We all know the aches and pains that come with every new trip around the sun. Here we dive into how you can age with minimal medical interventions (which you know I’m a fan of!) Aging can be scary for some and a blessing for others. Often, aging comes with confusing diagnoses and added medications and healthcare bills (don’t worry – keep reading).
However, by developing a healthy gut microbiome through nutrition, lifestyle and integrative practices, you can prevent many chronic diseases commonly seen in the west. Things like inflammation, stomach problems, heart disease, and arthritis can often be improved, if not prevented. Sometimes all you need to do is remove certain types of foods from your diet (think highly processed foods and red meat products) and replace them with whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. The more whole plant foods we can put into our bodies, the better our bodies will function and feel. So what are some things you can do now to help you age gracefully? Read on.
Decrease meat and dairy products as you age
There is so much research on the negative impacts of consuming meat-based products, especially dairy. Did you know that most dairy products carry a variety of hormones? Naturally occurring hormones, like estrogen, are secreted in milk. Research has indicated that the hormones in dairy products could be considered an essential risk factor for various cancers. You automatically remove multiple cancer risk factors by eliminating milk and dairy-based products! There has also been research that indicates eliminating meat and dairy products can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) shared the following:
“Saturated fat and trans fat—found in dairy products, meat, and fried foods—can increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive conditions. A plant-based diet avoids these foods and is rich in antioxidants, folate, and vitamin E, which may offer a protective effect.”
So, eating more whole plant foods and less animal products and processed foods helps us ward off many of the unsavory parts we associate with aging.
Of course, other factors play into different diagnoses, but it’s a bit like wearing sunscreen. If there is something we can do to reduce the risk of developing a disease, why not try?
Consider your blood pressure
High blood pressure is an issue many of my patients present when they come to see me. Rather than loading up on medications that come with their potential complications, we often start with what their diet and lifestyle look like and work from there. Are they overweight? Do they consume heavily processed foods? Do they lead a primarily sedentary lifestyle? Often, all three answers are yes.
A goal will then be to eliminate processed foods and instead focus on a well-balanced diet filled with fiber from whole foods, plant proteins, and healthy fats. With this approach I have helped my patients experience big improvements in their blood pressure. Simultaneously, they get their weight to a more manageable place. These patients not only feel better, but they generally have increased energy and decreased aches and pains, better sleep and more radiant skin.
My patients are pleasantly surprised by their newfound agility, both mental and physical and feel empowered to tackle everyday tasks with more focus and stamina.
Try to keep your blood sugars in check
Unfortunately, those who have increased blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, pre diabetes or full blown diabetes have increased GI issues due to high blood sugar. Imbalances in your sugar levels change your digestion and the motility in your gut. This can contribute to bloating, diabetes and constipation. This is also one of the risk factors for chronic pancreatitis and fatty liver.
When it comes to nutrition and lifestyle, you can take charge! You can do many things to prevent, improve your blood sugar levels and even reverse diabetes! Studies have shown that diets lower in saturated fat and refined sugars and higher in whole plant foods can help you achieve these goals. But remember, this is a complex topic requiring an extensive conversation with your doctor.
As you age, make exercise a priority
We want that heart pumping and blood flowing and exercise does just that! It positively impacts your overall health and well-being, both physically and mentally. And if you can exercise outside, that’s even better! At least 120 minutes per week spent in nature has been associated with optimal health. It positively impacts your mental health and gut microbiome, too!
When you allow yourself time to be active, it’s like routine maintenance for your internal operating systems, i.e., your heart and lungs. By keeping your activity levels up, you are setting yourself up for better health throughout your life, especially as you age. The National Council on Aging says exercise can also help prevent bone loss and reduce some of the aches and pains that may come from having osteoarthritis. NCOA also suggests exercising for at least 30 minutes a day. Try activities such as yoga, pilates, and aerobic exercises, such as walking, swimming, or using a stationary bike, each of which is a low-impact exercise.
Make yourself a priority
A healthy diet, combined with a more active lifestyle, can lead to positive changes in overall health. As we age this can help us lead a more full and active life without missing a beat. As always, consult your healthcare provider regarding overall activity levels, medications, and dietary changes. If you’re interested in booking with my telemedicine practice, click here!