Getting older is inevitable but unfortunately, staying healthy is not. So staying well while we age is important if we want to ensure a good quality of life, so we can enjoy the things we like doing most. There are lots of things we can do to give our body the best chance of staying healthy and keeping it in good health.
Stomach acid is needed to break down proteins and also to help protect the rest of the body from unwanted bacteria from entering the rest of the digestive tract. Many studies have confirmed that, as we age, our stomach acid is reduced, which can create symptoms of heartburn and digestive issues. The muscle between the oesophagus and the stomach is known as the lower oesophageal sphincter, and it allows food to pass from the oesophagus to the stomach. In some people, this muscle becomes weakened and allows the acid from the stomach to flow back up the oespaghagus causing heartburn, also known as GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).
Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, author of ‘Why Stomach Acid is good for you’, has pursued research on ageing individuals. What he found was that many studies have revealed that stomach acid decreases with age, yet lots develop heartburn, so too much stomach acid does not seem to be the problem.1
And as we get older, our heartburn symptoms appear to increase and proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s) are then prescribed, which decreases the stomach acid even further but will give a brief sense of relief by reducing the burning sensation of the acid coming back up the oesophagus.
Keeping Stress under control
Stress has the ability to turn genes on and off, meaning, it has the ability to cause disease if switched on. A research recently carried out, was able to show that stress increases the risk of cancer by turning on certain genes.2 Having chronic stress in your life is something worth taking a close look at and doing something about it.
Stress releases two hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. When these two hormones are activated, the body responds by putting all of its focus into “flight or flight” mode. The energy is then veered away from our immune system, digestive system and repair, in order to ‘survive’.
Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Staying a healthy weight may be one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dying from a multitude of causes. A recent study has shown that the most powerful intervention to extend the life of mammals, is to maintain a healthy body weight. Those with the lowest mortality are associated with a BMI < 25 kg m2.3
Refined carbohydrates or sugar in excess causes insulin levels to spike and can also contribute to fat storage, especially around our waistline. To keep weight stable, some dietary habits such as eating protein at the same meal as carbohydrates will help slow down the sudden surge of insulin and help stabilize blood glucose. Soluble fibre, such as oats, chia seeds and flaxseeds are slow releasing carbohydrates so a great choice to start your day with.
Getting enough Fibre
Beans and lentils are an inexpensive and healthy way to provide good quality fibre. Fibre helps keep our gut healthy and our bowel habits regular.
B Vitamins have been strongly connected with homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the blood and a marker of inflammation in the body. Having a high homocysteine level has been commonly linked to joint pain and is normally found in rheumatoid arthritis sufferers.4 A high homocysteine level also indicates a higher risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and atherosclerosis. Controlling homocysteine with folate and vitamins B6, B12 and also vitamin C.5
Support your gut
The effects of ageing on the immune system has been among one of the best subjects researched. As we age, it’s important to ensure the immune system is kept as strong as possible, and this can be done in a number of ways by supporting the gut such as eating fermented foods, such as miso, tofu, sauerkraut or kefir. These all support the gut by enhancing the beneficial bacteria. Antibiotics, diet, stress and lifestyle can all affect the delicate balance of our beneficial gut bacteria.
The gut works closely with the immune system and will help protect against illnesses. In order to promote good bacteria in the gut, eating plenty of fibre rich fruits and vegetables along with some life yoghurt or kefir and avoiding sugar, can go a long way to helping you build a healthy immune system. 6
Include Fish and Eggs
Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines and kippers contain B12. The brain consists of 60 percent fat in order for neurotransmitter to function correctly. These neurotransmitters are vital for memory. Reduce inflammation and increase circulation.
Acknowledged in the book, The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing, Holford P. et al, mentions a large study of over 35,000 women found, that Zeaxtanthin found in fish and lutein found in egg yolks (and fish) have been found to reduce the risk of cataracts by 18%. 7
Exercising is extremely important as we age. Not only do we lose muscle mass if we don’t exercise but as we age, we begin to lose bone and weight-bearing exercise as well as resistance training is what we need to strengthen them. Exercise such as walking, running, weight training and jumping on a trampoline, are all great exercises for bone health.
Aerobic exercise also helps lower your homocysteine level, so another way to reduce the chances of heart disease, stroke osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.8
It’s a multitude of nutrition and lifestyle habits that will provide a healthy lifestyle. How we live our lives day to day, is what really matters.
(1) Wright, D. J. (2014, June 5). Tahoma Clinic Blog. Retrieved October 25, 2014, from What REALLY Causes Heartburn?: http://www.tahomaclinicblog.com
(2) Baylin, S. E. (2010, 10 5). Stress and the epigenetic landscape: a link to the pathobiology of human diseases. Retrieved 10 28, 2014, from Pubmed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3148009/
(3) Luigi Fontana, F. B. (2014, March 14). Optimal body weight for health and longevity. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from Wiley Online Library: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/acel.12207/full
(4) Lazzerini, P. e. (2006, July 24). Homocysteine enhances cytokine production in cultured synoviocytes from rheumatoid arthritis patients. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from Pubmed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16956428
(5) J.E. Pizzorno et al. (2008). The Clinician’s Handbook (2 ed.). Missouri, USA: Churchill Livingstone.
(6) Holford, P. e. (2012). The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing. London: Piatkus.
(7) Holford, P. e. (2012). The 10 Secrets of Healty Ageing. London: Piatkus.
(8) Glenville, M. (2011). Fat Around The Middle. London: Kyle Books.