Updated: Mar 3, 2019
Are you often obsessed with aging, or perhaps slowing it down? Many of us are, and we prove it over and over when we buy expensive creams and treatment lotions to smooth the wrinkles. Let’s face it, we all want to look and feel young. But looking and feeling young can be difficult when every day we lose approximately 432 billion cells. When we were young, those cells were easily replaced with 432 billion brand new cells. Unfortunately, age makes this more and more difficult with each passing year.
So, what can be done to slow this process? Our lifestyle can and does take a toll. With each turnover of the cell our DNA undergoes a systematic change. Each time your cell replicates, the DNA telomere, a tail like structure, shortens. When the tail cannot shorten anymore, it dies for good, never to be replicated. How efficient your cells are at "turning over" is determined in large part to your lifestyle choices. Good lifestyle choices can result in longer DNA telomeres while bad lifestyle choices result in premature shortening.
432 billion cells a day is a lot of cellular turnover. The cells in our digestive system, from the stomach to the large bowel, are replaced every 5 minutes. The liver is replaced every five months and a new layer of skin covering your entire body happens every four weeks. Even your entire heart is replaced every six to nine months! The liver, renown for its ability to regenerate, can renew and repair itself even if only 25% of the original tissue is remaining. About the only thing that doesn't regenerate is your brain... or at least until new studies indicated that even your brain cells have the ability to heal and regenerate themselves.
A recent review of the literature reveals that there are seven things that will make you sick or lead to premature aging.
While that might sound depressing, that is the reassuring part. You have control over how you age. Dr Kenneth Cooper MD and cardiologist once said, “The average body was built to last 120 years, but what we do to it, how we treat it, actually determines how long it lasts”. The proof lies in the pudding, or in this case your refusal to eat that pudding! (sorry, spoiler alert). The underlying factor in longevity boils down to two simple truths. Is your body healthy due to exercise, or unhealthy due to inactivity; and, is your body healthy because of what you eat, or unhealthy due to what you eat? Cooper ended his remarks by saying “It’s not so much that we die as it is that we kill ourselves through the lifestyles we choose”.
1. Lack of Exercise
Mounting research confirms that when your body becomes accustomed to burning fat instead of sugar as its primary fuel—which is what happens when you exercise—you dramatically reduce your risk of chronic disease and slow aging. So exercise not only reduces your risk of disease because it strengthens your organs and systems, but we now know that losing body fat also reduces your body’s capability of storing toxins. Toxins lead to accelerated free radical damage (aging) and premature death.
2. Consuming Sugar
A diet that is high in sugar (which includes processed foods, fructose and grains) causes a host of health problems that will age you faster and increase your risk of disease, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Oh, and in case you were wondering, high sugar intake lowers your ability to burn fat too.
Processed foods are the primary culprit. Added sugars hide in 74% of processed foods under more than 60 different names. You may not even be aware of just how much sugar you're eating on a daily basis. That's right, you did read it right, sugar is listed under over 60 different names in order to confuse the consumer and in order to lower the actual sugar gram content on the label.
Currently, Sugar accounts for 15 percent of the average American's daily calorie intake. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that number be reduced to no more than five percent, or roughly 25 grams (six teaspoons) per day. That's less than what's found in a single can of soda by the way.
Professor Cynthia Kenyon, a geneticist on aging, discovered that non-vegetable carbohydrates directly affect specific genes that govern youthfulness and longevity. She postulates that by eliminating non-vegetable carbohydrates, we could live significantly longer. Dr. Kenyon is able to make such predictions through her research with roundworms. She was able to make C. elegans roundworms live six times longer than normal by eliminating what would amount to sugars and grains from their diet. Even more interesting, they also kept their health and youthful vigor until the end.
Now of course we are not roundworms, but her findings have been successfully replicated in other labs around the world using other animals, including rats, mice, and to some extent, monkeys. Humans also have these same genes, indicating these results should apply to us as well.
If that were all that cutting sugar did it would be wonderful, but excessive amounts of refined sugar and processed fructose and grains also cause insulin resistance and inflammation, and most of the disease-promoting effects of a processed food diet can be traced back to inflammation.
