How do environment and lifestyle choices influence aging process?

Listen to this article:

What Is Aging?

Advancing in years and aging are not the same thing. Advancing in years is what happens in regard to the calendar. Aging is what happens to our bodies as the years progress. While we have no control over the calendar it is within our power to have control over the aging process and how our environment influences the aging process.

In the book Evolutionary Biology of Aging published in 1991 aging is defined as a persistent decline in the age-specific fitness components of an organism due to internal physiological deterioration (Rose 1991). 

5 Stages of The Aging Process

There are five identified stages in the aging process:

  1. Independence:  While aging, the individual is capable of handling daily life including finances, transportation and everyday tasks such as meal preparation and managing medications.
  2. Interdependence:  Daily tasks are more difficult and assistance is needed for meal preparation, transportation, managing medications, etc.
  3. Dependency:  Daily tasks are not manageable and assistance is required. At this stage the individual will need some type of monitoring for their safety and wellbeing.
  4. Crisis management:  At this stage almost constant monitoring is necessary as well as having quick access to medical care. 
  5. End of life:  This can often take place in the home with proper care.

There are three types of aging:  biological, psychological and social. We do know that the aging process impacts people differently. The same individual can be at different stages of the aging process in the different types of aging. We see people 100 years and older who are still active and cognitive. We also see people in decline at a much earlier age. 

Can we impact the rate at which we age biologically, psychologically and socially? If so, what are the decisions and changes we need to make to prolong both vitality and length of life?

What Are The Major Causes of Aging?

Where we live, how we live, and what we eat all appear to be factors that impact how we age.

Aging is influenced by cumulative changes over time that makes us susceptible to disease and death. Within the body, the aging process occurs through cumulative damage to molecules, cells, organs, etc. Some believe that free radical toxicity is a primary factor in the aging process. There are many environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute indirectly to aging as well. Other research, however, indicates that due to synergism, no singular cause of aging can be determined as more significant than any other cause. 

What is Synergism?

Synergism is the interaction or cooperation of two or more agents which produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. Synergism of negative changes on the molecular level affects our aging process. These negative changes occur within the molecular structure affecting system function. Synergism is why it is difficult to attribute aging to any one cause or process within the body.

Aging on a Psychological Level

Our state of mind affects how we age. A study of older adults revealed that those who had a negative view of aging moved more slowly and exhibited poorer cognitive abilities. However, those who had a positive outlook moved more quickly and were more mentally sharp. It is also true that older adults who are frail have a more negative outlook and poor cognition.

Socialization Keeps The Mind Sharp

Socialization in the older population is shown to improve both physical and mental health. Seniors often congregate to walk, exercise, or take group trips which involve physical exercise. Being social can help seniors avoid feelings of isolation and depression. Interaction with others often improves cognitive ability.

What Should I Eat to Avoid Aging?

It is common knowledge that our diet impacts our health. We can therefore reason that diet impacts the aging process. What we eat goes back to impacting the aging process on the cellular level. To delay the aging process there are foods we should intentionally consume just as there are foods to avoid.

Implement a Longevity Diet

It has been known for some time that a Mediterranean diet promotes a long and vibrant life. The Mediterranean diet is rich in antioxidants. Oxidants contribute to molecular damage which is a factor in many diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, immune system decline, and brain dysfunction, all of which contribute to aging.

Eat Foods High in Antioxidants

Foods that are rich in antioxidants are fresh fruits and vegetables. Other foods that contribute to a healthy immune system and longevity are berries, nuts, fresh fish, olive oil, garlic, and avocados. Resveratrol is a polyphenol that acts as an antioxidant. Resveratrol can be found in red wine, berries, and peanuts. A daily glass of wine is known to be good for heart health.

Foods to Avoid

To delay the aging process there are foods you should limit or completely avoid. Among those are:

  • Sugar which is a known inflammatory
  • Corn products such as corn syrup, corn oil, corn cereal
  • Wheat products can raise your blood sugar level
  • Trans fats found in many processed foods can raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol and can contribute to cardiovascular disease

How Does Lifestyle Affect Aging?

Lifestyle is how we choose to live our lives. There are many environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute indirectly to aging as well. We may have no control over our genetics nor can we undo our past. However, we can make strategic anti-aging lifestyle choices which will determine how we live the remainder of our lives. It is within our power to eliminate the subsequent results of poor choices from this point forward.

Lifestyle choices are the things in our lives over which we have control such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding the use of tobacco and other drugs
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Establishing healthy sleep habits
  • Moderate alcohol consumption
  • Staying mentally sharp
  • Intentional socialization

The choices we make regarding all of the above can comprise an anti-aging lifestyle and diet.

If how we age is due in part to cumulative changes over time, making good lifestyle choices will have a positive impact on how we age. Making good dietary choices will keep the body healthy. Good lifestyle choices regarding physical activity will help defer aging in both the mind and body. Ongoing socialization will keep the mind active and can lead to physical activity. Choices regarding tobacco, drugs, and alcohol impact both the mind and body. Practices that exercise your mental faculties can improve your cognitive health.

How Can I Fight Aging Naturally?

You have the power to impact how you age.  How you age is not all in the control of your genetic makeup or your past. The following are some healthy aging tips to naturally affect healthy change.

1. Quit Smoking

The first and most important single thing you can do to improve your health and increase your longevity is to quit smoking if you are a smoker. Smoking is linked to so many health issues including lung problems, heart health, and several types of cancer. Your physician can give you information and help on how to quit smoking.

2. Get Enough Sleep

Another way to help accomplish healthy aging is to get adequate sleep. Sleep time is when the body repairs cells and the heart rests. As we age it can become more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Insomnia is not uncommon as we age often occurring in 44% of older adults a couple of nights each week. If you are experiencing sleep issues you can begin with eliminating caffeine in the afternoon and evening. You might also discuss your sleep patterns and difficulty with your physician.

3. Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Evaluate your alcohol consumption. While one glass of wine each day for women and maybe two for men can be beneficial for your heart, for healthy aging alcohol consumption should be limited. Excessive alcohol use is unhealthy for the liver.

4. Find a Specialist

It is recommended you find a physician who specializes in the health of the aging. While some might think this is to acquiesce to aging, consider that such a specialist is most informed on how to keep you healthy. Aging is the normal process and part of managing it is to be informed as to how to best take charge of aging.

5. Decrease Saturated Fat

Decrease your saturated fat intake, and increase the consumption of omega-3 fats. Reduce or eliminate red meat; substantially cut processed carbohydrates; increase complex carbs including whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. Frequently include fatty fish in your diet.

6. Add Supplements to Your Diet

Be sure to consult with your physician before adding supplements or hormones to your regimen. This is where having a geriatric specialist will be beneficial. It is not uncommon that vitamin supplements to be recommended for those who are aging.

7. Try a New Skill

Dare to try something new! Take on a new skill. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but always thought to be irresponsible or impossible. Find a place to volunteer skills you have acquired in your life.

Supplements Can Help

So much of aging takes place on the cellular level so healthy cells contribute to maintaining health as we age. As stated earlier, one of the causes of aging is cumulative damage to molecules, cells, and organs that eventually leads to disease and death.

In order to correct the damage, cell renewal is vital. Spermidine is a supplement that works at the cellular level to repair and rejuvenate cells. Spermidine promotes autophagy, the natural regulated mechanism of the cell that removes unnecessary or dysfunctional components. It is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells to regenerate newer, healthier cells.

Spermidine included with other anti-aging behavior can improve life as you age and possibly increase longevity.

  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.