10 TIPS for Healthy Aging in Women
1. Healthy Aging starts NOW! – Everything we do, how we live our lives and the choices we make every day influence how healthy, or ill, we will be as we age. Of course, we have some genetic predispositions, yet our lifestyle trumps our genetics. The field of Epigenetics is one of the hottest areas of research these days where it has been proven that our food habits/choices and stresses influence whether certain genes are expressed or not. The key is that there is an interaction between lifestyle (e.g., the external environment and our daily choices) and our genes. Lifestyle can either catalyze certain gene expressions, or it can repress them. In both cases, the results may be either good or bad from our health’s standpoint, each individual having a different spectrum of catalysts.
2. LOVE and CONNECTION – These are essential for healthy living and feeling youthful as well as sensual and sexy. This may even be more important for men than women as research shows that men live longer when coupled with a life partner, whereas it’s not the same for women, who seem to embrace their independence in later years, especially when they have financial security and have raised a family or been stressed or stifled by a husband. Still, loneliness and social isolation are factors that increase the risk for more medical problems as we age—so, it’s essential to have a good support system of family and friends. Plus a caring partner can often make life easier with companionship, friendship, and intimacy. Friends are often even more important to women, with like-minded sisters to share with about life and be consoled or cared for in hard times. For each of us, keeping love in our hearts and practicing kindness makes our world a better place.
3. NUTRITION – good food is vitally important as it provides the essential building blocks for the body as well as nourishment for the brain, so the quality and variety of our food are crucial. Healthy cell function is the basis of body/life vitality, and good, nutrient-rich foods provide the electricity for life. In general, we need lots of veggies (fiber, B vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients) and I suggest that more than 50% of our food be vegetables. Adequate protein is essential for strength, muscle mass, and bone health as well as supporting hormone production. I like some fish, fresh local eggs, legume sprouts, hummus, tofu and tempeh, and some nuts, seeds, and avocado that also contain healthy oils and a bit of protein, along with a few fruits and some grains suited to your tolerance for carbohydrates and your weight level. These are the foods we need. Be aware of your ‘treats’ such as most processed foods and sugar-laded items so readily available. These treats should be enjoyed occasionally (at the most) and ideally represent less than 20% of our calorie count, and less than 10% would be even better.
At the core of our relationship with food, our cells need a selection of many nutrients for optimal functioning—vitamins, minerals, amino acids from proteins, fatty acids from oil-containing foods, and the many bio-active phytonutrients from plants. The old concept is, “we are what we eat,” but the truth is “we are what we assimilate.” Likewise, our cells function best when they assimilate the nutrients we ingest and are not diminished by stress and toxins. Thus, it’s also important to avoid as many toxins as possible, primarily chemicals and metals that come into our bodies from air, food, and water, and also from what we put on our skin and hair. Detoxification can be valuable for most everyone with breaks from any S-N-A-C-C Habits (my acronym for Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Chemicals) as well as occasional cleansing juice fasts (I do them yearly). Based upon my decades of experimentation and experience with detoxification and cleansing juice fasts with thousands of people, I feel and believe their periodic practice keeps us feeling youthful with lower inflammation, and the detox process helps to reduce degenerative diseases so common in aging women. Cleansing should not be done by anyone who is underweight, very fatigued, or suffering from a chronic illness. Consult with your physician before doing any extreme diets.
4. A Place called Home – This relates to our ‘one and only body’ and how we treat it, forming a foundation for many good health habits and a sanctuary for relaxation and recharging. The place you sleep and dream is also home, and good sleep is essential to good health, from youth and throughout life. Here’s where you Care for your Body with Love (and love the body you have, even if you know you can improve it) and ideally embrace the attitude that, “This is the only body I have and I am going to care for it as best I can.” As we acknowledge this in our deeper self, we are going to eat well, lower our stress, sleep great, and keep an active fitness program (see below), especially keeping our body as flexible as we can. That’s an “attitude” and a positive one. Hygiene is important too, and it helps to keep a clean body and home, well organized, and this may allow us to be creative and comfortable. Also, look at your Home with a view toward creating a safe environment that will optimize your wellbeing.
5. Creative Spark – Be happy with who you are inside yourself, and that takes the right attitude as well. It helps to have something to do in and for the world to keep you engaged in life with some level of passion. This is important as we age unless you are someone who wishes to retire (and can afford it) and enjoy your favorite hobbies and pastimes, travel, and embrace the world, or just relax at home and enjoy family, grandkids, and friends, or community and volunteer places. As we age, it’s a positive experience to find areas of creativity and exploration that support us spiritually and ideally help others and the world in general. This helps us stay aligned with our spiritual calling, so important for what I term our “destiny years” post age 60.