We already know that insulin is a major accelerant of the aging process, and that it affects many bodily processes, all of which can impact your longevity. For example, insulin alters the expression of numerous hormones; stimulates your sympathetic nervous system; and promotes vasoconstriction (blood vessels get smaller). Many of the chronic disease that we struggle with today are based on this insulin resistant, inflammation state. Whatever organ is ultimately affected by this condition eventually develops its own metabolic syndrome and fosters the genesis of a disease state.
For example, insulin resistance within the kidneys leads to chronic renal disease, within the brain manifests as Alzheimer's, and in the pancreas presents itself as type II diabetes.To reduce your overall risk of disease, you need to maintain low insulin levels and one of the quickest and easiest ways to do this is to avoid processed foods.
Fructose issues get even more complicated. We know that too much fructose leads to high levels of gout and fatty liver. A fatty liver is unable to properly detox your body which leads to a buildup of toxicity, first by way of body acidity, then by organ dysfunction and eventually disease. Did I mention that toxins age you faster?
Artificial sweeteners are no better by the way. Contrary to what you hear in the media, research over the last 30 years, including several large scale prospective cohort studies, have shown that artificial sweeteners stimulate appetite and increase cravings for carbs. It’s complicated but basically your hunger mechanism shuts off when it has been stimulated by enough nutrients, not calories. In other words, eating low nutrient foods cannot shut off the hunger signals until you are full (satiation), while eating high nutrient foods shuts off your hunger before you are full (satiety). See the difference?
In a nutshell, your hunger turns off when enough nutrients have been ingested. Eating foods low in nutrient content means you have to eat more before you reach that satiety level.
Research also shows that artificial sweeteners such as aspartame may worsen insulin sensitivity to a greater degree than sugar. More recently, scientists have discovered that artificial sweeteners disrupt your intestinal microflora thereby raising your risk of both obesity and diabetes. .
Specifically, the researchers found that artificial sweeteners alter metabolic pathways associated with metabolic disease. Decreased function was observed in pathways associated with the transport of sugar in the body. For example, artificial sweeteners were also found to induce gut dysbiosis (gut microbial imbalance) and glucose intolerance in otherwise healthy people. Glucose intolerance is a well-known precursor to type 2 diabetes, but it also plays a role in obesity, because the excess sugar in your blood stimulates the fat cell to store more fat.
Besides worsening insulin sensitivity and promoting weight gain, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners also promote other health problems associated with excessive sugar consumption, including cardiovascular disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
While poor diet is a major driver of Alzheimer’s in general (the primary culprits being sugar, fructose and grains, the key mechanism of harm here appears to be methanol toxicity—a much-ignored problem associated with aspartame in particular, and a particular area of interest in the new sugar alcohols being used in many “health” products.
Toxicology expert Dr. Woodrow Monte (author of the book While Science Sleeps: A Sweetener Kills), explains the links between aspartame and methanol toxicity and the formation of toxic formaldehyde.
3. Consuming Trans Fats
For decades, saturated fats were said to cause heart disease. Responding to such health concerns, the food industry replaced saturated fats with trans fats, giving rise to a whole new market of low-fat (but high-sugar) foods. The problem is that trans fat, along with sugar, is also a major contributor to insulin resistance. Americans' health has plummeted ever since, and millions have been prematurely killed by this ridiculous assumption that saturated fats are bad and vegetable oil fats, especially hydrogenated ones, are good.
Trans fat, found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, is thought to act as a pro-oxidant, contributing to oxidative stress that causes cellular damage, and many researchers agree that there is no threshold at which trans fats are safe.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed trans fats from the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list. This is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, instead of reverting to healthy saturated fats like coconut oil, lard, and butter, trans fats are being replaced with other non-saturated vegetable oils that produce toxic cyclic aldehydes when heated. These byproducts appear to be so harmful they may even make trans fats look benign in comparison, and we may not realize the full ramifications of this switch until a decade or two down the line.
