Monday, August 29, 2011

Lifestyle Changes Can Bring You Closer to the Fountain of Youth

Making some changes to your diet and exercise plan are simple ways to live a longer, healthier life.

Avocado, raw walnuts and flaxseeds.
Avocados and raw nuts and seeds are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

The fountain of youth proves continually elusive despite a growing desire in America to look and feel younger, especially as the baby boomers begin to enter their golden years.

But Dr. John Hibbs, a naturopathic medicine provider at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, says healthy remedies to promote longevity aren't as hard to attain as some people might think. Mainly, he says, it comes down to lifestyle changes related to nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management/happiness satisfaction.

"Each of these has such an important role in determining how the body's systems work together," explains Hibbs, a family practitioner who takes a special interest in environmental illness and detoxification.

Food That Will Keep You Young

Although most people think of fish as the best source of healthy oils, Hibbs says that raw nuts and seeds and soybeans contain fatty acids that are crucial to healthy cell membrane structure throughout your body.

In addition to benefiting your body internally, these fatty acids also have healthy aging properties for your body's biggest membrane externally: your skin.

"People who want beautiful skin when they age should eat more raw nuts and seeds and avocados," Hibbs says. And because vegetables also contain high concentrations of these fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants, he adds, "Stop eating processed foods, and get half of your diet from fruits and vegetables from multiple colors."

With your daily dose of these fatty acids, eat anti-inflammatory nutrients such as catechin, found in green tea and other plants, and curcumin, found in turmeric, and you'll also give your brain and immune system a boost of youth, warding off autoimmune diseases and brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

Behavior is Part of the Balancing Act

But creating a diet that will provide you with these crucial nutrients is just one part of the balancing act. Hibbs explains that getting too little sleep each night can be equally as detrimental to your body as eating a poor diet that results in undernourishment.

"Sleep deprivation is hard on brain and other cell types," Hibbs says. "They have a tendency to die earlier, which can lead to earlier dementia or osteoporosis as the body breaks down muscle and bone."

Similarly, people who don't exercise frequently enough can lose both muscle and bone mass, which puts them at a greater risk of osteoporosis. Think you're too old to begin an exercise regimen? Think again. Hibbs says that we can start exercising at any age, and our bodies will respond with stronger muscle mass and thicker bones.

In addition, getting a full night's rest and exercising regularly will help regulate your mood, Hibbs says, and happiness is yet another key to living a healthy and long life.

If you're on the search for your own personal fountain of youth but aren’t sure where to start, Bastyr Center has naturopathic doctors, nutritionists, acupuncturists and counseling providers who can help set you on the right path. To make an appointment, call (206) 834-4100.

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