August 14, 2022


Health for a better future

A Mediterranean diet may slow signs of aging, study says

(WNDU) – Aging is an inevitable part of life. Everyone looks for ways to turn back the clock when it comes to aging.

Growing older means an increasing number of major life changes, including career transitions and retirement, children leaving home, the loss of loved ones, and even physical and health challenges. The key to healthy aging is how we handle and grow from these changes. Healthy aging means finding new things you enjoy, staying physically and socially active, and feeling connected to the community and loved ones.

However, these life changes can bring on anxiety and fear. Many of these fears stem from popular misconceptions about aging, but there are ways to help maintain physical and emotional health and continue to thrive, whatever your age or circumstances.

Now, new research shows changing your diet might be key to feeling and looking younger.

“The Mediterranean diet is a great diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, all those kinds of things,” said Elizabeth Eckstrom, a geriatrician.

One study found eating a Mediterranean diet may help prevent your brain from shrinking for as long as five years! This popular diet is also associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and physical impairments in older age. The plan includes lots of fresh veggies, fruits, fish, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, and legumes.

The Mediterranean diet discourages processed meats and saturated fats. A Harvard review found eating one serving a day of processed meat was linked to a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease. Foods with a high glycemic index, like white bread, can cause inflammation in the body which is linked to the gaging process. Also steer clear of processed or fried foods. Foods fried in oil at high temps can release free radicals that cause cellular damage to the skin and accelerate the aging process.

In a Johns Hopkins-led Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, which tracked more than 6,000 people ages 44 to 84 for over seven years, those who made healthy changes like quitting smoking, following a Mediterranean-style diet, getting regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight, decreased their risk of death by 80 percent.

Exercise lowers risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers, while a Mediterranean-style diet is recommended for anyone hoping to avoid dementia as well as minimize other health risks. Lack of sleep impacts memory, emotions, weight and even appearance. As we age, the harder it can be to fall and stay asleep, but we still need the same number of hours each night. Quitting smoking shows a decrease in risk of a heart attack in as little as 24 hours. As for longer-term benefits, Johns Hopkins researchers found that quitting decreased middle-aged smokers’ risk of dying early by almost half. Finally, make it a goal to keep learning as you age and challenge your brain.

The good news? It’s never too late to toss the junk and start eating healthy.

“Some people tell me you know, ‘I’m 75, I’m 80, I haven’t done these things all my life what good is it going to do to start now?’ and I say those are the people who have the most to gain,” Dr. Eckstrom said.

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