DR. BILL’S TOP TIPS FOR HEALTHY AGING
I’m an 82-year-young physician, and a doctor-friend said to me, “Bill, you’re a seenager. You are the age of a senior, but have the blood chemistry and vitality of a teen.” Here are the top tips for healthy aging that I personally practice – and science supports:
- MAKE HEALTH YOUR HOBBY
The older we get the more hobbies we need, and the best hobby to have is health. Become a health-nut, preferably by the time you reach your forties.
A mother in my medical practice asked me to consult her father – let’s call him Joe – to motivate him to take better care of his health.
“Joe, what do you do for a living?” I opened.
“I’m an investment banker,” he replied.
“So you probably have lots of IRAs for you and your family. Joe, do you have an IRAH – an individual retirement account for your health? You’ve saved money for your retirement, but are you saving your body to better enjoy it?”
- STAY LEAN
“Lean” does not mean skinny. It means having the right amount of body fat for your body type. “The leaner you are, the longer you live” is one of my mantras. In fact, for seniors, waist size is more important than scale weight. I call this waist management.
We need to be proactive, because the changing metabolism of senior bodies causes us to lose muscle and gain fat. We need to do the opposite: burn fat and build muscle. Muscle, your main calorie-burner, also increases balance, important since falls are one of the top injuries affecting seniors. Sitters lose muscle and bone strength; movers build muscle and strengthen bones. Being overfat and under-muscular is a double whammy.
The importance of “waist management” for healthy aging is so vital that we doctors no longer use the wimpy term “overweight.” Instead, we gaze at our patients with a caring, yet motivating look and exclaim: “You’re prediabetic!” If that doesn’t get his or her attention, we add: “You’re pre-Alzheimer’s!”
Retire your spare tire. Since reducing excess belly fat is one of the most healthy-aging changes you can make, use a tape measure to track your belly size. Your goal is to lose an inch or more.
- ANTIOXIDANTS ARE AWESOME FOR HEALTHY AGING
Your body is the greatest machine ever made. Like machines, say a car engine, your body burns fuel and produces exhaust, which causes wear and tear on your body. And, without proper maintenance, your body wears out. Metabolism produces exhaust, called oxidation. The way to neutralize exhaust and prevent wear and tear is to create antioxidants. Yet, as we age, our bodies tend to produce fewer antioxidants. The moral of this wear-and-tear story is the older we get the more we need to eat foods, and take supplements, that contain antioxidants.
Picture this: cut an apple in half and pour lemon juice (an antioxidant) on one half. In a few hours the lemon-juice-protected half still looks good. In contrast, the unprotected half without antioxidants will start looking brown, or older. It oxidizes, or “rusts.” Our bodies are in a constant state of rust versus anti-rust. Like lemon juice on an apple, healthy aging needs an anti-rust maintenance program to decrease the wear-and-tear and increase the repair. Eating or taking more antioxidants helps prevent “inflammaging,” the aging effects of inflammation and all those “-itis” illnesses.
- MOVE MORE, SIT LESS
Movement mobilizes our weakening immune system and lessens inflammation. Movement relaxes blood vessels, widens arteries, and improves blood flow. My mantra for healthy aging is: every organ of your body is only as healthy as the blood flow to it. Better blood flow equals healthier aging. It’s as simple as that!
Besides being a frequent gym-goer, my two favorite exercises for healthy aging are swimming (relaxes the mind and easy on the joints) and dancing. At our 50th wedding anniversary I read this poem to my dear co-ager:
Fifty years ago when you said “I do”
Did you really think it through?
But then you knew our marriage had a chance
When your klutzy husband learned how to dance.
Picture two seniors. The first, Sam the Sitter, reclines in his lounge chair guzzling soda, eating chips, and watching TV. Sam’s vessels are stiff, blood flow is sluggish, his immune system is weak, and he’s aging fast. Contrast this with Mandy the Mover who walks briskly through the woods. Her vessels are wider, more relaxed, have better blood flow, and she enjoys a longer and healthier life.
- EAT HEALTHY-AGING FOODS
Enjoy my “5-S diet.” As you learned above, as we age our bodies tend to produce fewer antioxidants. Therefore, as we age (and even before) we need take in more antioxidants. Here’s how I eat for healthy aging:
- I enjoy a smoothie (what I call “longevity-ade”) in the morning. Like Dr. Mom said, “Put more color on your plate” – and in your smoothie. A multi-fruit and vegetable smoothie is just what the doctor ordered.
- During the day I do smart snacking, according to my “rule of twos”: eat twice as often, eat half as much, and chew twice as long. As we age, digestion slows, so your aging gut will love the “rule of twos.” Three magic words of health and longevity are “stable blood sugar.” That’s what grazing can do for you. Also, grazers have healthier hearts and healthier longevity than do bingers.
