Know what ages you, and become
a well wrinkly by Elizabeth Holmes
remember about ten years ago reading with a bunch of girlfriends
a Cosmo article that listed all the things a woman should do
before she is thirty. We had ten glorious years ahead in which
to tick off what this particular journalist felt would prove we
had become confident, self-actualised women of the twenty-first
century. Ten years later and no longer intimidated by Cosmo what
lands in my inbox but an email from lastminute.com telling me
what I must do before I'm 40. Why the obsession with imposing
limits on life experiences? I have enough deadlines without
feeling pressured into trekking through the Costa Rican
Rainforest, or feeling that everyone else is doing… so why
These media messages driven by
youth culture focus on the worst and not the best of the ageing
process. By winding up the clock so that its incessant ticking
is loud and clear our attention is drawn to time lost to the
past rather than what is available to us in the future.
Perhaps that's why the young:
read under 30, OK, 40, suffer from what nutritionist Gareth Zeal
calls the three 'I's, in other words, we think we are immune to
everything, immortal and impregnable. The irony is, though, that
we are not, and talk to most people about ageing and you're
unlikely to find much understanding of the wisdom in keeping one
eye on health needs of the future in the present moment.
There is no doubt that the events
we experience before the age of sixty-five have direct
consequences on old age. Much of the cellular damage that we do
to ourselves is the result of modern living and lifestyle
choices. Genes, apparently, are only 25-33 per cent responsible
for our successful ageing.
The oxygen we breathe can give
rise to free radicals that can damage DNA, which in turn
contributes to cancers and muscle weakness, and the quality of
the food we eat is responsible for healthy cell repair and
For Gareth Zeal, the key message
to everyone is to eat more fruits and vegetables if the ill
effects of the ageing process are to be minimised. He said,
"We're so stuck on processed food and our perception of
what's healthy and what's not is out of balance. A good quality
multi-vitamin with anti-oxidants will protect against the worst,
but is no miracle cure.
But they can reduce the risk of
age-related diseases and slow down the speed at which we go
rancid. If we can cut down on refined sugars - sugar ages the
skin - and eat about five or six smallish meals a day and a
'meal' might be a couple of pieces of fruit, we're really giving
our bodies a chance."
As well as eating a diet rich in
fresh fruits and vegetables, we should target starches and
fibres such as potatoes, rice, wholemeal bread and pasta as
these give us energy and valuable B vitamins to help guard
against heart disease. Fish, nuts and pulses are some of the
protein sources that aid growth and repair, and plenty of water
and fruit juices balance fluid levels.
Glucosamine Sulphate helps joint
mobility and decreases inflammation and Carotenoids are
essential for skin health. Carrying excess weight in real, not
Hollywood terms increases the risk of heart disease, arthritis,
diabetes and stroke, and the panacea? Regular exercise.
For me, though, if I have a fear
about the future it's that my mental capacity will deteriorate.
Already a few late nights in a row make day-to-day functioning a
challenge and I have even been known to write in my diary
"look at list" as a reminder.
But at least we now have the
benefit of Brain Gym which is a series of simple movements such
as drawing the figure eight with both hands in the air behind
your back, designed to keep cognitive functions agile and
illustrate the integral part the body plays in thinking and
learning. In short, specific moves are used to teach the brain
to fully activate all of its functions. It's hilarious and
humbling if my experience is anything to go by.
The general trend right now is
towards longer life expectancy and an age-shift in the UK with
dramatic increases in the numbers of over-60s and falling
numbers of 20-39 year olds. But the two factors most likely to
reverse that trend are increases in the numbers of smokers and a
downturn in the economy. In fact, smoking remains the biggest
single health risk we are likely to take. If recent events are
anything to go by, we're already 50 per cent of the way there.
I'd like to say I'm blasé about
ageing and that I celebrate finding grey hairs and that
wrinkle-free Hollywood actresses almost twice my age are
inspiring icons but I don't and they're not. The plan is to die
young at an incredibly old age and signs of degeneration at this
stage, I'm ashamed to admit, are a little alarming.
copyright New Insight 2001