While genetics does play a role in the aging process, we can modify the effects through lifestyle modification and ensure our senior years are healthy, vibrant and disease free.
Processed Foods Lead to Disease
Cutting edge scientists are beginning to believe that the human body has a normal life span of nearly 120 years. Presently life expectancy is around 80 years, with many living their latter years in declining health. By adopting a diet consisting in large part of processed and refined foods and avoiding exercise, we are actually taking years away from our biological potential. Eating foods which have been stripped of nutrition for years and decades causes our cellular metabolism to decline. The body can amazingly compensate for a period of time, but eventually it will take its toll. Further, we live in an environment which continually subjects us to increasing pollutants, electro-magnetic radiation and a host of synthesized chemicals which we absorb from cleaning and beauty products. We rely on pharmaceuticals to keep us healthy, but in most cases these drugs only add to the assault placed on our body.
Research which began back in the 1930’s has demonstrated that a dietary lifestyle known as caloric restriction can extend healthy lifespan in mammals, and indications are that it does the same in humans. By reducing the amount of calories consumed by 25% we cause the body to revert to a ‘starvation survival’ mode, where our evolutionary ancestors would have been able to survive a famine when food was scarce. We don’t have that problem today, but our genetics are still wired to react to calorie reduction by setting in place a very complex chain of molecular reactions which put the brakes on heart disease, cancer proliferation, dementia, and many of the diseases we associate with aging. A simple 25% reduction in calories and the associated weight loss over a period of two years has been shown to directly lead to a reduction in arterial plaque and heart disease risk.
Monitor Blood Sugar to Avoid Diabetes
We typically don’t think about what happens at the cellular level and in our blood every time we eat a meal. The body is a very efficient machine, breaking down every food item into the vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats which are made available for energy and metabolism. The Standard American Diet (SAD) of highly refined carbohydrates and trans fats floods the blood with these breakdown products, overwhelming our capacity to mop up the excess glucose and lipids which hit the blood. This is known as post-prandial disorder, and when allowed to continue meal after meal directly leads to disease which will shorten our life. High post meal blood sugar is one of the most damaging and controllable conditions.
By regularly using a simple and inexpensive blood glucose meter, we can monitor and regulate the blood glucose surges after meals. Check your blood sugar readings one and two hours after eating, and ensure that the readings are not over 140 mg/dl and 120 mg/dl respectively. Extensive data indicates that extended blood glucose readings over 140 mg/dl lead to death of the pancreatic beta cells which produce insulin, and once gone they do not regenerate. Eventually this leads to diabetes and dramatically increased risk of heart disease and many cancers.
Blood pressure has been called the ‘silent killer’ for a very good reason. Elevated readings as small as 20 (mm Hg) over the optimal reading of 115/75 are associated with a doubled risk of heart attack. Many people of all ages are walking around with elevated blood pressure which act as a ticking bomb waiting to explode in their arteries. Higher pressure in the arteries causes small cracks of the inner lining of the vessels which the body expediently fills with a foamy substance called plaque. This creates an increased burden for the heart and results in higher blood pressure. Interestingly, a recent study found that lowering blood pressure by commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals did not equate to lowered risk of future disease. Following a natural, non-refined diet with adequate exercise and stress reduction works far better than any drug at reducing and virtually eliminating heart disease risk.
It is possible to avoid many of the common ailments which claim the lives of so many Americans and extend your natural life cycle by following several critical modification tips. Calorie Restriction, Blood Glucose and Blood Pressure Monitoring are key lifestyle tenants which when started early enough, have been proven to maximize the limits of your healthy later years. While we don’t know exactly how long the average human life can be extended by using these techniques, we do know that living a disease free existence is a significant benefit.