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Can you live to be 100? It’s definitely possible! The United States leads the world in centenarians-those who live to age 100 or beyond. But the bigger question is, how well can you live as you grow older? Start now with the following suggestions, and your journey through life will be a happier, healthier one.
Listen to a Podcast of centenarian expert Dan Buettner entitled “The Fountain of Youth,” a two-part TED Radio Hour series available at npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour. Buettner has traveled the globe studying “Blue Zones,” areas where people live longer than average.
1 Pay a lot of Attention to Inflammation
How quickly-or slowly-you age is determined by two key processes: inflammation and the production of free radicals. Each one is triggered-or prevented-by specific things in your diet, environment, and way of life. In a positive sense, inflammation is a protective response to irritation, injury, or infection. We experience it as redness, swelling, heat, or pain, and it’s easy to see when you scratch or cut your finger.
Inflammation is a vital part of the healing process as your body fights the injury, and it helps to protect you against infection. But the inflammatory response can go awry and speed up the aging process.
Levels of inflammation can be measured with a blood test for C-reactive protein, or CRP. Although it isn’t usually part of a check-up for a healthy person, CRP tests in studies show that an unhealthy lifestyle increases inflammation. But it can be reduced with the right diet, exercise, and specific supplements.
2 Avoid Common Inflammation Triggers
- Refined and processed foods
- Fruits and vegetables that are depleted of antioxidant nutrients
- Sugary drinks
- Lack of physical activity
- Toxins in our food, water, and air
- Lack of sleep
3 Try a Resveratrol Supplement
More than 1,000 years ago, an ayurvedic remedy described as a weak wine was used as a heart tonic in India. According to scientists at the University of Illinois, resveratrol made up a significant portion of that brew. In 2003, interest in resveratrol skyrocketed after Harvard researchers found that it extends the life of yeast cells. In later studies, resveratrol has increased the lifespan of worms, fruit flies, fish, and mice. All told, more than 4,500 published studies have looked at resveratrol in the past few decades.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health estimate that you would have to drink 667 bottles of wine to get 1,000 mg of resveratrol, a therapeutic dose for people with health risks.
4 Delay Aging with Healthy Fats
Omega-3 fats found in fish contain antioxidants that fight free radicals and reduce inflammation.
To avoid burping or belching after taking a fish oil supplement, use a product that is both enteric-coated and also pharmaceutical-grade. Some people find that storing fish oils in the refrigerator also helps reduce burping, and extends the shelf life of the product.
5 Reduce Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that the following
antioxidant combination, taken daily, helps reduce the risk or progression
of age-related macular degeneration:
- Beta carotene: 15 mg
- Vitamin C: 500 mg
- Vitamin E: 400 IU
- Zinc (as zinc oxide): 80 mg
- Copper (as cupric oxide): 2 mg
6 Discover Hyaluronic Acid for Healthy Joints
Hyaluronic acid, found in the fluid that lubricates and cushions joints, can help relieve joint pain. Studies have shown that oral supplements of hyaluronic acid can also be absorbed to enhance lubrication of joints. For example, one study of people with osteoarthritis, published in Nutrition Journal, found that the supplement produced relief after eight weeks of daily use.
7 Relieve Pain with Turmeric
One of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories is curcumin-an ingredient in turmeric, the Indian spice that gives curry its telltale yellow color. Clinically, curcumin has worked as well as cortisone for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and post-operative inflammation. In one double-blind crossover study, taking a daily dose of curcumin relieved morning stiffness and joint swelling better than a corticosteroid drug. It also improved walking time in those suffering from arthritis. Best of all, the curcumin was well-tolerated and produced no side effects.
8 Use Types I and III Collagen for Younger-Looking Skin
Starting in your 20s, your collagen levels begin to decline. By the time women hit menopause, skin produces 30 percent less collagen. But studies show that supplementing with Types I and III collagen not only slows the loss of collagen in the skin, it improves existing collagen. This may help reduce the appearance of age-related changes like wrinkles and sagging.
9 Build Better Bones
In Canada, researchers tested a combination of nutrients, including magnesium, fish oil, and vitamins D and K2, in a group of women with bone loss. After taking the supplements for one year, the improvement was comparable to that of a bone-building drug such Fosamax. Vitamin C, folic acid, zinc, manganese, potassium, strontium, and boron also support bone health.
10 Watch Your Calcium Intake
It’s true that we need calcium for healthy bones, but too much of this mineral-and too little magnesium-is a cause of osteoporosis. In the days of the caveman, the ratio of calcium to magnesium was 1:1. Today, it ranges between 5:1 and 15:1, causing an imbalance that can be deadly.
