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Longevity + Ageing Well

Ageing is both a blessing and a curse…

Unfortunately, some of us won’t make it to old age, and those who do may not keep good health, and may endure poor quality of life (sometimes for decades!).

I’ve seen this first hand in my role as a practice nurse, and it’s SUPER sad. Yup, it really hurts my heart. More and more people are being diagnosed with prediabetes, type two diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) and more.

Poor lifestyle choices play a significant role in these health concerns (genetics plays a role ~5% of the time!), therefore it is crucial to take control of our health as early as we possibly can in life – childhood is preferable!

When we hear the words “anti-ageing” most of us think about the outside of our body, particularly our skin, as it is what everyone sees. However, we need to consider ageing as a process that occurs from the INSIDE OUT.

Inflammation

One of the main drivers behind ageing, inflammation is your immune system’s response to a stimulus. These are usually harmful substances that have entered, or been created within, your body. We typically eat, drink, inhale, or absorb these substances. 

The more harmful substances that we are exposed to, the more inflammation our body experiences, and the more rapidly we age, eeeekk!!

What does inflammation manifest as?

Symptoms of inflammation can often be recognised as heat, swelling and redness. The location of these symptoms can vary and are dependent on where the immune system is focusing its response.

For example, inflammation could be present in your…
  • skin (e.g. eczema/psoriasis),
  • joints (aches/pains/arthritis),
  • arteries (atherosclerosis),
  • and/or in your vital organs.

However, chronic low-grade inflammation is often silent and is involved in many health conditions such as:

  • auto-immune disease
  • cancer
  • cardiovascular disease
  • type two diabetes
  • non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Taking excellent care of your body to prevent premature ageing is far more impactful than any skin lotion, potion, mask, peel or serum.

We can either increase or reduce the inflammatory responses in our bodies through our lifestyle choices. Our food and beverage choices; the household products we use; what we put on our skin; how hard we push our bodies; how much rest we get; and our perception of pressure and urgency (STRESS!!) all have an impact on our inflammation levels.

It is worth putting in the effort now as an investment into your future-elderly self. As you can see from the above, there are many things you can do to aid healthy ageing; enabling you to enjoy your older years and live them more healthfully, and joyfully.

Oxidative stress & free radicals

Oxidative stress causes damage to DNA, proteins and lipids.

Free radicals are part of this process and result from inflammation, infection, and our exposure to toxins. Free radicals are produced by normal processes like breathing and exercising, but are also produced by stress, cigarette smoke and environmental pollutants such as pesticides and heavy metals.

Visible signs of ageing (skin) are a result of the cumulative impact of free radical damage. 

The “Blue Zones”

The Blue Zones are 5 magical locations across the world with higher numbers of people who live for much longer (and more healthfully), than average.

The Blue Zones include: Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece); Loma Linda (California, USA).

The four main pillars identified for longevity within these cultures are nutrition, movement, community and mindset.

Nutrition

People in the Blue Zones tend to eat foods that are seasonal, local, organic, whole, and homegrown where possible. The majority of their calories come from plant foods. They tend to avoid overindulgence. In Okinawa there are strategies to prevent over-eating and they only eat until they are 80 percent full. There is also little to no processed food in their diets. 

Movement

Most of their “exercise” comes from consistent, daily, incidental movement – not formal like the majority of the western world where we squeeze a 5.30am gym session before commencing a hectic day of ALL THE THINGS. There is a grace in ageing; and a practice of gratitude. Living is done slowly and mindfully. These people don’t take themselves too seriously, are not prone to panic, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Ageing brings with it pride and wisdom that is respected among their communities.

Community/Mindset

The Japanese word “ikigai” is your reason for waking up in the morning. People in the Blue Zones have a strong sense of purpose which holds a prominent place in their daily life and tends to revolve around family and community. They often belong to a faith-based community, have strong belief systems, strong social ties, and rituals related to their faith/beliefs. 

How to support the ageing process…

  1. Eat a whole food plant-based or plant-predominant diet – antioxidants are your friend! Plants are a rich source of antioxidants (molecules that neutralise free radicals that cause oxidative damage). Aim for 40 or more different plant foods in your diet each week. 
  2. Reduce intake of animal foods – especially red meat and processed meats.
  3. Decrease processed/refined food intake, especially sugar, oils, and sodium.
  4. Look after your gut health and microbiome – include probiotics or fermented foods in your diet.
  5. Drink herbals teas – green tea is especially good!
  6. Quit smoking cigarettes and avoid drug use.
  7. Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption.
  8. Look at adding medicinal mushrooms such as Chaga to your diet. Medicinal mushrooms have long been touted for their longevity-enhancing properties. Chaga contains an enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD) which assists the liver, repairs cells, reduces cellular damage, reduces internal inflammation and pain, and regenerates skin. Foods such as seaweed and barley grass (the main ingredient in my ‘green drink’) contain the same enzyme but in smaller amounts.
  9. Protandim by Lifevantage NRF2 this anti-ageing herbal support works on the NRF2 pathway in the body to rapidly increase glutathione levels, and contains more antioxidants than 11,000 blueberries!
  10. Reduce exposure to synthetic substances and fragrances that are often found in conventional cosmetics, skincare and household cleaning products.
  11. Be active with your activities of daily living – take the stairs, bike or walk, grow a garden, practice yoga or pilates.
  12. Find ways to live life more slowly, mindfully and joyfully.
  13. Implement simple stress reduction strategies such as regular deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and saying “NO” to things that aren’t serving you well.
  14. Spend more time doing social activities; and being with friends and family.

Thank you for taking the time to read this piece,

Hannah x

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