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HEALTH PLUS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT

Mark Twain once wrote, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” How do we not let a pandemic age us? How do we silence these menacing messages we feed ourselves as we age? Better yet, how does one reverse the signs of aging?

September is designated globally as Healthy Aging Month, in order to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older. The “Healthy Aging Campaign” was established 15 years ago, and since then, individuals help others become aware of their physical and mental health, diet, social skills and even financial situations; all factors that contribute to successful aging.

Aging vs Age

Firstly, we need to view ‘Aging’ and ‘Age’ as two entirely different concepts. You cannot control your age, but you can intentionally control how old you feel and the aging process. In addition, we also have the power to improve our cardiovascular age. Using the Framingham Heart Study and new scientific research, a “JBS3” calculator was specifically designed to determine ones ‘Heart Age’ by imputing certain demographic factors and lifestyle-related information.

Experts on aging agree, there are positive steps you can take to make your “golden years” healthier and more enjoyable and they might just add a decade or more to your quality of life. So, read on and act now and let’s phase out any destructive habits and resuscitate our age!

Cigarettes: Ages not only your heart, but your face

We may be very familiar with the deleterious effects of smoking on the lungs from both first and second hand effects. Additionally, smoking is also a major contributor to heart disease, via hardening of the arteries and increases blood pressure and heart rate. But did you also know that smoking can speed up the normal aging process of your skin, contributing to wrinkles?

Many of the 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke damage collagen and elastin, which are fibres that give your skin its strength and elasticity. In addition, repeated exposure to the heat from burning cigarettes and the facial expressions you make when smoking, such as pursing your lips and squinting your eyes to keep out smoke, all result in the skin sagging and wrinkling prematurely.

Phasing out this habit might seem complicated, but once there is the willingness to quit, the first step is achieved. The second step will be engaging in any Smoking Cessation Programme guided by a Health Care professional that utilises the proven effective intervention; “5 A’s”: Ask, Advise, Assess, Assist, and Arrange.

Don’t fail to invest: Build your ‘Bone Bank’

Osteoporosis is often a silent disease; you don’t know your bones are weak until you break one or have a Bone Scan. So how do we protect our bones from aging or at least slow down the process?

One’s peak bone mass is achieved before age 30, and after that the bone building balance naturally shifts and more bone is lost than gained.

Some people have a lot of savings in their “bone bank” because of genetics, diet and how much bone they built up as teenagers. Gradual bone loss begins in adulthood and becomes more serious after age 50.

Calcium isn’t produced by your body, the amount you have depends on the foods you eat such as yogurt, cheese, milk, spinach and greens. To absorb/use calcium, there must be Vitamin D: they work together to build bone. The body also produces vitamin D when exposed to the sun – 10 to 15 minutes of exposure three times per week will do. It’s advised that postmenopausal women over age 60 should take 1,200 mg of calcium and 400-800 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. If you do have osteoporosis, prescription treatments may be needed, seek that advice early on from your physician.

Here’s yet another reason to lose the cigarettes: multiple studies have shown that smoking can prevent the body from efficiently absorbing calcium, decreasing bone mass. So put it out, before it breaks you!

Stress is the new biological clock

Almost 90% of doctor visits are for stress related illnesses. Chronic Stress contributes to insomnia, to weight gain, to an increased risk for heart disease — not to mention impairing the multitude of systems within the body and yes, psychological stress results in premature aging!

Even the anticipation of stress may accelerate cellular aging. According to the HeartMath Institute, “A typical stress reaction, which most of us experience dozens of times each day, begins a cascade of 1,400 biochemical events in our body.” If these reactions are left unchecked, our cognitive function is impaired, we are robbed of our effectiveness and clarity, our energy is drained, and we age prematurely.

Balance both your body and mind

Keep your mind active by reading the newspaper (or read on your tablet) while you eat breakfast. Keeping your mind active and engaged may ward off brain chemistry changes that could lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Working on puzzles and reading books are also great for the mind and will help reduce stress that comes with aging problems. You can even take up a new creative hobby. For your body, perhaps practice yoga to improve your flexibility and balance. It is also great for the mind and will help reduce stress that comes with aging problems.

Don’t “Act Your Age” – Do what makes you feel young

Forget that “number”, it is only a number after all! Keep in mind, you don’t have the power to stop the clock, it will certainly keep ticking, but you can choose to age, WITHOUT aging.

During this pandemic, we may need to be more innovative in our solutions, be it socialising with family and friends on a digital platform, creating a home garden, taking an online exercise class, or exploring your hidden creative genes with painting or writing. Fill your life with positivity, surround yourself with the energy of optimistic people and allow yourself to be nurtured by nature. Within limits and maintaining the health recommendations of the pandemic, simply, do what makes you feel happy, it will keep you younger. There is a saying that goes “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that counts, it’s the LIFE IN YOUR YEARS!” So let’s do what we must, to make it count!