Without enough magnesium, calcium can go to the wrong places in our bodies. It can be deposited in our joints, contributing to arthritis, and in our arteries, which leads to heart disease. And, it can go to the kidneys and be turned into painful kidney stones.
11 Find Out if You Are Magnesium Deficient
If you have one or more of these symptoms, a lack of magnesium may be to blame.
- A diagnosis of low bone density or osteoporosis
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Blood pressure that is high
- Blood sugar that is elevated
- Chocolate cravings
- Diabetes or prediabetes
- Excessive sensitivity to noise or pain
- Learning disabilities
- Low energy
- Muscle cramping or spasms
- Muscle weakness
- Poor appetite or anorexia
- Poor balance
- Poor nail growth
- Restless leg syndrome
12 Combat Fatigue with D-Ribose
This supplement increases energy production on a cellular level. In studies, it has dramatically improved the physical and mental energy of athletes and people with heart failure, chronic fatigue. Ribose comes in pills, or you can add a scoop of ribose powder (about 5 grams) to juice or smoothies. Levels build up in your body, so start by taking it two or three times daily to give you a boost, and after a few weeks, scale back to once daily to maintain healthy energy levels.
13 Check Your Vitamin B12 Status
As you get older, your system doesn’t absorb vitamin B12 as well as it used to.
This is especially true if you take antacids, because stomach acid is necessary to absorb the vitamin. Consequently, taking a larger amount than what is commonly found in a multivitamin is a good way to give yourself an energy boost. Use the methylcobalamin form over cobalamin (the more common type of vitamin B12). Methylcobalamin, which may cost a little more, is a “body-ready” form of the nutrient and more easily absorbed.
Lower-than-optimum levels of B12 can cause fatigue, nervousness, numbness or a tingling sensation in the fingers or toes, diarrhea, or shortness of breath. All the B vitamins are necessary for a healthy nervous system but B12 is one that is often depleted with age.
14 Use CoQ10 Daily
A nutrient found in organ meats and made by our bodies, CoQ10 levels start to decline in our mid-30s. Supplements help the heart and all our other muscles to generate energy more efficiently. Studies have shown that it improves heart function among people with heart failure-even in severe cases. It also protects the heart against disease, and slows down the aging process in this vital organ. CoQ10 and ribose work together synergistically.
15 Try Glucosamine for Glucose Control
A team of German genetic specialists recently discovered that glucosamine-the popular joint-health remedy-also improves glucose metabolism and blood sugar levels. These findings were confirmed by lab studies and published in Nature Communications.
16 Eat an Avocado a Day
Move over apples! Adding an avocado to your daily diet can help improve your cholesterol levels. These were the findings of a new study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University.
17 Take Vitamin D-for Your Heart
A daily dose of vitamin D may improve your heart’s response to physical stressors, say Canadian researchers at the University of Calgary. Their recent trial found that taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily could protect against stressors like an overly zealous workout or extreme environmental conditions that may increase the risk of a deadly cardiovascular event.
18 PS: Support Your Brain Health
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a type of fat that’s found in cell membranes throughout the body. In the brain, PS enhances the synthesis and release of neurotransmitters and regulates the actions of synapses, and is essential to normal brain function. Studies show that PS can restore age-related memory loss, improve concentration, enhance learning, and restore the function of worn-out nerve cells.
19 Sleep Better (and More!) with Melatonin
Melatonin is well regarded for its ability to scavenge free radicals. Since melatonin is both water- and fat-soluble, it moves easily through cell membranes, allowing it to clean up free radicals where they can do the most damage. Melatonin has been shown to protect cellular mitochondria, the energy-producing factories within the cells. It can even help protect our precious DNA.
Adding melatonin to your supplement regimen can be beneficial in a number of ways. First, it’s an excellent and gentle way to encourage sleep, which can be particularly helpful for people suffering from insomnia. It can also help people who travel and must contend with jet lag, supporting their efforts to adjust to distant time zones. And, of course, it can also benefit people who work the late shift and have no choice but to grab their sleep in the daytime. Taking as little as 0.5 mg of melatonin can be therapeutic, although it is safe to take up to 5 mg per day.
20 Get Back to Nature
Turns out that communing with nature is really good for the soul. Research shows that spending just 20 minutes outside in good weather not only improves mood, but it also broadens thinking and increases working memory. The ideal outdoor temperature at which happiness is maximized is 57ºF, according to a study by the American Meteorological Society.
21 Put Another Candle On Your Birthday Cake
People past their 60th birthday tend to grow happier, according to studies that found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations remember the happier ones more than the negative ones. Being grateful is one of the simplest ways to foster happiness. In one study, researchers found that listing three good things that happened during the day-no matter how small-increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms. So take a few minutes each day to think about good things that happened. Either write them down or enter them into an app such as Happier or The Gratitude Habit.