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Aging: Slow it, Stop it, Reverse it?

By Jan Nelson MSN, NP-C, ABAAHP

     Well, here we are embarking on another new year with new hopes and dreams giving way to inspiration to make this a better year than last year. New energized goals of weight loss and “I’m finally going to get in shape!” But wait, how many times has that annual promise been made? With each year the image in the mirror looks a bit older with all the evidence of life’s many moments, be they happy or sad.

     It is possible to reverse and or slow down the aging process. Chronological aging has an effect on the endocrine system, hormone levels decline with age. While bio-identical hormone therapy can restore these hormone levels to more youthful levels, exercise and proper nutrition also have a positive influence on hormone levels. Hormone therapy will be much more effective with exercise and proper nutrition.

     Genetic heritage, environment, and lifestyle are the three basic factors that determine life expectancy. Genetics are basically what they are and there is not much that can be done with that, but environment and lifestyle can definitely be modified. Do you need to become slaves to exercise and adopt a strict diet that does not allow for the realities of life? Not necessarily. Find an enjoyable sports program that involves some weight training along with a healthy diet and you are on your way to changing your aging process.

     Adopting an exercise program and diet along with a positive attitude and healthy habits all exert anabolic messages to the endocrine system increasing the production of testosterone and other beneficial hormones for strength  and physical condition. On the other hand, a sedentary lifestyle, bad nutrition, not enough rest, and stress, all send catabolic messages to the endocrine system. Catabolic hormones are released, i.e., cortisol which exerts a negative effect upon muscle, bone and promotes aging. There is obviously a close relationship between hormone secretion and lifestyle.

     Eating five small meals a day is far better than three large meals. Think of the quality and amount of food you are eating each day. Healthy active adults should be eating 15 – 40  calories a day for each kilogram of body weight, with increase/decrease depending on desired weight results. After the age of 55 caloric intake should be decreased by 1% per year.

     Bone density and muscle mass decrease with age and hormonal decline, these can be nourished with good nutrition and strengthened with exercise along with optimizing hormone levels. Cardiovascular aging is actually a logical consequence of immobility and poor nutrition. It causes hypertension, reduces muscular capacity, impairs the libido and is the first step toward cardiovascular disease. The fastest way to deterioration and aging is a lack of exercise.

     Growing chronologically older does not have to mean losing lean body mass and gaining body fat. If you have made another New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get into shape, start by analyzing your current lifestyle. Find something you enjoy doing, the Mediterranean diet is a good healthy diet that is easily followed. Get your hormone levels checked, many find their motivation improves with restored optimum levels. We all have our days of not wanting to do much of anything, if you have been enduring a lot of stress then give yourself that day of rest and recuperation, but if you haven’t, give yourself a swift kick in the rear to get going! Listen to your body and take care of it!

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