6. Fitness is Fantastic – Staying fit or working hard to improve any poor fitness is a good starting plan for us all. I find for me that an hour a day or more helps me feel good and maintain my fitness and I encourage a regular, yet varied, program that fits in with your lifestyle and work schedule. Exercise is also helpful in supporting an aging woman’s bones. Remember, “The best exercise is the one that you will actually do!” What do you like? Hikes in nature, gym workouts for aerobic activity, weight training are all good endeavors, and always remember to stretch, which might include yoga or tai chi .A yoga proverb suggests, “We are as young as our spine is flexible.”Inner Exercise is also important. Meditation and ‘tuning in’ helps us stay aligned with our true selves, relaxes our body/mind, and helps us listen to our mission message, inner guidance, and truth.
7. Supplements and Hormones – This is an important area to consider for healthy aging. It’s wise to have an assessment and look at risk factors (see 9 below) as well as measuring hormone levels, and that includes Testosterone values and DHEA, a hormone precursor. In women, after menopause, Estrogen (specifically Estradiol) and Progesterone are low unless being replaced. Women, who are sexually active or wanting to keep their libido and muscle tone maintained or improved can benefit from adding a little bio-identical testosterone to their regimen of estrogen and progesterone support. For each female, it’s important to look at your attitude and approach to any hormone replacement with aging. There are many possible benefits yet some risks as well. Talk to your practitioner.Important supplements for healthy aging include Vitamin D and Calcium for bone health (D may also offer protection for the heart and mind), Vitamin C and other useful antioxidant nutrients (E, B vitamins, Zinc, and Selenium). Omega 3 oils are helpful to keep inflammation down, and CoQ10 can be beneficial and is especially important for anyone taking statin drugs for their cholesterol levels or for any irregular heart rhythm. Protecting the heart is vitally important for women as it is for men. I encourage most aging people to use ionic trace minerals in a drink once or twice daily; these help our body waters stay in the cells and avoid dehydration as a factor of aging.
8. Financial Health – Finances often affect physical health (and emotional and mental health as well); at least it can. Money gives us the options to do what we need for ourselves and not make it seem like an expensive luxury. There’s been a pattern over the decades (which has been improving recently) that women did not handle finances as much their spouses when married, so they are often a bit at sea if or when becoming single from divorce or death. Learning finances then can be both challenging and rewarding. Hopefully the career years, mainly ages 30 to 60, have brought in some support for our later life, and if not, it can be a harder path. This whole area is an individual journey and it helps to plan ahead and include your family in this area, especially a spouse and your children as relevant. Finances are an area of common stress, and thus it’s wise to do proper planning and investing in our futures as early as possible.
9. Risk Factors – These are important to be aware of including knowing your levels of Vitamin D, C-Reactive Protein (CRP is an inflammatory marker), Homocysteine (related to cardiovascular health), and Hemoglobin A1C (evaluating blood sugar over time). If these are elevated (or vitamin D is low), talk with your health practitioner about how to correct these risk factors. I believe that the body’s acid/alkaline state is helpful for health as an overly acid body is prone to inflammation and degenerative disease while an alkaline system may be more flexible and healthy. This can be measured with a morning urine pH (6.5-7.5 is ideal); this has value in looking at body state, and this area is something a naturally-oriented practitioner can address with you.
The bowel transit time (how long it takes the food we eat to go through our system and be eliminated) is helpful to make sure our intestinal function is appropriate. Lipid (cholesterol levels) and bone density are also useful in determining skeletal health and risk for cardiovascular disease. Skin cancer risk is another concern as we age, so keep an eye on your skin and see a dermatologist as needed.
10. Spirit Connection – Heart Affection, Stress Deflection, and Disease Prevention —live each day in the moment, be present, mindful, and giving; also, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need from loved ones, friends and co-workers. They will often appreciate this and the energy of support going both ways. Learn to listen and communicate better, and not be reactive, yet responsive; this all saves on the stress. One of my favorite parts of my new book, Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine, is about stress and relates to knowing how to “fair fight” or as the section title suggests “The Art and Technique of Peacefully “Not” Getting Along!” This is important as it can help us maintain love and peace rather than frustration and war.
Our death is our final connection to Spirit. There is much preparation required for this final passage. This includes such items as wills, estate planning, and our Five Wishes, which outline how we want any final or serious illnesses or hospitalization handled—whether to be resuscitated or not, and how much life-saving intervention we consider appropriate for us. Discussion of end of life care and hospice is also important.
Finally and very importantly, it matters what you think, what you say, what you eat, and what you do. Be True to YOU!
© Elson Haas MD 2018