Better Aging: 5 Tips to Make it Happen

So, do you want to look your age?  This topic can get pretty dicey as we push through the decades.  I have one friend that says she’s earned her wrinkles and intentionally sports her gray hairs. No more hair coloring for her!  I think it’s certainly a personal decision. I also think that if we implement diet and lifestyle strategies that make us look a bit younger than our real age, we might reap some positive health benefits.  After all, our health has to be our top priority as we get older. Better health usually means a better quality of life. We want to be able to enjoy our second 50 years, right?

Here is my top five list:

Wear your sunscreen.  This is a huge point and it’s never too late to start.  Anti-aging dermatology procedures are pricey. They are almost all self-pay.  If you can protect your skin early in life, it will help your appearance in your second 50 years.  When I was in graduate school, I had a strange rash that brought me to the dermatologist.  She told me at that point to never go in the sun again.  I followed her advice (for the most part), and now that I have a Medicare card, I am so glad I did.  Wrinkle removal is expensive and time consuming, prevention is much easier. The health benefit: lessened skin cancer risk.

Exercise when you can. We all know we should be moving our bodies more, right? For some, it is easier said than done.  Lots of us have knees that hurt, but even for osteoarthritis, the current recommendations are to work through it and just keep moving.  Options for lessening joint stress while working out include using a stationary bike and an elliptical.  If you are able to move, you really should be sure to do so.  After counseling thousands upon thousands of clients over my career, it never ceases to amaze me how much younger the exercising crowd looks in middle and later life.  The health benefit:  weight management.  And, weight management can help diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and hypertension.  And, this is only a partial list!

Manage Your Weight.  Again, those people that are at an appropriate body weight always seem to look younger.  For women in particular, weight gain seems to happen easily during menopause when our estrogen levels decline.  A common “sign” of middle age in both women and men is the increased fat in the abdominal area-known as visceral fat.  This pouch does not need to happen with a healthy eating plan matched to energy requirements and limited in alcohol.  The health benefit: losing this visceral fat will lessen inflammation and decrease your risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Sleep.  It can be difficult to get enough sleep. It seems like each decade brings its own sleep issues.  I know of so many seniors that will fall asleep but cannot stay asleep.  Getting up at 3:00 AM is not ideal, and many of us already did that when we raised our kids.  Tips are to not overstimulate your brain before bed.  Get off the iPad or phone if it is too stimulating before nodding off. Try to set a routine and stick to it most of the time.  Discuss sleep issues with your physician.  Lastly, a little melatonin (3-5 mg) may be helpful.  We make less as we age, so this supplement makes sense.  The health benefit: you just feel so much better, it’s like magic!

Eating Well. Don’t give up on a healthy eating plan.  Consult with a nutritional professional if you are totally confused about what you should be eating to maintain or improve your health.  There is just so much information out there that is often incorrect or not correct for you as an individual. Most nutrition health care providers would suggest a diet high in fruits, vegetables, with the appropriate amounts of whole grains and lean protein.  Some supplements might be in order as well, depending up your individual circumstances.  For thoughts on those supplements:  5 Dietary Supplements for Baby Boomers!

 
For those of you in your second 50 years, what else can you add?

Tapping Into Tap Water: Fluoride for All?

Water is an essential nutrient.

For most of my life I never really thought much about fluoride or my drinking water. My teeth are in pretty good shape, and the only time I thought about fluoride to any extent was when I taught a college level introductory nutrition class. The text books noted the “benefits” of fluoride in preventing tooth decay, and then always showed the classic brown spots on tooth enamel due to overexposure of fluoride.  We discussed that fluoride was delivered to municipal tap water in the Chicago area (our location) and that bottled water was not typically fluoridated. While it may have natural fluoride, fluoride is not typically added to bottled water.

Fluoride is not considered to be an essential nutrient from a dietary standpoint.  For the last 70 or so years, it’s role in public health has been one of preventing tooth decay.  Once teeth have erupted through the gum, fluoride added to the tooth surface plays a role in preventing tooth decay through remineralization of the weaker spots on the tooth enamel as well as controlling the amount of acid that bacteria of plaque produce.  Indeed, I remember even as a young adult having fluoride treatments in the dental office because I had great dental insurance and it was covered. And, of course, there is lifelong use of fluoridated toothpaste.

But, should it be delivered to everyone in tap water when all are not at the same risk for tooth decay?

For the municipalities that deliver fluoridated water, there is no choice in the matter. If you want to avoid ingesting fluoride in the Chicago area, you must find a means to remove it from your tap water or stick with purchasing spring water. Although safety limits are set in terms of public health policies on safe fluoride levels, it is a one-size fits all situation.

