Age is just a number
You may not be able to turn back time, but you can alter the effects of time on your body. It really is possible to slow physical and mental ageing. Research has shown that people the same chronological age may have a different ‘biological age.’
In one study published in the journal PNAS, nearly 1000 participants of the same age were examined for cognitive abilities, cardiovascular health and other markers of fitness at three different ages: 26, 32 and 38. The researchers plotted the slope of each individual’s biomarkers and discovered that they didn’t all decline at the same rate. Some, in fact, had no slope at all, meaning they weren’t ageing. At 38 years old, these volunteers had biological ages that ranged anywhere from younger than 30 to nearly 60 years old.
What this means for you is that factors other than genetics can influence the rate you’ll age, the study authors said in a Duke University press release. Many of these are within your control, so read on to find out how to slow your pace of ageing.
Experts agree the best diet for preventing age-related damage and disease starts with whole, natural foods. “A healthy diet includes fewer processed foods without added sugars, fats and salt,” says Dr Benjamin Epstein. Avoiding unhealthy sugar and fats can help prevent inflammation, diabetes and heart disease.
Epstein recommends “whole grains, such as whole wheat and brown rice; lean meats and fish, poultry and eggs; beans, peas and legumes; and five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.” Studies reveal that eating whole foods boosts your body’s supply of nutrients that keep cells healthy, reduce inflammation, and reduce the risk of major chronic diseases associated with age.
Other research has found that proper nutrients also help keep the brain functioning better longer. “Like so many aspects of our body, what we eat also affects the mind,” says Dr Jyotir Jani. “Eating food that is natural, home-cooked with love, and limiting red meat help keep the brain sharper.”
Getting enough protein
Eating healthily shouldn’t mean missing out on protein. Studies show protein is especially important in maintaining muscle mass as we age. “People over the age of 40 may lose up to eight per cent of their muscle mass per decade, and the rate of decline may double after the age of 70,” says dietitian, Abby Sauer.
She recommends adults snack on protein sources like nuts, Greek yoghurt, or string cheese. Also, “add protein-toppers to meals, such as hummus to a turkey sandwich, diced chicken to pasta, or beans to salad, and aim to eat 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal,” she says.