Aging in Your Body
We all know the benefits of putting good things in our bodies. Fruits, vegetables, meats, vitamins, minerals, supplements, alcohol… They all do our body good. But there is also a bad side. We constantly put toxins in our body and think nothing of it. Do you smoke? Do you drink an excessive amount of alcohol daily? Do you over-eat? What about drugs? Did you know you can even overdose on vitamins? We need to learn what to put and not put in our bodies, and how to know when to stop.
Let’s start with the obvious and much talked about topic: food. We all know about the food pyramid. Go to Google and find an image of the diagram that you can print out. We all need to be aware of how much food we put in our bodies. Obesity is a major problem in America and we need to not necessarily be counting the calories, but counting what we put in there.
Now let’s talk about vitamins and minerals: Vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs. In other words, they help people’s bodies work properly. Although you get vitamins and minerals from the foods you eat every day, some foods have more vitamins and minerals than others.
Vitamins fall into two categories: fat soluble and water soluble. The fat-soluble vitamins — A, D, E, and K — dissolve in fat and can be stored in your body. The water-soluble vitamins — C and the B-complex vitamins (such as vitamins B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin, and folate) — need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them. Because of this, your body can't store these vitamins. Any vitamin B or C that your body doesn’t use as it passes through your system is lost. We need a fresh supply of these vitamins every day.
Whereas vitamins are organic substances (made by plants or animals), minerals are inorganic elements that come from the soil and water and are absorbed by plants or eaten by animals. Our bodies need larger amounts of some minerals, such as calcium, to grow and stay healthy. Other minerals like chromium, copper, iodine, iron, selenium, and zinc are called trace minerals because we only need very small amounts of them each day.
But be conscious about how much you put in your body. They aren’t dangerous unless you get too much of them. It would be hard to “overdose” on vitamins or minerals that you get from the foods you eat. But if you take supplements, you can easily take too much. This is even more of a risk if you take fat-soluble vitamins. Sometimes, taking too much of a vitamin or mineral can lead to problems. You should check with your doctor before running to GNC and buying all the mega-vitamins you can.
Now, we all know the negative effects of alcohol. But do you know that there’s a positive side too? In moderation, alcohol consumption has significant health benefits. These include a lower risk of heart attack, lower risk of diabetes, lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, reduced risk of stroke, and an increase in overall longevity. Additionally, because alcohol increases ‘good’ cholesterol and decreases the ‘bad’ cholesterol, there are indications that frequent doses in moderation reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. These benefits are all counteracted by excessive consumption.
And what is associated with drinking? Smoking. Everyone sees what smoking does to your body. And those who smoke can feel it… coughing, hand tremors, loss of appetite, weight loss, along with reduced senses of smell and taste. But there aren’t only short-term effects. A few of the long-term effects are: Increase in heart disease, decrease in blood flow, increase in the chances of developing lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, bad breath, stained teeth and fingers, premature wrinkles, and a decrease in fertility. If you or one of your clients are smokers, take the time to research more about the harmful effects of smoking.
Aging on Your Body
Let’s start with the bad: The Sun, heat, pollutions, toxins… all of these things can get on your body, which means in your skin. It is your job to keep the skin looking youthful. Your body depends on your knowledge… and so do your clients… Just thinking about this summer’s heat makes me want to stay inside.
Ultraviolet light from the Sun has antiseptic properties and can be used to sanitize tools and water. It also has medical effects such as the production of vitamin D, but can also cause sunburn, eye damage, some forms of cancer. Other medical applications include using UV radiation in the treatment of skin conditions such as psoriasis and vitiligo. Ultraviolet light is strongly attenuated by the Earth's ozone layer, so that the amount of UV varies greatly with latitude and has been responsible for many biological adaptations, including variations in human skin color in different regions of the globe.
