Unfortunately, the longer we live, the more likely we are to deal with some of the difficulties of having an aging body ... poor eyesight, deafness, hair loss, weight gain, osteoporosis, heart disease and, perhaps the biggest worry of all, mental decline.
With a little forethought and "maintenance," however, most people will be able to minimize these problems or, at the very least, postpone them longer than they may have thought possible.
You might be surprised to know that our body actually starts to decline long before we realize it. As a result, you are never too young to begin taking better care of it. The longer you can postpone health issues, the more likely it is that you will enjoy good health when you reach your 70's and 80's.
As a result, it was with great interest that I read an article titled "Stretch Your Timeline" in the March 2, 2015 issue of "Time" magazine. In this article, they explained when different systems in our body begin to break down and how to slow down the process. Below I have summarized their findings so we can all create our own personal body maintenance plan.
How to Maintain Your Body
Skin - I was shocked to learn that the collagen and elastin in our body begin to decline at a rate of about 1% a year starting at age 18. Every teenager who is considering cooking herself in the sun or in a tanning salon should know about this. In addition to protecting your skin with sunscreen, no one should start smoking if they hope to have nice skin later in life. One worrisome issue that "Time" pointed out is that apparently some compact fluorescent light bulbs can also damage the skin.
Lungs - We begin to lose about 1% of our lung function per year starting at age 30. Exercise will slow down the process and, although "Time" didn't specifically mention this, I'm sure this is another reason to avoid smoking.
Bones - By age 35, our bone mass begins to decline at a rate of 1% a year. Weight bearing exercise, including jumping up and down, can help maintain your bone mass.
Muscles - Once again, exercise can come to the rescue and slow down the muscle loss that is common after the age of 40.
Eyes - Another part of our body that begins to decline at age 40 are our eyes. Smoking speeds this up, as well as sun exposure. Don't smoke and wear good quality sunglasses whenever you are outside, even on an overcast day.
Kidneys - Around age 50, your kidney function will start to decline. People who drink plenty of fluids are less likely to experience as much kidney decline ... so drink water every day.
Gut - By age 60, our gut starts to absorb fewer nutrients. As a result, it becomes even more important that you begin to make sure you are eating nutrient dense, healthy foods and avoid empty calories. Discuss with your doctor any vitamin shortages that come up in your blood work, and find out if you should be taking extra Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, or other vitamins and minerals.
Ears - Another issue that develops in our 60's is hearing loss. In fact, one out of three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have measurable hearing loss. I was shocked that there does not seem to be much you can do to avoid it, other than avoiding loud music and other loud sounds.
Heart - Heart disease usually begins to appear around the mid-60's. However, it actually started back in our 20's or 30's, when our peak aerobic capacity began to decline at about 10% per decade. While "Time" didn't mention anything specific to do in order to postpone the decline in the aerobic capacity of our hearts, we know that exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating healthy are all ways to extend the life expectancy of our heart.
Brain - If we do everything else, but lose our cognitive function, there is almost no point to having a healthy body. Fortunately, the same activities that keep the rest of our body healthy will also benefit our brain ... avoid smoking, get exercise, and eat a healthy diet. In addition, we need to keep our brain active by engaging in social activities and doing things that stimulate our brain ... playing games, working puzzles, or learning a foreign language are all good ideas.
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