4. Low Vitamin D
Optimizing your vitamin D stores can go a long way toward preventing disease and living a longer, healthier life. Researchers have pointed out that increasing levels of vitamin D3 among the general population could prevent chronic diseases that claim nearly one million lives throughout the world each year. Compelling evidence actually suggests optimizing your vitamin D can reduce your risk of death from any cause. At this point, the known health benefits of vitamin D number in the hundreds, if not thousands, in part due to the fact that it influences about 10 percent of all your genes.
Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common with 41.6% of the US population finding themselves lacking in this important vitamin. You are especially at risk if you live in northern climates (such as Minnesota) because vitamin D is produced through a chemical reaction that is dependent on UVB light hitting your skin. Unfortunately, UVA light (causes sunburns) can get through easily during the winter but UVB is not as lucky. During the winter times, Minnesotans are exposed to no UVB light and therefore cannot make Vitamin D. While foods fortified in Vitamin D are enough to keep us from developing diseases like osteomalacia (softening of bone), they do not provide enough to protect us from chronic diseases such as cancer.
Magnesium is also important both for the proper function of calcium and for the activity of vitamin D as it converts vitamin D into its active form. In fact, all enzymes that metabolize vitamin D require magnesium to work. As with vitamin D and vitamin K2, magnesium deficiency is very common. Making matters worse, if you are deficient in magnesium and you take supplemental calcium, you might exacerbate the situation. Dietary sources of magnesium include sea vegetables, such as kelp, dulse, and nori. Vegetables can also be a good source. As for supplements, magnesium glycinate and magnesium threonate are among the best.
As for safe levels, it is generally accepted that anything below 50 ng/ml is unsafe. Optimal levels should be between 50-70 ng/ml except when treating heart disease or cancer (which should be 70-100 ng/ml) Anything above 100 ng/ml is excess and without benefit.
5. Not Drinking Enough Water
Many people do not realize the importance of hydration. But to be clear, your body is mostly water. It is the medium by which we survive. Your body loses that water every day however. Every time you breath, perspire, urinate, and have bowel movements more water is eliminated.
Drinking enough water has been linked to maximizing physical performance, greatly improving energy levels, boosting brain function, preventing headaches, relieving constipation, preventing and treating kidney stones, and assisting with weight loss.
For your body to work right, you need to keep it well hydrated. One goal of aging well is to keep our lovely complexion. The skin usually contains up to 20 percent water, but dehydrated skin can drop that to below 10 percent. Dehydration of the skin can lead to significant signs of premature aging for this reason. If you want to keep a healthy glow, drink up!
Dehydration doesn't just stop at skin though. Dehydration can cause more serious conditions both internally and externally. Keeping hydrated can be difficult but it is necessary. Dehydration can be the culprit in causing serious health conditions both internally and externally. Dehydration can even cause mineral deficiencies as the body needs to maintain the optimal mineral/water ratio and therefore might "reduce its water volume" in order to keep the proper levels of electrolytes.
Are you drinking reverse osmosis water? Add the minerals back in if you only drink RO water. The RO system removes everything, even the good stuff. This is an issue since mineral deficiencies also lead to dehydration which leads to premature aging.
6. Lack of Sleep
Remember how you feel when you don’t get enough sleep? Sleep deprivation noticeably ages a person with a puffiness of the face, dark circles and bagginess under the eyes, and a skin pallor makes you look sick. Sleep deprivation has been linked to aging skin with insomnia said to wreak havoc on your skin health.
Lack of sleep leads to more than just looking bad and feeling bad. It also leads to age related issues such as accelerated brain aging, growth hormone deficiencies, high insulin levels, and many other markers of human aging.
People who lack sleep often lack concentration, forget things more easily and make more mistakes at work.
Truth is, the human body starts to go through many physical and mental forms of deterioration when it's not able to get enough quality sleep. For one, forehead wrinkles and under eye wrinkles start to suddenly appear. The body's hormone levels get out of sync. Hormones such as leptin (the hormone that tells your body that it's full when you eat), insulin (the hormone that regulates your body's sugar levels), and human growth hormone levels are strongly impacted. Another hormone, cortisol (also called the stress hormone linked to accumulation of belly fat), is negatively affected. If your sleep issues continue over a period of time, it leads to accelerated aging as well as a whole host of other problems.
