The Fountain of Youth; Aging Gracefully

Understanding the aging process and how to grow old gracefully.
Understanding the aging process and how to grow old gracefully.

I remember vividly when I was 4 asking my mother when I would get to be a grown up. Each stage of my early years was waiting to be old enough to do something; go to school, drive a car, get a job, have a family, etc. There was always a longing for the next milestone. I could trust in my body, felt strong and did not worry too much about “getting old."

Then when I turned 40, I started to notice “aches and pains” that came out of no where. My skin was not as supple and my hair was getting gray. I work hard to stay healthy. I am careful about what I eat, I exercise almost every day, I sleep about 7-9 hours, and I have a great support network and enjoy my life. These lifestyle choices, along with my Irish genetics, have so far helped me to age gracefully - if I do say so myself. As I tell my friends, “I am like a fine wine and get better with age.”

So what can you do to age like a fine wine? First you need to understand the aging process. Aging is defined as the process of becoming older that is genetically determined, but environmentally modulated (think lifestyle choices). The first 25 to 30 years of your life (maximum potential) your body is growing and maturing to its maximum potential. You come with spare parts. Many of your lifestyle habits and behaviors are also being developed during this time that determine how many spare parts you will have at your disposal when you are older. So between the ages of 25 and 30 you will be at your strongest and personal best. The body is always in a state of breakdown and then repair. The breakdown depends upon the demands that your body encounters each day, and the repair happens most when you sleep at night.

After this age of “maximum potential” your body will start the aging process of deterioration. Now the body still has the capacity for healing itself, but it is not as efficient as when you are young. Your muscle strength declines, your flexibility decreases, which increases the stress on your joints, your body fat increases putting strain on your joints and heart, your skin wrinkles and loses elasticity, cardiovascular output decreases making you more tired, senses decrease impacting vision and hearing, and your temperature regulation may not be as good. The impact of disease on the body is also very evident. Your lifestyle choices now play a much bigger part on how you age because your choices directly impact how quickly the deterioration occurs. It is always amazing to me that you can have two 70 year old people, one will be riddled with disease and homebound and another just finishing gardening, hiking, and still working and living a productive life. My Mom is a great example of this, and it is not just genetic, her mom died in her 60’s of a massive heart attack. I can see how her lifestyle choices slowed the aging process despite her genetics.

So what is the magic answer? You’re not going to get it in the magic pills and concoctions they are selling online and in infomercials. It takes effort. It’s not stopping the aging process; because that is genetically determined. It is taking steps to have “healthy aging” which is solely determined by your daily lifestyle choices. It is living a longer healthier life!

Here is a list of the proven tips that I could find from reputable sources:

1. Get 7-9 hours of sleep - This is repair time!
     a. You need deep uninterrupted sleep
     b. Avoid caffeine and stimulants before bed
     c. No TV in the bedroom
     d. Keep the room dark

2. Move your body every day (My motto is “Move or Rot”)
     a. Strengthening Activities
     b. Flexibility Activities
     c. Balance Activities
     d. Endurance Activities

3. Healthy diet rich in anti-oxidants
     a. Avoid packaged food, saturated fats, chemicals and man-made products
     b. Colorful organic fruits and vegetables
     c. Whole grains
     d. Anti-inflammatory foods (
     e. Fish
     f. Other - Acai berry
     g. Drink water - hydration improves your skin

4. Reduce the impact of stress in your life
     a. Meditate
     b. Exercise
     c. Keep life in perspective
     d. Get counseling

5. Maintain your ideal weight
     a. Too skinny makes your skin “saggy”
     b. Too fat speeds the aging process
     c. Ideal weight is where you feel the strongest and healthiest

6. Use Sunscreen

7. Have a strong Social Network (why woman live longer)
     a. Have fun every dDay
     b. Laugh
     c. Enjoy Life
     d. Live your Passion!

So remember you are only as old as you feel. It is your choice and every day is a “do over”. How you feel tomorrow is dependent upon what you do today. Good Luck!