Senescence is the deterioration of the body as we age. While we simply can’t do a thing about aging, a focus on minimizing senescence can lead to the most enriched elderly life possible. We’re talking about tap-dancing in our 90s and still sharp as a centenarian.
To figure out how we get old and stay young, we need only look to the majority of those before us. We say “majority” because there will always be exceptions to the rule, but by looking at a large statistical group (old folks), we have a lot of data that holds within it, the secret to the Fountain of Youth.
Rule #1: Get the Diet in Check.
We start with what might be the most important key to staying young and full of vigor. If you get nothing else in check during mid-life, get diet and nutrition working for you. Your body and your health are the outcome of what you eat. We hear it all of our lives but sadly, only a small percentage heed the dictum.
Before we delve into diet, let’s get one thing straight. Chocolate brownies with ice-cream on top should always be a part of your lifestyle if you enjoy them. If you’re someone who simply doesn’t crave sweets and can live without them, you’re really in the driving seat to achieving superior health and we applaud you. For the majority of men, the occasional indulgence in satisfying the sweet tooth is not likely to make much of a dent in senescence. Just minimize such behavior and save it for special occasions and family get-togethers.
Let’s start with insulin. Of all dietary considerations, insulin just might be the most important. It’s a storage hormone that has a whole lot of jobs to do in the body, but has a primary job of storing excess nutrients.
If you can train your body to maintain stable insulin levels, you will always be healthy. You’ll be slim, sexy and without fat. If you workout, you’ll be muscular as well. It really is that important… and this simple.
If you’re new to insulin, just understand that when we consume protein and/or carbohydrates, insulin levels rise. In the presence of high insulin, our bodies cannot burn fat. It’s simply impossible from a physiological standpoint. Carbohydrates make insulin rise the quickest and keep levels high for longer periods. Carbohydrates are converted to sugars. They’re not nearly so bad for anyone engaging in physical activity on a regular basis but they can be down-right detrimental to the average office-worker who puts in eight hours and spends most evenings in front of the TV.
Insulin, Fat and Carbohydrates
Consider a scenario of starting your morning with a 44oz Mountain Dew and two doughnuts. As soon as you start consuming this sugary mess, insulin spikes high. Fat burning is impossible. Even worse, those doughnuts are contributing to a lot of dietary fat. Your bloodstream if filled with triglycerides (fatty acids). What’s a body to do with high levels of glucose (how your body converts carbohydrates to usable energy), insulin and fat?
Fat is your body’s preferred source of fuel. It’s why the body packs on extra weight in times of excess food. It “looks ahead” and prepares for future famine by storing fat away. Small reserves of fat are necessary and that’s why humans can never rid their body entirely of all fat. In the case of Joe Blow, who already has a high body fat percentage and has just consumed this meal, his big fat problem just got worse. His body instantly recognizes that it can’t use the new fat for fuel because all the sugar would stay in the bloodstream. So insulin pushes the fat into fat cells while trying to mop up all of the newly acquired blood sugar and get it out of the system, by using it for energy first. Although fat is preferred, it simply can’t be used right now.
What would happen if the body ignored the sugar and decided to use fat for fuel as preferred? Welcome to the definition of Diabetes. This is the exact reason that diabetics must take insulin shots. Not taking insulin means a bloodstream full of sugar and that leads to weakness, fatigue, blurred vision and a whole host of other bodily impairments.
Are You at Risk of Type II Diabetes?
If the above eating scenario sounds even remotely close to a daily routine that you indulge in, change it now or suffer the consequences later. We’re talking about serious health implications and here’s how Type II Diabetes happens.
Joe Blow decides that he likes his breakfast of soda pop and doughnuts. He doesn’t feel like he’s gaining a lot of weight, so he is okay with making it his morning ritual. To compound the problem, he eats a bit of fast food for lunch, his wife’s delicious home cooking for supper and gets a few snacks in between.