Add that to the fact that the body is unable to repair itself properly (not enough rest) you not only look old, but you’re at a greater risk of heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Your biggest issue is brain aging.
Yep, it’s a thing. The aging brain is inevitable of course because we age, no way around that one. However, after age 30, the brain begins to lose some of its weight and volume. On average, a human brain loses about 5 percent of its weight and or volume between age 30 and age 80.
Lack of sleep (and exercise) can speed up the process of (the brain's) aging. This usually leads to symptoms such as loss of memory, loss of cognitive functions, slower reflexes in general, impaired judgement, symptoms similar to those found in ADHD cases, hallucinations, and also buildup of plaques on the brain (especially with lots of medications and processed foods).
The aging brain doesn't have to make you older any quicker than it should though. the aging brain is a by-product of many different forms of aging that occur within the body. By controlling your lack of sleep, you can prevent and sometimes reverse some of the processes involved in aging.
7. Smoking and Vaping.
Most of us know that smoking is linked to heart disease, infertility, bladder cancer, high blood pressure, and of course, lung cancer. These things have been understood for some time. But, did you know that smoking, and vaping, accelerates the aging process? Yep, not only can regular smoking exacerbate skin conditions such as psoriasis, but it chronically deprives your skin cells of oxygen, which can lead to pale, weak skin. Smoking and secondhand smoke also trigger the breakdown of collagen and can lead to loose, saggy skin, not just on your face, but even on your upper arms and breasts. Lastly, smokers are constantly using the muscles around their mouth as they suck down their toxic poison, which is what causes those deep wrinkles longtime smokers often sport.
So, we clearly understand that smoking is bad for your health and bad for your skin. What about vaping or e-cigarettes? My first point is that vaping does not burn anything, so the toxicity is about 50-80% lower, but that’s the only good thing.
Most all vapes contain the chemical nicotine, which is addictive. Many vape brands contain two to three times the nicotine as a cigarettes, some five times as much. That means that when you stop using it, you can go into withdrawal and feel depressed and crabby, get the shakes, and generally feel as if you are going to die.
Also, nicotine isn't good for people with heart problems whether it’s in a cigarette or a vape. Some initial research shows it may hurt your arteries more because vapes are higher in nicotine. Nicotine also constricts the veins so there is less blood flow to the skin, which basically starves the skin of the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. When your skin is depleted in nutrients it can dry out, wrinkle, and get saggy.
If you are pregnant you should also understand that vaping is still fully capable of harming the brains of your developing child and could affect their memory and attention.
But the concerns go way beyond nicotine alone.
Some brands contain chemicals including the very toxic formaldehyde, often used in building materials, and another ingredient used in antifreeze both of which can cause cancer.
Flavors in vapes also raise red flags. Some use a buttery-tasting chemical called diacetyl, which is often added to foods like popcorn. But when diacetyl is inhaled, it takes on an entire level of new dangers.
Diacetyl is actually a well-known harmful chemical, which, among other things, causes a type of lung disease called 'popcorn lung. Popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans) is associated with shortness of breath similar to that seen in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This process is irreversible.
If that were not enough, e-cigarettes also contain propylene glycol which is another chemical that attracts and holds water. Meaning it is capable of literally sucking the water from your cells. We all know that moisture is the key to youthful skin so, this is bad news if you want to hold on to your youth. Vaping also requires to suck in the vapor, using your lips to pucker up the suction, and yes, that causes the old looking lips you see so often on smokers.
So, if you think you can get away with vaping without wearing the evidence, unfortunately you are wrong. Vaping will age you faster, just like regular smoking. It may be a step towards quitting smoking, but not unless you choose a lower nicotine product. Hopefully you can make the final step towards not smoking anything at all, after all, who wants to visit COPD in their lifetime?