- In the evening I enjoy a salad with spices and a fillet of salmon – more antioxidants.
“Young foods” are nutrient-dense, higher in nutrients especially healthy fats, proteins, and fiber-filled carbs; “old foods” are full of unhealthy fats; not enough protein; and fiber-less, processed junk carbs.
- The fifth “S” is science-based supplements. I won’t take or prescribe any supplement that is not supported by solid science. There are two supplements that are supported by science but ones that our readers may know the least about: Hawaiian astaxanthin and Hawaiian spirulina, and you will now learn why they are a perfect fit to lessen the ailments of aging. *
- BE HEART SMART!
Smart-heart seniors generally have a more efficient pump and slightly lower heart rate. This remains one of my top mantras for healthy aging. When I began my healthy-aging program after a health crisis in 1997, I came to the conclusion that every organ in the body is only as healthy as the blood supply to it. Makes sense! You water and feed a garden and it grows healthier plants. On the other hand, many seniors suffer from just the opposite. Unhealthy aging is usually due to stiff and sticky blood vessels. Healthy aging, on the other hand, enjoys relaxed arteries and smoother blood flow.
Save your silver lining. What I call “the silver lining” is medically known as the endothelium, the layer of cells that line the inside of your blood vessels. Your endothelium is actually the largest organ in your body, as well as the largest hormone-producing tissue in your body. I call it your own personal endothelial pharmacy because the cells of the endothelium dispense medicines that lower the “highs”: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high blood sugar; medicines that elevate the “lows”: antidepressants; medicines that regulate blood clotting: anti-coagulants, this describes all the common ailments of aging. And, these medicines are stored in your silver lining ready to work for you. The simple key to keeping your silver lining healthy is “keep the sticky stuff (oxidants) off your endothelium by eating more antioxidants.
As a show-me-the-science doctor wanting to learn more about what science says about the silver lining and the endothelium, I came across studies showing that astaxanthin is heart-smart in four ways:
- Maintains blood pressure levels already within the healthy range. *
- It helps keep the silver lining smooth.
- Supports cholesterol levels already in the normal range. *
- It helps keep sticky stuff (oxidants) off the silver lining.
What a heart-smart fit astaxanthin is for healthy aging!
Astaxanthin, a nutrition secret of the sea, is a concentrated extract from sea plants. It is the nutrient that makes salmon pink and is nature’s most powerful antioxidant. In nutrition terms, astaxanthin is a carotenoid – think carotenoids mean “color-full.” The deeper the color, the more healthy-aging nutrients they contain. Remember Dr. Mom saying, “Put more color on your plate”?
As an added healthy aging perk, science supports that astaxanthin smartens the immune system and, in laboratory studies, can slow the growth of tumor cells. Immune system dysfunction and cancer are high on the list of aging ailments. This is what I call “the astaxanthin effect” for healthy aging.
Healthy aging is when your body enjoys the balance of antioxidants and oxidants. Unhealthy aging is when the oxidants outweigh the antioxidants. The take-home message is: the older you get the more antioxidants you need to eat.
- POSITIVITY PROMOTES LONGEVITY
A science-based fact I learned as a young doctor and father is that optimists live longer and healthier than do pessimists. Based on that science, I added “trash toxic thoughts” to my healthy aging daily-do list.
Dr. Bill’s wish for our readers: age well!
READ MORE ABOUT IT!
To learn more about healthy aging read two books by Dr. William Sears: Natural Astaxanthin, Hawaii’s Supernutrient, Why So Many People Think of it as the Key to Healthy Aging; and The Healthy Brain Book, An All-Ages Guide to a Calmer, Happier, Sharper You.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
*Consult your personal health care provider before undertaking any new diet, exercise or health plan. Always seek medical advice if you believe you are sick or are experiencing a medical condition.
Dr. Bill Sears has been practicing medicine for over 40 years. He received his medical degree from St. Louis University and medical training at Harvard University, the University of Toronto and the National Institute of Health. Dr. Sears has been a clinical professor at the University of South Carolina, University of Southern California School of Medicine and University of Irvine School of Medicine.
Dr. Sears is the author of 45 books including nutrition and wellness titles, including The T5 Wellness Plan, Prime-Time Health, The Family Nutrition Book, The Omega-3 Effect, The Inflammation Solution, The Healthy Pregnancy Book, The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood, L.E.A.N. Kids, among others. He has spoken at numerous scientific conferences all over the world and has successfully motivated others to make positive health behavior changes through practical applications of simple and science-based strategies. Dr. Sears has been featured on 20/20, Dateline, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The View, PBS, CNN, Dr. Phil, The Doctors, and Oprah.