We’re all getting older, there’s no denying it.


And personally, I don’t think we should try to deny the aging process. But with aging comes the decline of health, and the increased risk for certain conditions. Choosing to take steps to slow down aging is not always about vanity – it can also be about improving your quality of life. The faster you age, the more your health will deteriorate, with conditions such as type 2 diabetes, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease becoming more likely.

Ageing well not only means you will live longer, more comfortably and independently, but it will also reduce the burden on those that would be required to act as carers, and to reduce the economic burden on yourself and society that is associated with the diseases of ageing.

You can slow down ageing

It is possible to age with health and strength, but some need to work harder for this than others. Your genes only affect how quickly you will age by about 20% – your environment determines the rest.

There are many factors which we know contribute towards the speed of aging, such as exercise, stress levels, rest, diet and nutrition, social connections and spirituality, and mental stimulation. Many of these things can be worked on, such as by building an exercise habit, eating well, getting enough rest, letting go of stress and making efforts to meaningfully connect with people around you.

They all need to happen together i.e. if you get enough sleep but don’t exercise or eat well, it’s not going to work the same way, similarly if you eat well but aren’t able to destress at the end of the day, you won’t receive the same benefits.

In that same vein, if you take anti-ageing supplements but don’t look after your health in these key areas it will you do little good. All together however, it could reward you with good health that lasts a long time.

Drivers of Ageing

Before I delve into which supplements can help you to age gracefully, I want to give you a little background of what is going on inside our bodies when we age. While ageing is a complex process the main problems that occur are:

Inflammation

If inflammation is well controlled, it is a vital and lifesaving function of the body. But it seems that as we age, inflammation increases and begins to get out of control. It’s still unknown whether chronic inflammation causes, or is caused by, ageing. Controlling inflammation with diet, lifestyle and supplements can help to reduce the development of age related conditions.

The link between inflammation and ageing is so strong that it even has its own name – ‘inflamm-ageing’. This process links into all the other problems associated with ageing such as mitochrondial damage, hormonal disruption, lowered immunity and DNA shortening.

Mitochondrial damage

Inside of our cells is a little factory called a mitochrondria – this works to produce the energy we require to live. As we age the mitochrondria can be damaged, in particular by inflammation and chemical stress. Normally when the mitochondria is damaged it is removed and replaced with a new one, but this process does not happen as well when we age. If this mess is not taken care of properly by our body we are left with faulty mitochondria and inadequate energy production, which makes us more vulnerable to conditions such as fatigue, type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Frailty

The old adage ‘Use it or Lose it’ is true regarding your muscles and ageing. After your 30s your muscles begin to deteriorate and if you don’t fight this process with exercise and good diet, you will lose strength, flexibility and increase your risk of injuries.

Staying fit and strong can be very protective against the negative effects of ageing. Mitochrondria are concentrated in muscles, and the more healthy mitochrondria you have, the better you will be.

Insulin receptors also exist in your muscles, and having plenty of these can help to protect against Insulin resistance and the development of diabetes.

Keeping strong can reduce the chance of a fall leading to broken bones in later years.

Supplements to age well

The anti-aging industry has grown considerably over the last decade, and with it, the research on supplements which can assist in the process of aging. The risk of classing something as an ‘anti-aging’ supplement is that it can take a simplistic view on this process. To truly combat aging, there is much more that you should and should not do than just taking a supplement. You need to address the points I mentioned above, and for some this needs an individualised approach. There are some aspects of health that need addressing specifically if we want to slow down aging, and they are inflammation, digestive health and cell energy health (the mitochondria). Below I will cover some of the main supplements which you may consider taking to help you age well.

Omega 3

What is it?

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of fat that we require for good health. It’s found in foods such as fish, walnuts and chia seeds. It needs to be consumed in a certain ratio to Omega-6 fatty acids (which are often found in vegetable based fats) to keep out body healthy – most people don’t have enough Omega-3 in their diet.

In supplement form it can be found in fish oil, krill oil and sometimes from algae. Flaxseed oil is also an option but this is harder for the body to utilise.

Recent research has found that it can take 3 years for a person to balance their levels of Omega-3 after taking supplements, and this can only be achieved if taking an appropriate dose.

Be careful with the quality of fish oil you choose, as these supplements can be susceptible to oxidation.

How does it assist ageing?

  • We require Omega-3 fatty acids to keep our mitochondria healthy, as it is used to repair the mitochondrial membrane (coating).
  • Omega-3s are also important for keeping inflammation in control, and are often prescribed as a treatment for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and even depression.
  • They are also important for heart health and brain health

Resveratrol

What is it?

Resveratrol is a naturally occurring chemical found in certain plants (such as grapes) that has anti-inflammatory effects. While we can get some resveratrol from drinking red wine, if we are to obtain the doses looked at in studies, supplements are necessary.

How does it assist ageing?

  • Resveratrol acts on the chemical pathway SIRT1 which reduces inflammation. This inflammation pathway is involved in not only ageing but also in many conditions associated with ageing such as breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • It helps the immune system to remove some cancer cells.
  • It helps to regulate oxidate damage.
  • It can assist in the management of healthy cholesterol levels.
  • It can improve insulin resistance and glucose levels in people with metabolic syndrome.

Probiotics

What is it?

The bacteria that exist is your digestive system have a vital role to play in keeping you healthy. Probiotics are a supplement containing beneficial bacteria which assist the health of the digestive system. There are many different types of probiotics available, so to choose the best one for you look for a supplement with a strain specific to your health concerns (you can tell the strain by the code at the end of the name of the probiotic).

How does it assist ageing?

  • The state of your digestive system can affect ageing and chronic disease risk by influencing absorption of nutrients, inflammation and immune health.
  • Probiotics can help to keep the level of bad bacteria at a minimum, and certain types of probiotics can have specific effects, for instance Lactobacillus plantarum 299V helps to reduce inflammation, and Bifidobacterim lactis HN019 can help to enhance the immune system.

CoQ10

What is it?

Coenzyme Q10 is a substance similar to a vitamin that is require by our body for manufacture of ATP – energy. It is often referred to as CoQ10, or you may see it called Ubiquinone. Most research on CoQ10 as an anti-ageing compound looks at the reduced form, Ubiquinol, which is thought to be more suitable for people aged over 40.

How does it assist ageing?

  • CoQ10 is involved in the production of energy in the mitochondria.
  • CoQ10 is important for heart function, and levels of CoQ10 in the heart decline with ageing.
  • People who are taking statin medications are at risk of CoQ10 deficiency.
  • People with cancer are often found to have low levels of CoQ10.

Vitamin D

What is it?

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, we make Vitamin D in our skin after exposure to the sun. It is also found in some foods such as oily fish and eggs.

Despite being so readily available from the sun, many people are deficient in Vitamin D and this becomes more common with age, so supplementing may be necessary.

How does it assist ageing?

  • Many people would know of the importance of Vitamin D for healthy bones, however it is also vital for healthy muscles, mood and immunity.
  • Low vitamin D levels are associated with depression, inflammation, immune problems and certain cancers such as breast cancer and skin cancer.
  • Vitamin D is also important for heart health.

 

For an individualised prescription, talk to your healthcare practitioner.

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