Healthy ageing: from meditation to olive oil.
Ageing carries many negative connotations in our culture - especially for women. But while we may try to disguise our grey hairs with dye and our wrinkles with botox, there's no getting away from ageing as a normal biological process. In fact, I view ageing as a privilege - with it comes experience, wisdom, a greater knowledge of self and most importantly, more life.
But I want to age as healthily as possible, and avoid the effects of premature ageing on my mind and body. Thankfully, there's a lot we can do through diet and lifestyle to affect how we age. It's true that the choices we make today impact us tomorrow.
Telomeres - protect & preserve
Telomeres are caps at the end of chromosomes that protect DNA. Their length is associated with the ageing of cells. Our telomeres get shorter as we age, and can also prematurely shorten - a sign of accelerated ageing.
Short telomeres can also be a predictor of early onset of age-related diseases like heart disease, dementia and certain types of cancer. So it makes sense that protecting and preserving our telomeres is desireable if we want to live longer, healthier lives.
Lifestyle habits like stress management (including yoga, meditation and practicing mindfulness), at least 8 hours per night of good quality sleep, a positive mindset, social support and exercise can play a significant role in the health of our telomeres.
So now is the time to prioritise relaxation, sleep and stress management. Not only will they have a positive effect on your mindset, mood and wellbeing now, but they will help to preserve the length of your telomeres for the future. You can introduce these lifestyle practices bit by by through simple tweaks to your everyday life. Read my thoughts on why self-care isn't an extravagance if you need more convincing.
Eating to age well
In terms of nutrition, there are a number of principles that can support healthy ageing. Primarily, these include getting a range of antioxidants from lots of fruit and veg, essential fats from oily fish, nuts, seeds and oils and sources of good quality protein from legumes, fish and poultry.
Excessive inflammation is a key culprit in age-related illnesses and premature ageing, so in addition to the above, include anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like green tea, ginger and turmeric.
Vitamin D and omega 3 are recognised as being particularly important nutrients to support healthy ageing. Public Health England now recommends Vitamin D supplementation at 400IU/10mcg for everyone in England over 4 years of age. Omega 3 can be obtained through diet by eating 3-4 portions per week of wild-caught oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, herring and trout per week. You can also supplement omega 3 with a good quality fish oil or algae oil if you are vegetarian/vegan.
The mediterranean diet is widely recognised as having benefits for supporting cognitive health, preventing age-related chronic diseases and promoting longevity.
The principles of the mediterranean diet are eating a range of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables (7-10 servings each day), with a range of complex carbohydrates from wholegrains with nuts, seeds and legumes and good quality olive oil with some fish and poultry. Red meat, dairy and sugar are limited to small amounts.
What to avoid
Foods and lifestyle habits that promote inflammation, free radical damage and increase toxins in the body are not conducive to healthy ageing. Stop smoking and limit sugar, alcohol and processed foods. And wear sunscreen to prevent sun damage to the skin!
However, it's also important to remember that key ingredients for longevity and healthy ageing are happiness, a positive mindset and social support. Avoid being overly restrictive or rigid, and live a life of moderation, with laughter and meals with family and friends.
HealthY Ageing at The Clapton Laundry
The second in my series of talks on women's wellness at The Clapton Laundry will go deep into nutrition and lifestyle for healthy ageing. It takes place on Thurs 26 April 2018.