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While older can mean wiser, other effects may be less desirable. But there’s hope!
Wrinkles and Sags
Collagen holds the key to supple, youthful skin, because it’s our natural “glue” that connects tissues and gives skin its structure. Yet, it’s estimated that after the age of 20, our bodies produce one percent less collagen in skin per year. While this may not make much of a difference by our mid-20s or even early 30s, the drop eventually takes a visible toll.
At the same time, UV rays break down collagen, accelerating the process. Sun protection, with sunscreen and clothing, is one obvious way to help preserve collagen, but that’s not all.
What to Do
Studies have shown that collagen supplements boost skin content of collagen, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and give skin a more youthful appearance. Vitamin C, in supplements and topical products, reduces UV damage and enhances the body’s natural production of collagen.
In addition to collagen, ceramides and peptides are a cutting-edge way to improve skin tone and texture. Ceramide supplements, in particular, have been shown to increase the skin’s moisture content for smoother, softer skin. Peptides—combinations of amino acids, the building blocks of protein—can help boost the body’s own collagen production topically.
Supplements that restore human growth hormone (HGH), which declines with age, are thought to help reduce signs of aging (e.g., wrinkles, mental decline). HGH supplements often include amino acids, which were shown in one study to increase the body’s levels of growth hormone naturally. HGH supplements are not the same as growth hormone injections.
For best results, try a two-pronged approach of supplements and skin-care products. Improvements may be visible in days, a few weeks, or over a longer period of time.
Anyone with pain in the knees, hips, or back is well aware of a problem. But even more subtle stiffness or achiness—just enough to discourage a weekend hike or tennis game—can lead to a dwindling spiral of deteriorating health.
What to Do
If you’re generally active, keep up your good habits. Otherwise, find a starting point. If walking is uncomfortable or painful, try water exercise or a stationary bike. Movement improves the flow of blood and nutrients, lubricates joints, and makes them more flexible. Resistance exercise that strengthens muscles reduces pressure on joints—stronger thigh muscles will make it easier on knees, as an example. Yoga or Pilates improves flexibility. And losing even a little weight can do wonders by reducing stress on joints.
Supplements can also help. Curcumin or boswellia reduce inflammation. Glucosamine, a component of cartilage, helps to cushion joints. And MSM, especially when taken with glucosamine, relieves inflammation and pain.
There are certain places where fat tends to deposit as we get older, especially around the middle. Muffin tops can be another undesirable development, and overall weight gain is not uncommon. Being less active is one reason but there’s another natural mechanism at play: muscle loss, up to 5 percent per decade after age 30.
Less muscle means you burn fewer calories, lose strength, and get larger in the wrong places, even if your weight stays the same (because fat weighs less than muscle). The only way to stop and reverse the process is with exercise that builds muscle: weight or resistance training.
Hormonal changes also play a role. The human body becomes less able to process sugars and starches, which leads to higher levels of blood sugar and higher levels of insulin, which promotes fat storage and chronic inflammation, and can lead to type 2 diabetes. This can also trigger imbalances in sex hormones among both women and men—and those contribute to more unwanted curves.
Sometimes, the combination of these changes is considered to be a slow metabolism. There’s some truth in that, but it isn’t inevitable and can be reversed.
What to Do
In addition to doing weight or resistance training, eat more lean protein, fatty fish such as salmon, and non-starchy vegetables, but fewer sugars and starches. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, are especially good for balancing hormones. Eat organic as much as possible, as toxins are inflammatory and disrupt hormones.
Switching to this type of diet can help you lose weight. Taking chromium, which helps to keep blood sugar at healthy levels, can make a diet more effective, according to Harry Preuss, MD, professor at Georgetown University and author of The Natural Fat-Loss Pharmacy. “Chromium is helpful because it switches your metabolism, so that the weight you lose is fat, not muscle,” he says.
Other good supplements include fish oil, to reduce inflammation, and indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which is found in cruciferous vegetables, to help keep both women’s and men’s hormones balanced.
Forgetting where you left your keys or phone isn’t necessarily a sign of aging. It could mean an overbooked schedule, an unusually stressful work or life situation, or simply lack of sleep. Memory loss can also be a side effect of some common drugs, including antihistamines, sleeping pills, some antidepressants and tranquilizers, cholesterol-lowering statins, and blood-pressure drugs. And, some people get relief from “brain fog” by eliminating grains.
Nutritionally, lack of good fats or unstable blood sugar can impair mental function. On the flipside, certain supplements have been shown to improve memory.
What to Do
Don’t panic. Make sure you’re eating a nutritious diet with healthy fats from fish, such as salmon, and from avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, or other plant-based fats. And get some regular exercise that boosts your heart rate. A fit brain is part of a fit body.
In addition, consider memory-enhancing supplements. DHA, one of the omega-3 fats in fish and algae, is necessary for healthy brain function and can improve memory. Studies have also found better memory among people taking phosphatidylserine (PS), sage, Pycnogenol, and/or the medicinal mushroom lion’s mane. It can take a few weeks, or longer, for the full effects to become apparent.
The blood-sugar mechanism that leads to fat storage can also sap energy but age plays yet another trick. Every cell contains mitochondria, microscopic components that generate energy within the cell. As we live longer, the mitochondria become damaged and less efficient, and some may even die off. The net result is less ability to produce energy within each cell. But exercise, especially if it builds muscle, can help reverse the process.
Lack of sleep is an obvious but often overlooked energy zapper. About half of American adults say they don’t get enough sleep, according to a survey by the non-profit Better Sleep Council. The most sleep-deprived are between the ages of 35 and 54.
What to Do
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York discovered that a special form of niacin/vitamin B3, called nicotinamide riboside, revitalizes mitochondria. In animal research, supplements of the vitamin counteracted the bad effects of a high-fat diet and had a beneficial effect similar to that of exercise. This form of B3 (not found in food in therapeutic quantities) is a patented ingredient called Niagen in supplements. However, the Niagen form has, so far, not been tested in humans.
Other nutrients that are known to improve the function of mitochondria—and thereby boost energy—include CoQ10 and carnitine. Also consider supplementing with a mushroom complex that contains cordyceps—this mushroom has been clinically shown to increase stamina and energy.
If falling or staying asleep is a problem, try melatonin (you can divide the dose and take the second half if you wake up and are uable to get back to sleep), L-theanine (an amino acid that promotes relaxation), and magnesium (helps relax the body and supports deep, restorative sleep).
High-Absorption Magnesium Powder with TRAACS Patented magnesium glycinate
FoodScience of Vermont
Liposomal Vitamin C Encapsulated, easier-to-absorb vitamin C
Mushroom Emperors Medicinal mushroom blend with lion’s mane and cordyceps
Glow Matrix Advanced Skin Hydrator Ceramides combined with age-defying nutrients
Arthx Relief Turmeric, MSM and other natural pain relievers.
SeroVital-hgh Patented mix of amino acids and the herb schizonepeta