Ever notice how people age? Some people just look younger or older than their actual age. We see an old friend after an absence of a few years and think, “Jeez! Did he age!” and wonder what might have befallen him to press the fast-forward button on the aging process.
Although we should continue to make the right decisions about our health (how many people do you know who still smoke or drink liquid sugar in the form of pop?), we don’t want to get too obsessive about this. Websites like realage.com offer all sorts of helpful hints, but it’s easy to let your fear of growing older or dying young take over everything in your life. When you spend many minutes of your days regretting that the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of last’s night’s dinner wasn’t higher, it’s time to ease up on your priorities. There will be times the roadside diner on your trip to Wisconsin simply won’t have multigrain bread and your lecture to the server on the dangers of refined white flour “shaving years off her life” will make for a less-than-pleasant lunch.
Do keep in mind the importance of genetics when it comes to disease and longevity, the especially long-lived among us being members of what might be called “The Lucky Sperm-n-Egg Club.” If just about all four of your biological grandparents or great-grandparents lived into their 90s, it will likely be difficult for you to die young unless you really work at it. On the other hand, if all the men in your family are wiped out in late middle age by heart-related conditions, then yes, some obsessing about exercise, blood pressure and weight control, Mediterranean eating, daily low-dose aspirin, and antioxidants are called for.
It’s pretty well established that the Mediterranean Diet–high in veggies, fruit, and fish with olive oil and red wine and low in high-glycemic carbs–shouldn’t be called a diet at all because that sends a message you can end it someday. Rather, think “Mediterranean Lifestyle” and you can stop eating this way at about age 96.
An unhealthful diet is just the opposite of a Mediterranean Diet. High-fat, high-refined carb eating is damaging because it places oxidative stress on your cells. Scientists can actually measure the molecular markers, like 8-OHdg and p53mRNA, that damage your DNA and age you.
A recent report from Sofia University Hospital in Cordoba, Spain, showed that after an unhealthy meal, those two aging biomarkers were elevated, but following a healthy meal and taking CoQ10 (or UBQH) on a daily basis, these same biomarkers dropped. A second supplement, resveratrol, is a potent antioxidant that in animal studies activated an anti-aging gene.
Mark Lachs, MD, a medical doctor specializing in geriatrics, says, “one of the keys to a long, healthy old age is the ability to keep moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks”. Click here to listen to his NPR commentary.
For Pinetop Perkins, the great Delta Blues pianist and oldest Grammy Award winner, it was all in the genes. To the end of his life, he smoked a pack a day. In 2004, his car was hit by a train and he survived. Living mainly in the South and frequently on the road touring with the band, you sort of cringe at what he must have been eating all those years. Doubtful he ever took CoQ10 and likely he took aspirin only for a hangover, though it’s been reported he gave up drinking in his early 80s.
Dying last month at 97, Pinetop, passionate about his music to the end, was a member of the club.
David Edelberg, MD