According to a recent article in the Indian Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine (2018), these points should be considered regarding fluoridation of water and dental health:

  • Current evidence clearly suggests that the protective mechanism of action of fluoride is mainly topical.  In other words, we do not need to be ingesting fluoride to reap the dental benefits.
  • 1% of the population appears to be highly sensitive to fluoride (yes, I am in that 1%).
  • Certain subsets may be particularly vulnerable to ingesting fluoride: the elderly, diabetics, the malnourished.
  • Once the fluoride is put into the water, what about those individuals that need to inherently consume larger quantities of water? Those individuals might include manual laborers, diabetics, and athletes.
  • Interestingly, on the international front, most European countries have rejected water fluoridation. Only Ireland, Spain, and the United Kingdom practice water fluoridation.

While the debate on the pros and cons of fluoridated water will most likely rage on, there are a few other dietary factors that come to mind for preventing tooth decay in the young and old:

  • Choosing a healthy diet low in sugar will help prevent tooth decay. Emphasizing fruits and vegetables will stimulate saliva production to help rinse the sugar away.
  • Avoiding cariogenic foods like sugar, sticky foods (like raisins), and soda will help prevent tooth decay.  
  • If indulging in sugary foods, try not to do so all day long. Best to splurge and then brush, instead of exposing your teeth all day long.
  •  Apply that fluoride through toothpaste, mouth rinse, and in the dental chair.

My last comment will be simply that in the concept of “clean eating”, I see no reason to be putting fluoride into my digestive tract.

Where do you stand on the issue of ingesting fluoride through tap water?

Probiotic Primer: 5 Purchasing Tips

When my father lived in an assisted living facility, I wanted him to be receiving a probiotic which needed to be ordered by the facility physician. I remember the doctor sitting at his desk writing the order and at the same time quipping that “all probiotics are the same!” The comment took my breath away because this was only a few years ago, and most health care providers should know that probiotics are not all the same!  There is plenty of research available on how probiotics are both similar and different-and there is plenty to consider when purchasing a probiotic.

Two popular probiotics.

Our gastrointestinal tract contains hundreds of different species of bacteria and these bacteria are referred to as intestinal flora. A healthy functioning gastrointestinal tract has a healthy balance of bacteria.  Occasionally, that balance of bacteria becomes unbalanced due to antibiotic use, illness, stress, or even a poor-quality diet.

Research on the health benefits of probiotics is vast.  Researchers are evaluating how probiotics may affect mental health, lipids, weight, and various GI conditions.  Even our pets are taking probiotics!

 Here are 5 tips to keep in mind when making a probiotic supplement purchase:

  • Packaging. Probiotics need to be alive to be effective in your body. If they are dead on arrival in the bottle or purchase package, they will be useless to your gut. Take a good look at the packaging. Many probiotic strains need to be refrigerated to stay alive, or they may be sold in blister packaging to assure viability. If the product needs refrigeration, be sure online shippers are shipping the product with dry ice during warm weather to protect the product. With blister packaging, there is no need to refrigerate. Keep in mind that the companies selling the probiotics are doing their own regulation, so you might want to use a name brand product to help assure the organisms are alive upon purchase.
  • Dosages. Potency is usually noted on the label as CFU which stands for “colony forming units”. The recommended intake for probiotic supplements varies by the strain and intended therapy. For general use, it would be recommended that the CFU be at least 1 to 10 billion. Many reputable brands have much higher dosages which are still deemed safe.
  • Strains. Contrary to the thoughts of my father’s former physician, bacterial strains do matter.  For instance, for antibiotic-related diarrhea, it may be advisable to start taking a common drugstore brand such as Culturelle which contains Lactobacillus GG. Other research suggests that it may be even more effective to take a probiotic with multiple species of organisms. In adult women with IBS, Bifidobacterium infantis has been shown to reduce pain, bloating, and bowel movement difficulty. For cholesterol reduction, Lactobacillus reuteri may be therapeutic for LDL-Cholesterol reduction.
  • Dosing.  If you are taking probiotics for overall wellness, keep in mind that the organisms only survive for a few days to weeks, so it is necessary to keep taking them. Speaking of surviving, some probiotics have an enteric-coating to ensure stomach acid survival and intestinal delivery.
  • Food.  Many foods also contain probiotics. Think yogurt, kefir milk, and kombucha. And, nutrient dense foods are usually great sources of prebiotics-the food probiotics use. Those microorganisms need their own fuel and fiber rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are the fuel of choice for probiotics.

Has probiotic use helped your health? Share your thoughts!