The Path to Aging Gracefully!
Growing older is inevitable, but aging gracefully can make it an enjoyable journey rather than an experience many of us have come to fear. In a society obsessed with youth, we can develop beliefs that as we age, our lives and health become limited and undergo a decline. This need not be true on any level. You can enjoy prime-of-life vitality at any age by tuning into and taking care of your body, mind and spirit.
We live in a world of instant gratification, so it seems natural to expect a magic pill to sort everything out for us. Aging gracefully is not an instant activity, but rather the long-term result of our daily habits. Keeping in balance is even more essential to longevity and a better quality of life during stressful times. While we navigate the current pandemic circumstances, let’s take this time of distancing and seclusion to think about what taking care of body, mind and spirit really means, and build a foundation of good health that enables optimal physical and mental functioning.
One of the biggest challenges we face is stress. Stressors are present in our jobs, our homes, our hurried lifestyles and of course the current events we’re encountering. Stress leads to inflammation, making us vulnerable to illnesses as we age, so it’s critical that we learn how to manage our pressures and challenges in healthy ways. Mindfully reducing our stress levels mentally and physically reduces the resultant inflammation, so our bodies remain younger inside and out, allowing us to age gracefully, regardless of genetics.
Where does the path to heathy aging start?
Diet is the main source of inflammation in the body, so an anti-inflammatory diet protects our immune systems and helps our bodies resist and adapt to the changes that time brings. Eat a healthy diet of fruits (especially berries) and vegetables, and include healthy proteins from fish, organic meats and legumes. Incorporate healthy omega fats of nut butters, eggs, extra virgin olive oil, avocado, fatty fish and fish oils like salmon and sardines, and coconut oil. Additionally, cook with herbs like basil and use savory spices like turmeric and garlic that will add flavor and phytonutrients to reduce inflammation and slow aging. Finally, remember to drink lots of clean water. It keeps your body from premature aging by carrying phytonutrients through your blood to every cell.
The second step is movement, staying in motion as much as possible every day. Walking daily has been proven to decrease stress levels (therefore deceasing blood pressure), keep bones strong, regulate sugar/glucose levels, and help improve sleep and moods, especially on a sunny day. I find walking is the best choice for me, although you may prefer a different type of activity like yoga, gardening, or yardwork. Incorporating your lifestyle and preferences into your daily activities will help to keep you motivated.
The third step is sufficient sleep to restore health and vitality, physically and mentally. Studies have shown that people who sleep 7-8 hours each night live longer. To achieve adequate sleep, establish a routine to consistently maintain your regular bedtime and wake-up hours. Avoid caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime as well as intense physical activity close to retiring for the night. Short naps, 20 minutes or less, can result in dramatic physical and mental benefits by improving how your metabolism processes.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we become ill. As a Naturopathic doctor, I use natural medicines to stimulate the body’s inherent healing process rather than mask inflammatory symptoms. These include foods and herbal supplements, homeopathy, and stress reduction techniques like meditation and reflection to decrease inflammation, heal and prevent disease, make a difference in the quality of life and promote graceful aging.
The greatest influence on the path of aging gracefully is a joyful heart. Just as an unhealthy physical diet can cause inflammation in the body, so can unhealthy thoughts and words inflame emotional and mental states. Every thought releases some type of chemical. With good thoughts, when we’re feeling happy or optimistic, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin, creating a feeling of well-being. Daily reflection, contemplation, meditation, listening to music, reading an enjoyable book, or even watching a comic movie can promote positivity and uplifting thoughts to help connect with joy every day. A positive attitude is very important for mental and emotional health so I recommend seeking out activities that will inspire you to smile, laugh and think positively. Finding personal passions and purpose in life moves us to age with grace.
Dr. Marie Mammone is a Connecticut Licensed and Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor practicing at the Naturopathic and Acupuncture Health Center in Wethersfield, CT for over 20 years. She welcomes working with her clients to maintain and regain their health using her knowledge of a variety of therapies including clinical nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, acupuncture and much more. For more information, please call today at 860.529.1200 or read more at: www.NAHcenter.com.