Taking positive steps toward a healthy lifestyle will naturally help protect us from degenerative aging and age-related diseases. To accomplish this Mark Hyman, MD, former co-medical director of Canyon Ranch and author of Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss, recommends the following:
* Make whole foods the focus of your diet, and cut back on processed products. Fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds are dense in fiber and rich in nutrients. Conversely, processed foods are typically packed with sugar and/or refined white flour. These wreak havoc on blood sugar levels, initially sending them sky-high, only to crash a few hours later.
* Increase your intake of healthy fats. These have been demonstrated to reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and depression. Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include deep water fish (such as salmon, black cod and tuna), walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed and flaxseed oil.
* Eat protein with every meal. In particular, consume protein (e.g., eggs, poultry, fish, lean meat, nuts, legumes or tofu) at breakfast each morning to regulate insulin levels, curb appetite and start the day on an even keel.
* Consider supplements that support one or more of the following -- insulin function, blood sugar control and mitochondria. In particular, Dr. Hyman recommends coenzyme Q-10, which benefits mitochondrial function... chromium (such as chromium polynicotinate), which improves glucose control... acetyl-l-carnitine, alpha-lipoic acid, magnesium and fish oil, which benefit both glucose and mitochondrial function. Consult your health care practitioner before use and for dosages.
* Get moving. To fine-tune the mitochondria, you need to exercise and build muscle. Each week, make it a point to schedule two to three 20-minute strength-training sessions, and at least three 30-minute periods of aerobic conditioning. In particular, Dr. Hyman recommends interval training, in which you alternate fast (or intense) and moderate (or lighter) exercise (e.g., a series of short sprints followed by walking).
* Practice effective stress management. Whether you achieve this through meditation, exercise or a long walk on the beach is up to you, but it's essential to keep stress under control. Anxiety increases the body's level of cortisol, a hormone that disturbs blood sugar levels.
* Reduce your exposure to toxins. Our bodies are regularly bombarded with environmental insults, including pesticides, smog, heavy metals and other pollutants. These trigger inflammation, which is at the root of many of the diseases and conditions we associate with aging and damage the mitochondria. Avoid or limit your exposure by choosing organic foods, fish raised in the wild instead of on fish farms, "green" cleaning products, and so on.