While some things, like UV light, have pros and cons, most on this list do not. Pollution and toxins are harmful and damaging. According to Wikipedia, pollution can be in the form of chemical substances or energy. Pollutants can be naturally occurring substances or energies, but are considered contaminants when in excess of natural levels. A few forms of pollution are: air pollution (chlorofluorocarbons, crbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, etc.), water pollution (via runoff, eutrophication, leaching to groundwater, liquid spills, littering, wastewater discharges, etc.), soil contamination (spills or leaks of hydrocarbons, pesticides, heavy metals, chlorinated hydrocarbons, herbicides, etc.), noise pollution (industrial noise, aircraft noise, roadway noise, high-intensity sonar, etc.), light pollution (astronomical interference, over-illumination, light trespass, etc.), and thermal pollution (temperature change in natural water bodies caused by human influence). Air pollution can affect our health in many ways, both long-term and short-term. Different groups of individuals are affected by air pollution in different ways. Some individuals are much more sensitive to pollutants than are others. Young children and elderly people often suffer more from the effects of air pollution. People with health problems such as asthma, heart, and lung disease may also suffer more when the air is polluted. Examples of short-term effects include irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, and upper respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Other symptoms can include headaches, nausea, and allergic reactions. Short-term air pollution can aggravate the medical conditions of individuals with asthma and emphysema. Long-term health effects can include chronic respiratory disease, lung cancer, heart disease, and even damage to the brain, nerves, liver, or kidneys. Continual exposure to air pollution affects the lungs of growing children and may aggravate or complicate medical conditions in the elderly.
Toxins are even worse. And it seems like there is an endless list of them that are in this world. Did you know Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. (guess what the first is…)? Radon is described as a colorless, naturally occurring, radioactive noble gas that is formed from the decay of radium. It is one of the heaviest substances that are gases under normal conditions and is considered to be a health hazard. It can seep into homes through cracks in the basement, the surrounding foundation, and in well water… They say PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) plastic, commonly known as “vinyl”, is the worst plastic for the environment. There have been a series of articles released of reports as evidence that the production, use, and disposal of PVC is a leading source of dioxin fallout in the environment.
With all these contaminating properties around us, it’s hard to keep our skin protected. We should all start by protecting our skin, whether it is with sunscreen, moisturizers, serums, or makeup. Most sunscreens reflect the UV light and when used correctly, keep us from having burns. Moisturizers and serums keep our epidermis soft and more pliable, increasing hydration in our skin. Makeup companies are now infusing other ingredients to help protect our skin while keeping women (and men) looking beautiful. Companies across the world are discovering new products and ways to keep our skin healthy and young.
Our outlook on life plays a major part in aging. Worry, stress, doubt, anger, negative influences… These things all eat away and tear us down. Worry, by definition, means to give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.
Proper sleep, good influences, positive thoughts, feeding your spirit… These things are what you call healthy aging. They do not add to your already stressful life. In fact, they make things easier, calmer, and more at ease. We run around trying to do everything at once, and forget the basic needs of our bodies. When was the last time you sat down to relax and breathe?
Let’s start with proper sleep. You need it whether you’re nine or 90. Some say we need eight hours. Others say we only need six… nine… The point isn’t to have a certain amount of rest; the point is to have your body well-rested. The body releases a lot of essential hormones for muscle recovery and muscle growth while we sleep. Without proper sleep, we cannot function for very long, not physically nor mentally. If we are sleep deprived, our body is depleted of important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. Bodily growth and repair only occur during rest or sleep, never during exercise. One of the most important hormones, the growth hormone, is being released while we are sleeping. It's of great importance to us to have a sufficient level of growth hormone in our body because of all the benefits it provides us with. Growth hormone can help you burn fat and convert it into energy and muscle.
By now, most of us have probably heard of The Secret and the Law of Attraction. Basically, your thoughts and your actions co-create your life. What you decide to focus on, expands. Your thoughts and surrounding influences either weigh you down or keep you confident. I often hear people talk about “feeding their spirit.” Have you? To me, it means to take time out of my day, sit down, breathe, relax, and have positive thoughts about everything. Whether I can only spend 10 minutes or an hour, feeding my spirit is important. It keeps our mind on constructive thoughts and helps with having a productive attitude.
Stress can be good and bad… Good stress is the kind that keeps you on your toes. It’s that feeling when stepping up to the plate to hit the home run that could win the game or getting ready for a big play. But long-term stressful situations (like a divorce or what seems like too many bills) can produce a lasting, low-level stress that's hard on people. The nervous system senses continued pressure and may remain slightly activated and continue to pump out extra stress hormones over an extended period. This can wear out the body's reserves, leave a person feeling depleted or overwhelmed, weaken the body's immune system, and cause other problems. This can cause anxiety, panic attacks, irritability and moodiness, and interfere with your sleeping patterns.
Self-doubt and self-talk, negative thoughts, actions, influences, depression, and worry play an important role in the aging of our bodies too. It tears people down just as easy as an illness. They leave the body open to various diseases and make you less able to deal with them. Instead of letting the body heal itself, these people make everything worse by letting depression take over and turning the will to live against itself. Studies have shown that people who are depressed after a heart attack are more likely to die in the six months following the event. Depressed people need more medication and more health care. They develop the more severe forms of diseases and are more at risk.
