None of us are getting any younger – an unescapable fact – but if you look around you, you may notice that people appear to be ageing at different rates. We undoubtedly all know some people in great health, who seem to defy the ageing process and carry on with life as they always have, and we probably also know some at the other end of the scale. Having met some amazing characters in connection with my Words of Wisdom initiative, I frequently revert back to one of the original questions in my Age Life Balance introduction – can we influence our own ageing, and, if so, how?
Is ageing possible to influence?
According to Patrick Holdford in his book The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing, “it’s increasing clear that we can all make changes to the genetic hand we are dealt”. There have been a number of studies to support this:
- Dr Roger Williams, was already hypothesising in the 1950s that lifestyle can directly change the activities of some genes for better or worse
- Since the 70s, the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Study has been conducting an ongoing longitudinal investigation of health and behaviour of a complete birth cohort. Researchers have noted that only 20% of the ageing process is attributable to genes, with the rest being linked to environment & lifestyle
- Susceptibility to conditions associated with ageing are not entirely genetic, with heritability of age at death being approx. 25% ()
- I also love this feel good story from Caerphilly, South Wales
As a natural optimist, I’m taking all this as a green light to go ahead and do what I can to influence my own ageing journey. Anyone else want to join me in this?
So, we probably can’t beat ageing altogether (I’ve not yet heard of a miracle cure), but we may be able to slow parts of the process down.
Peta Bee, fitness writer, speaks of “The brutal truth is that there is no way that we can avoid or defy ageing altogether or forever, but by recalibrating the body and resetting the base points we can try not to accumulate all the adverse symptoms at top speed” (Ageless Body).
I also like the analogy used by Patrick Holdford in his book The 10 Secrets of Healthy Ageing – “houses built several decades ago need regular maintenance and repairs. Over time we need to develop DIY skills (or make use of others) to prevent major catastrophe and overhauls with our bodies“.
My take on this is that it’s beneficial to become more aware of our bodies, if we aren’t already, in order to identify signs and address any niggles early on. And not just for reasons of vanity. If we can protect and maintain our bodies for longer, we can better our chances of living longer, independent and pain-free lives, free from medications and other medical interventions. This certainly sounds more attractive than the alternatives.
New life skill
Ageing well is a new life skill. As adults today, we have the chance to make better choices about how we age than previous generations. We benefit from information, the ability to research, time and resources available. And for fear of sounding like a broken record, the earlier we start the better chance we each have to positively influence our ageing journey (or something)
There is no magic pill we can swallow , nor would we probably want to, but we can do it in a number of more manageable ways:
- Taking regular exercise – to keep mobile, build strength and maintain flexibility
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet – to ensure we are getting the right fuel and nutrients we need from food sources
- Taking vitamins or other supplements that may benefit us – our bodies sometimes become deficient or have more difficulties absorbing these as we age
- Getting adequate rest
- Managing how we handle stress
No doubt you’ve heard many of these before. They are the foundations for overall health and therefore impact on our bodies now and for the future. I’m sure you’ll be glad to know I’ll be tackling each of these in future blogs, but if you want to ‘read ahead’ there are many resources available in the form of books or via the internet. Please ask me if you would like any recommendations.
Why is it important?
The sooner we get healthy, the longer we can enjoy and maintain the benefits as well as reducing the risk of developing one or more chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease or arthritis.
Other benefits include:
- General good health
- Strong muscles
- Efficient immune systems
- Good memory
- Healthy brain
- Smooth firm skin
- Good sleep hygiene
- Positive mental health
- Stave off elderly decline – heartburn, sleeplessness, muscle pain, depression, nausea, constipation, fading memory and this is before the neglect, malnutrition, bedsores and infections that you may be subject to within a hospital or care home.
Personally, I’d rather do what I can through my own conscious efforts now, so it becomes habitual, and then I can get on with all the other things that I want to achieve now and in the future. I’d like successful ageing to be a consequence of the way I live, not my main focus.
Call to action
So, you’ve now heard a little more about the benefits (and you’ve probably observed this in some people you know). Regardless of your age and lifestyle, think of some adjustments that you might make which will have a positive influence on your longevity and ageing journey.
I exercise regularly and maintain a balanced diet, but I have never paid much attention to the vitamins and minerals I take in, so this is a new area of focus for me. I’ve recently started taking multi-vitamins with iron, so I’ll monitor my body and energy levels to see if this makes a difference. A few weeks on and this has already become a habit.
What actions will you take? What habits will you adopt?
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.