Monday, December 19, 2016

The Shell Game

I recently heard a comment from a fellow senior athlete that he was just a shell of his former self. He couldn't get excited about doing eight minute miles when once he averaged five minutes per mile. Aging is inevitable, but that doesn't mean we don't have some say in how we age. Everything we do affects how fast we age. What we eat and drink, the amount of stress in our lives, even our exercise habits, will all determine how our bodies react to aging. But does switching to a healthier life style extend our lives, or does it merely improve our quality of life as we age?

Extensive research is being conducted on the affects of aging and possibilities of slowing or even reversing it's affects. San Diego, California, is where a lot of this research is being done. The Salk Institute, Scripps Health, and Human Longevity are all doing ground breaking research on aging. They are examining everything from stem cells to cell regeneration. The belief is that the human lifespan could be much longer. The researchers discovered that when cells divide, proteins, called telomeres, shorten, contributing to some of the conditions associated with aging. Through their studies, it was also determined that a person was usually more concerned with a better quality of life than just a longer life.

Elizabeth Blackburn, President of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, states, “Psychological habits such as training to focus one’s attention, avoiding habitual pessimism, reducing stress-inducing things in life that are within our control and cultivating a few close friendships can help increase the quality of our lives, as well as, the longevity. Good sleep patterns and exercise, along with the avoidance of sugar and refined carbohydrates, will also help”. These activities help maintain the length of the cells telomere proteins, minimizing the affects of aging.

How interesting that making an effort to be happy is one of the healthiest changes we can make in our lives. It's clear from Dr. Blackburn's comments that exercise and eating a healthy diet are just pieces to the puzzle of aging. Staying positive, optimistic, having a friend and a hobby all contribute to slow the aging process. Perhaps she is right. All we have to do is believe it and get started. A happy, active, mind and an active, healthy, body are a winning combination.

It's not just a step, it's a start.


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