Loneliness is another big problem. People who have no friends, no sympathetic ears to hear their problems, and no shoulders to cry on are forced to cope with stress and hardships all alone. Support from friends and relatives make things seem easier than they actually are and helps one go through tough times. Whether we’re talking about boring house hold chores or annoying co-workers, we all need someone willing to listen while we unload all the grief and depression. And it’s good to listen to someone else’s problems, too. It moves you to compassion and proves that your problems may not be that big after all.
The best thing is to implement some moderation and a change of lifestyle. Drink less coffee and alcohol. Smoke less or kick the habit altogether. Take 30-minute walks in the park instead of slumping on the sofa and watching TV. Buy some relaxing music and make a habit of your daily relaxation. Read a book once in a while or go to an art gallery if that’s the thing that can get your mind off work and worries. Remember that there are beautiful things in life and that you’re not a robot moving from one task to another.
Aging with Activity
There are many different kinds of activity. And each one helps your body with healthy aging. People who do not take care of their bodies are shown to die sooner than those who are maintaining a healthy schedule of activities. No, I don’t mean you have to lift weights to be healthy. You need to stretch your muscles. Balance your body. Deep breathing and posture are very important. Whether it’s aerobic or anaerobic, aging is slower when you exercise. But we need to remember, there is also a bad kind of exercise.
Here’s an example of “bad exercise”: Joe goes to the gym and starts with the seated cable row (that’s the one where the person sits on a bench and pulls a handle attached to a low pulley toward their midsection). Joe starts his routine, but doesn’t realize that doing so makes him bob back and forth, causing him to use his unprotected lower back as the work horse. What’s the problem? He is using momentum to carry himself through the exercise instead of a properly aligned spine and strong core muscles. When people lift too much weight, they can injure muscles and create an incorrect alignment of the spine.
You can also do too much, too fast. After the winter holidays, when we’ve eaten all the turkey and stuffing we think we can handle for the year, we decide we need to exercise for our New Year’s solution… am I right? So when we go to the gym and try to exercise five times a week, we’re overdoing it. We don’t realize that we have to give our body time to adjust. One of the most common injuries is called stress fractures, which are extremely painful hairline breaks. Bones need to be strengthened over time, so going out to run every day can injure you. We need to crawl before we start walking… or in this case, maybe we should be walking every day before we start running.
Wikipedia states that aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of death due to cardiovascular problems. Such activities like walking, running, swimming, and cycling require a great deal of oxygen to generate the energy needed for prolonged exercise. In addition, high-impact aerobic activities (such as jogging or jumping rope) can stimulate bone growth, as well as reducing the risk of osteoporosis for both men and women. Weight training (anaerobic exercises) improves your posture and strengthens your bones reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis. It can elevate your mood and energize you.
Posture is more important than some of you may think. As children, we were told to have good posture. Yet we were seldom taught effective ways to accomplish this. The consequences can be seen all around us: stiff necks, shoulders hunched forward or pulled tightly back, restricted breathing, and tightness in the thighs, legs, and ankles. Backaches, headaches, and other painful symptoms are often the unfortunate result.
Proper breathing is one of the most important things you can do for maintaining your health. Deep breathing serves as the pump for the lymphatic system, just as the heart serves the circulatory system. Your cells must have oxygen to survive moment to moment. To thrive, they rely on a complex exchange between the circulatory system and the lymphatic system. Blood flow carries nutrients and ample amounts of oxygen into the capillaries, while a healthy lymphatic system carries away destructive toxins. Proper breathing is the moderator of this exchange. Deep breathing is also the fastest way to trigger your parasympathetic nervous system, through what some practitioners call the relaxation response.
Stretching is important for people of all ages. As we age, our muscles tighten and our range of motion becomes minimized. Proper breathing is key during stretches. It relaxes the muscles and loosens them. Stretches reduce muscle tension and increases the circulation of blood to various parts of the body. It decreases the risk of injury, and reduces stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
No matter what you do with your body, you need to discipline yourself to stay with it. Stretching once a month when you think of it won’t get you limber. Sitting up straight only when certain people are around doesn’t help. Discipline your body to keep your back straight. Breathe deeply and slowly. All of these little things help your body stay strong.
Healthy aging is what we can all do in order to slow down the aging of our appearance. Like I’ve said, there are no anti-aging treatments out there. But we can slow the process down. And all we need is to watch our own bodies and what we do with them.