by Monica Reinagel, M.S., L.D./N.
The other day I was listening to the Money Girl, another great show on the Quick and Dirty Network. On her show, guest host Andrew Horowitz (The Winning Investor) was talking about buying insurance to ensure that you’ll have enough money to pay for any long-term health care you might need when you get older. This type of care—which can be super expensive—is usually not covered by regular health insurance.
Frankly, this kind of thing keeps me up at night. I’m relatively young and healthy and I’m saving for the future. But we’re all living a lot longer than we used to, and, while that’s generally a good thing, it means that we are much more likely to be running out of savings—just as our health starts to fall apart in very expensive ways.
A Different Kind of Long-Term Health Insurance
Andrew had some great tips on how to plan for your future. But as I was listening, it got me thinking about a very different type of long-term health insurance. I’m talking about stuff we can all do now to increase our chances of being healthy when we’re older. That’s a type of health insurance we can ALL afford.
Of course, we all know that there are no guarantees. You can do all the right things and still have things go wrong with your health. But instead of feeling anxious about things I can’t control, it keeps me sane to focus on the things I can.
Anti-Aging Medicine is Expensive
Several years ago, I co-wrote a book about anti-aging medicine. My co-author was a physician who practices anti-aging medicine in northern California and the book basically outlines the protocols he uses in his practice. We wrote a lot about what causes the signs and diseases of aging at the cellular and molecular level. And then, we spelled out everything you can do to forestall aging—everything from diet and exercise to vitamin supplements, drugs, and hormone injections.
Now, the idea of looking and feeling like a thirty-year-old when I’m sixty is as appealing to me as it is to anyone. But even as I was writing this book, it was clear to me that I did not have the discipline—or the discretionary funds—to mount this sort of massive frontal assault on the aging process. Instead, I took everything I learned writing that book and formulated a guerrilla campaign against aging—underfunded and somewhat haphazard but highly effective.
My Guerrilla Campaign Against Aging
If you want to live a long and healthy life, but don’t want to make a full-time job out of it, here are the five things that I think will get you furthest--no pills, shots, or trust funds required.
1. Maintain a healthy weight
Last year I went to a medical conference at Tufts University entitled “Living Well to 100.” Toward the end of the conference, a large panel of powerhouse researchers was asked to agree on a short list of the most important factors in healthy longevity. The number one recommendation was to maintain a healthy weight.
But fad diets aren’t the answer. You may lose a bunch of weight at first but chances are that weight will come right back on unless you make lasting changes in your eating habits. For tips and tools that can help you maintain a healthy weight, check out the Dieting and Weight Loss Resource Center at nutritiondata.com or the American Cancer Society’s Great American Eat Right Challenge.
2. Limit your sugar intake
One thing I learned from writing the Life Extension Revolution is that, in terms of the aging process, eating a lot of sugar is like pouring gasoline on a bonfire.
In terms of the aging process, eating a lot of sugar is like pouring gasoline on a bonfire.
This came as a real blow to me because I have quite a sweet tooth. Where some people crave salty snacks or fried foods, I crave those little red Swedish fish. I mean, I’ve really got a problem with them.
I used to think that as long as I kept my weight under control and was getting all the required nutrients, I could enjoy whatever sweets I wanted to. I’ve reformed my ways. I can’t say I’ve given up Swedish fish completely. But I’ve cut way back on them and other sweet treats. If I can do it, you can, too.
3. Eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day
Vegetables are the closest thing we have to a magic bullet against aging and disease. And the dietary habit that most people slack on is eating enough vegetables. The USDA recommends that we eat at least five servings of vegetables a day and up to four servings of fruit.
That might sound completely undoable but keep in mind that a serving of vegetables is only a half cup, or about the size of a small ice cream scoop. Still, I find that if I don’t include a serving or two of fruit or vegetables at every meal and snack, I end up falling short for the day. So, make it a point to include some sort of fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack. The wider the variety, the better.
4. Exercise regularly
It really will keep you looking younger and feeling healthier. And its easier then people think. You don’t have to join a gym or buy equipment. Just lace up your shoes and take a brisk 30-minute walk every day. You can even break it up into two or three shorter walks if it’s easier to fit it in.
To rejuvenate your body and your attitude at the same time, make play a part of your life again. Play tennis with your brother, toss a Frisbee to the dog, or kick the soccer ball around with the kids. Put up the badminton net and bat the birdie around while the charcoal gets going. Just do it. For more ideas on how to get more physical activity into your life, check out Americaonthemove.org.
5. Get enough sleep
Whenever I see people wearing those t-shirts that say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I think to myself that they will probably get the chance sooner than they think! Skimping on sleep speeds the aging process and promotes disease by increasing the level of cortisol and other stress hormones in your body.
Researchers at the University of Chicago did studies where they kept some college kids up at night. (I find this amusing because in my neighborhood, which is close to two big universities, it’s the other way around: The college kids keep the professors up at night!) In any case, after a few days, the hormone levels of these students were indistinguishable from the hormone levels of sixty year olds.
If you are getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep a night, you are probably aging faster than you need to. The good news is that you can undo the damage by reforming your sleep habits. I’ll include a link to resources on improving sleep quality on the show notes.
To sum up: Here are my top five anti-aging and health-enhancing recommendations:
Maintain a healthy weight
Limit your sugar intake
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Get enough sleep
This is Monica Reinagel, the Nutrition Diva, with your quick and dirty tips for eating well and feeling fabulous.
These tips are provided for your information and entertainment and are not intended as medical advice. Because everyone is different, please work with your health professional to determine what’s right for you.
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