suggests increasing magnesium intake because it acts as a natural calcium channel blocker to offset the calcium dysregulation that’s impacted by EMF exposure.
3. Stop AGEs.
Advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) are “sticky” molecules formed when proteins or fats become glycated (bonded) after exposure to sugars. The body interprets AGEs as irritants and reacts by ramping up inflammation. Common signs of AGE damage include stiff joints and muscles, “hardening of the arteries,” and wrinkles—symptoms many people consider “normal” signs of aging.
Gittleman’s suggestions to hold down AGEs include emphasizing more plant-based foods; reducing consumption of cheese, butter, and bacon; and avoiding highly processed, dehydrated, and fried foods. Also, avoid grilling, roasting, baking, and air-frying. Instead, use low-heat, moist, slow cooking methods such as stewing, simmering, braising, or poaching.
4. Free up fascia for youthful movement.
Fascia, also known as connective tissue, is a band of tissue that provides structure and acts as a support between muscles and other internal organs. Fascia can be categorized as liquid (also known as lymph) or solid.
Liquid fascia solutions can be as simple as doing stretches or low-impact exercises and staying hydrated. Solid fascia solutions include emphasizing restorative nutrients, especially collagen, which is needed for proper fascia structure. Homemade bone broths are a superfood for collagen production.
5. Activate cellular rejuvenation.
Rejuvenation and repair start at the cellular level, specifically at the membrane. The right dietary fats, especially omega-6 linoleic acid, make membranes more fluid and efficient and prevent toxins from entering the cell.
To activate cellular rejuvenation, Gittleman recommends 1 Tbs. of hemp seed oil or 3 Tbs. of hemp hearts daily for their healthy omega-6 fats, then supplementing with resveratrol, a compound found in red wine. The latter can effectively mimic the anti-inflammatory activities of the leading player in our body’s natural protective mechanisms, according to Gittleman.
6. Mind your minerals.
Two nutritional imbalances that can age you are copper toxicity, which is linked to Alzheimer’s, and iron overload, which is linked to cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer, fatty liver disease, and metabolic syndrome.
To protect against copper toxicity, remove copper-lined pots, pans, and other kitchen items, from your home; consider replacing any copper dental components you may have; and balance your intake of copper-rich foods (avocado, soy, shellfish, chocolate, nuts, and seeds) with zinc-rich meat, eggs, and pumpkin seeds.
To defend against iron overload, get rid of that cast-iron cookware and avoid iron-fortified refined flour and rice. Also, drink tea and coffee to block iron absorption, and take vitamin C to optimize iron levels.
7. Optimize the gut-brain connection.
Our gut microbiome is a key player in immune response, digestion, blood sugar regulation, hormone balance, stress-handling, and mood. The microbiome also impacts the body’s production of enzymes, vitamins, hormones, and neurotransmitters, and communicates with the mitochondria, or energy-producing “power plant” of each cell in the body. The relationship between the gut microbiome and the brain is key to metabolism, the ability to convert food into energy, according to Gittleman.
To improve the gut-brain connection, she recommends taking probiotics, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, and Bifidobacterium longum. Also address negative emotions, such as grief or depression caused by loneliness. (Try Bach Rescue Remedy.) And find ways to make connections with people, such as attending faith-based services, volunteering in your community, or joining a supportive online group.
The Healthy Aging Diet
Gittleman recommends whole, unprocessed organic fresh fruits and vegetables, pasture-raised protein, properly prepared legumes, and essential fats, especially from omega-6-rich sources such as hemp seeds. She also advises avoiding the most common foods that cause sensitivities—wheat, corn, yeast, sugar, peanuts, and nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, paprika, eggplant, goji berries, and ashwagandha).