Every day our body is experiencing the cycle of natural ‘wear and tear’. Cells and tissue are being broken down and regenerated all the time. Bone is re-absorbed into the body and then renewed, cartilage in joints experiences are worn and then repaired, membranes of nerve and other cells are broken down and replaced. This all happens in fine balance and without us even knowing. Or does it?
The rate at which this happens however largely depends on two factors: Age and Lifestyle. Given the right nutrition and lifestyle our bodies have amazing natural ability to repair and regenerate.
For the first 20 years of life the rate at which our body breaks down ‘worn’ tissue and cells is far exceeded by the rate at which it regenerates. Therefore, for most of us, this mechanism is happening whilst we are blissfully unaware and in perfect harmony.
As we reach 25-50 this fine tuned balance begins to shift slightly. This stage is arguably the most influenced by lifestyle and diet. For those of us with a healthy lifestyle and diet we may remain unaware of the hard work the body undertakes to keep the balance. For those without, the symptoms of this changing balance may begin to show. Wrinkles may begin to develop, joints may begin to ‘twinge’ and energy may be on a slippery slope to nowhere.
The ‘over 50’ stage of life is a period when wear exceeds repair. Symptoms of degenerative disease appear and we begin to age - sometimes rapidly. It is usually at this stage that we realize the need to take responsibility for our health.
There is much that we can do to slow this process but the most effective work happens in the preventative stage.
So what can we do?
Of course, genetic factors influence longevity and the likelihood of disease, but whatever your genetic inheritance, there is strong evidence that your risk can be cut through a nutritious diet and lifestyle. Adopting a nutritious diet can support blood sugar levels and the body’s defence against the key factors involved in ageing and associated degenerative diseases. These key factors are free radical damage and inflammation.
Free radical damage
Free radicals are unstable elements in the body that can be produced through natural metabolic processes, and by stress and pollution. Excess free radicals are damaging to body cells and are thought to be a prime cause of ageing. They can damage artery linings and therefore become a causative factor in heart disease, and are implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer's and dementia.
These can help protect you against free radical damage. Powerful antioxidants include vitamin E, beta carotene or vitamin A, vitamin C, flavonoids (in fruits and vegetables and green tea extract), lycopene (extracted from tomatoes), lutein, Co-Enzyme Q10, and antioxidant mineral co-factors like selenium, copper, manganese and zinc.
This key factor is involved in many degenerative conditions including arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and again, in Alzheimer's. Anti-inflammatory nutrients include flavonoids from fruits and vegetables (some of the most potent being the curcuminoids from turmeric, the yellow spice in curry) and Omega 3 oils.
A nutritious diet which includes health-supporting nutrients as listed above can be defined as the so-called Mediterranean Diet. With olive oil and essential fats from oily fish and seeds as the principal fats, plenty of seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals, pulses, limited red meat and two glasses of red wine a day your body will thank you for it.
If this sounds an unrealistic target for you then do not forget the virtues of food supplements. These can correct the nutrient shortfalls and help the ‘prime’ of your life to be as creak and disease free as possible.