What Joe has accomplished is spiking insulin and keeping it at a high level all day long. As we already know, he can’t possibly burn fat in this state, even on those days he eats less to ease the guilty conscience of continually taking in too many calories.
When the human body is stressed with consistently high levels of carbohydrates, the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin in an attempt to remove it from the bloodstream. This results in cells that start to “ignore” the insulin, as a means of self-preservation. Too much insulin becomes toxic to a cell. As too many cells begin to down-regulate receptor activity, your body no longer reacts to the effects of insulin. Years of this abuse results in sugar that can no longer be removed from the bloodstream. Welcome to Type II Diabetes.
One of the best health decisions you can make for yourself is to limit the amount of sugar you put in your body. This will add years to your health and well-being.
Rule #2: Exercise Your Brain.
We’ve already discussed the importance of exercising your brain in a previous post, and it’s importance can’t be overstated.
Your brain has the ability to grow new cells well into old age. It accomplishes this through the process of new activity.
Continue to create and solve mental challenges with your mind. In addition, continue to expose your body to new experiences and conditions. It’s a scientifically proven way to keep from losing your mind. It also staves off depression and that’s a very important contribution to a healthy mind.
If you spend a lot of time online, make a frequent stop at lumosity. It’s a site specifically designed to enhance your brain’s neuroplasticity. It’s a website that’s proven to make you smarter. Not many websites are able to legitimately make that claim these days.
Rule #3: Exercise Your Body.
You’ve got your diet in check and you’re working out the brain. You knew exercise was part of the equation. What can we say? It does a body good. Some activity is better than none and a lot of activity is good for adding years to your life.
The treadmill sucks and it’s better left for young, meat-head gym rats who are trying to lose the last 2% of fat to impress the other guys in the locker room.
We’re talking about woodworking, dance class, gardening, hiking and any activity that contributes to brain function in addition to working out the body.
Exercise is essential. Make sure you consistently engage in some form of exercise if you want to live to a ripe old age.
Rule #4: Stop Smoking.
We won’t bore you with images of blackened lungs or cigarette ad warnings regarding the consequences of prolonged smoking.
Hopefully, you’re not a smoker but if you are, you’re aware of the dangers. And if you smoke, there’s every chance that cancer is going to end your life early. It’s not a guaranty but it’s a high statistical probability. The numbers for smoking related deaths have risen to an all-time high, at more than a half-million people every year.
If smoking doesn’t cause cancer, consider that smokers are six times more likely to die of a heart attack than non-smokers.
Rule #5: Find Purpose in Life.
A recent study of centenarians revealed that almost all were actively pursuing a higher purpose or meaning in life. They were volunteers or active in cleaning the earth or even taking care of Grandchildren.
Maintaining an active role in the circle of life seems to be key to a life long lived. Withdrawing into your own private world and abstaining from helping others appears to be a path to an early exit. Bonus years granted by God or coincidence? Good food for thought.
Rule #6: Laugh Often.
Laugh at yourself, laugh with others and laugh when you’re just bored. Laughter has magical healing effects on the body and mind. Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”
Here’s a few proven side-effects of laughter.. and ones that will cumulatively add years to your life:
•Hormone levels are decreased
•Stronger Immune System
•Relaxation of the muscles
•Reduced pain/Increased pain tolerance
•Blood pressure reduction
•Strengthening of cardiovascular system
In addition to laughing, sing and whistle a little bit every day.
And There It Is
No need to ever worry about growing older again. By taking an active role in all aspects of your physical and mental health, there’s every chance you’re going to thrive in your golden years.
Unfortunately, we can’t promise that you won’t get hit by a bus or be thrown from a plane before you even get the opportunity to enjoy retirement, but at least you’ll have the best shot at growing old and enjoying it.
Maybe you’re wondering if it’s really worth it to add another 20 years to your life after 80 years of age? We suspect that most 79 year-olds agree that it is so you just might too. Just don’t wait that long to take action because you already know how to avoid senescence.