Anti-Aging Is A Hot Topic, But What Does It Really Mean?
It seems every online magazine, website or television show barrages us with articles and segments on Anti-Aging. But when I think about the information they contain it seems every author and organization has a different definition and perspective on what "Anti-Aging" means and what you should be doing differently to slow the aging process.
So this post explores those different perspectives with the purpose of stimulating thoughts about what good aging means to you and how you might best build your own Anti-Aging plan of action.
Let’s start the discussion with how you define a long purposeful life, then talk about potential strategies to achieve your vision. We’ll assume that living the maximum number of years is a given in our discussion.
What is most important to you when you think about a long life? Here are some questions to trigger introspection on your vision and definition of a long, fulfilling life.
- Doing the greatest number of activities?
- Maximizing the interpersonal relationships (friends and loves)?
- Intensifying the robustness of how you feel about yourself (includes attractiveness)?
Perspective - The perspectives of the questions above are intermingled and impact each one another, but it is important to prioritize those perspectives because they require different strategies to achieve and maximize them. Decide which perspective is most important, then you can develop plans to maximize your vision of anti-aging. Create a picture(s) in your mind that captures how you envision your life as you get older.
Mindset - "You get what you expect" and "Everything in your life is first created in your mind" are two of my favorite sayings.
Strategies - After you identify your perspective on aging (and pick a blend of them as your own) it’s time to talk about strategies and the development of good habits in managing anti-aging efforts. If your definition of anti-aging is about doing lots of physically demanding activities you'll need different strategies than if your vision is developing your emotional IQ to enhance your interpersonal relationships. In this blog we're not going to develop detailed strategies, instead identifying that proper strategies matched to your goals are critical. Look for future blogs on strategy details.
Habits - Where you are today (physically, mentally and spiritually) is the summary of all the things you did up to today (plus your genes and environmental impacts). Most of the things done each day were done habitually or unconsciously. We usually don't consciously think about the things we do, almost everything we do all day is done on "autopilot". Therefore you must develop a new set of habits in order to reach your anti-aging goals, shifting out of autopilot long enough to create new habits. The things you prioritize and do each day impact how you age, so the development of new habits is the core of developing your anti-aging plan. If you want to learn more about how your daily actions are driven without your awareness I recommend reading “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Body” by Leonard Mlodinow. Weather your strategies are a new skin care regime, a new nutritional plan, more emotionally fulfilling relationships or improved fitness, reaching your new goals are based upon new daily habits.
Physical Fitness - Now, let’s discuss the foundation of any anti-aging plan. Physical fitness (yep, just like they talked about in elementary school). Nothing is sexier than being in shape. Being in shape helps with all types of anti-aging goals, whether you’re focused on what you do while you’re alive or your interpersonal relationships while you're on the planet, being physically fit helps you fulfill your vision of a good life. Regardless of your anti-aging perspective you must learn to manage your diet and exercise. Get off processed foods, frequently raise your heart rate to 80% of maximum, and lift weights (or other resistance training like yoga) to improve posture and build muscle mass. Exercise increases blood flow to the cells throughout your body, delivering more nutrients to them while simultaneously removing more toxins from your cells. Physical fitness improves your attitude, some studies show it is as good at treating depression as drugs. Your brain benefits from the increased nutrient flow and helps you keep your cognitive abilities at a high level for a more years. While we haven't found a solution for dementia (e.g., Alzheimer's) most experts agree that eating right, managing inflammation and exercising are foundations for maximizing brain function. Being physically fit sends a signal to the outside world that you have stamina and youthfulness.
Food and Nutrition - A healthy body is dependent upon your cells having the raw materials they need to grow and function properly. Many of the things we purchase and consume as food do not provide your cells with the materials they need. The western diet of processed foods has created an epidemic of obesity and cardiac disease. A well structured anti-aging plan includes transitioning to foods in their natural state and off of processed foods. Think about this, modern foods are engineered for long shelf life (to maximize profits and make inventory management efficient) by decreasing spoilage. We reduce spoilage by changing the materials in the foods so bacteria and other microbes won't eat them (also with packaging and chemical treatments). But our digestive system uses bacteria and microbes to break down food into the raw material your cells need to function properly. So, if something you're about to put into your mouth can sit on a store shelf for two years without bacteria eating it, how can it be full of things your body can use for good fuel? Focus your shopping to the outer edges of the store that contain fresh foods and meats. Minimize fast foods and processed foods.
Supplementation - It seems there is a broad range of opinions about adding supplements to your life management strategies. Emotions run high on this topic, many people are positive that supplementation leads to a long healthy disease free life while others see the whole industry as con artists praying on our fears. Does fish oil preserve memory and improve skin appearance? Does baby aspirin prevent heart attacks? Does Co-Q10 increase energy? The list goes on and on. Even medical providers and scientists can't seem to agree. The scientific literature doesn't provide clear direction, so this is an area in which you've got to consult with people you respect and trust and make your own decisions.
Minimally Invasive Cosmetic Procedures - Botox, skin lasers (IPL, resurfacing), CoolSculpting. What are they, what do they do, are they right for you, do they fit into your strategies? The external attributes of our skin and bodies communicate to others our biologic age and healthiness. Crow's feet, wrinkles, age spots, and belly fat are signals to other people that we are older and aging. Technical advances continue to improve the cosmetic changes we can make to our bodies from the outside. There is a long list of services and products in this list, more information on them can be found at http://spa35.com.
Surgical Procedures - Face lift, brow lift, neck lift, tummy tuck. At some point in the aging process the connective tissues of your skin weaken and lengthen resulting in loose skin. This change in appearance is exacerbated by the natural loss of fat that occurs during the aging process, particularly fat in the mid-face. No amount of diet or exercise can reverse this process. Some people chose to have these signs of aging corrected surgically. When the time is right for you do your research. Talk to friends and family, ask your primary care physician, look for nurses who work with cosmetic doctors and get their opinions.
Software and Sensors - What gets measured gets done, and today's technology advances can help you manage the aging process. "Sitting is the new Smoking" according to some recent web postings and technology can help you stay on course to increase your daily steps and get more active. Cell phones are becoming a hub for software and sensors that can capture and report a broad range of health statistics from heart rate to solar exposure. FitBit and Jawbone are examples of two companies with products to help you track your fitness activities. Apple, Samsung and Microsoft all have software in this area as well. Software and sensors can help you establish a baseline of biologic and fitness habits, use them to track your anti-aging activities and the effectiveness of your strategies.
Anti-aging has a broad range of meanings to people. When you start your anti-aging plan begin by solidifying how you define a purposeful and happy life. Use visualization to create your future life in your mind. Research and select anti-aging strategies that will help you reach your vision. Focus on developing new habits. Get off auto-pilot and make decisions purposefully each day that support your vision. Physical fitness is a foundation of anti-aging that cannot be ignored, act on this fact and add daily fitness routines to each day. You are what you eat. Transition to eating as much non-processed food as possible and skip engineered foods. If you can't read the ingredients on the label look for something else to eat. Research supplements, talk to your medical provider and get the facts on your own. Consider minimally invasive procedures (e.g., IPL) to help, when the time is right research cosmetic options and decide if one is right for you. Measure and monitor your progress. Use information. Translate your vision into metrics that sensors can measure (weight, heart rate and steps are common measures), use them to measure your progress. Adjust as needed.
Enjoy the process. Living longer doesn't have much purpose if you spend the extra time stressed about living longer :-).