Aging gracefully. Lia Crowe photograph

Aging Gracefully

Be Proactive In Preparing Your Mind and Body

  • Jan. 1, 2021 7:00 a.m.

– Words by Kaisha Scofield Photography by Lia Crowe

We all know that one of the only certainties in life is that we will get older. Yet, in our society, aging is rarely discussed or prepared for. In fact, a common statement on aging is that it takes most by surprise. Many people feel young but look in the mirror only to see an old person reflected back at them. How did this happen? We are a society obsessed with youth and productivity, and slowing down seems like a luxury we cannot afford. So it is not surprising that the topic of aging is avoided, often until it is too late.

The truth is, aging is an inevitable part of living. By accepting the aging process, we are better able to be proactive in how to prepare our body and mind for this very natural transition. By identifying the areas that are most commonly frustrating for more senior populations, we can engage in targeted selfcare to make aging less overwhelming.

The most common complaints about aging are health issues associated with degeneration. Loss of muscle and bone health, poor joint health, digestive issues, nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalance, loss of energy and impaired cognitive abilities are all common health problems the more senior populations deal with. The good news is, with a few simple lifestyle and wellness practices, many of these health issues can be minimized or avoided all together.

Use it or lose it. Inactivity is the fastest way to age the body. Too many of us exist in a sedentary state; sitting at a desk for eight hours of the day, driving to and from work and then spending our evenings on the couch. Making solid lifestyle choices that include physical activity is the most effective way to keep the body and mind healthy, long-term. While this isn’t necessarily news to anyone, daily movement is becoming increasingly urgent as kids, teens and adults are spending more time on devices and games and in front of screens and, as a result, physical literacy is failing.

Once movement habits are improved, it is important to keep the body happy and well maintained. We all know the feeling of sore and creaking joints. That crackling sound is called crepitus, which seems like a very unsettling yet appropriate name. These creaks, while harmless, are generally a result of degeneration in the bones and connective tissue. This tissue is made up of collagen, the same collagen that your aesthetician tells you to take for glowing skin. Collagen is found in skin, ligaments, cartilage, tendons and bone. The bad news is that it deteriorates as we age. The great news is that it can be replenished. Collagen can be taken orally via supplements, pill or powder or by drinking bone broth. This is is a widely recommended support for joint health and for healthy skin, nails and hair.

Aging well depends largely on fuelling the body with a nutrient-dense diet. Vitamin and mineral depletion is a common issue for the aging body because as we get older, the body’s ability to absorb and distribute nutrients can lessen. We typically absorb vitamins and minerals from the food we eat, via the digestive process, but digestive health can decline as we age, through deterioration, poor dietary habits, tissue damage, etc. Natural hormone transitions also occur, which can cause the body to go through fluctuations in appetite and energy levels, making meal preparation frustrating and unenjoyable. It’s a difficult combination of issues that are often ignored.

The malabsorption of nutrients can occur for several reasons but the two main causes are a lack of dietary healthy fats and consistent dehydration. Our unfortunate vilification of fat has led to a largely depleted population. Many vitamins and minerals, essential to our body, are fat soluble, meaning that without a proper intake of healthy dietary fats, we are unable to absorb nutrients in our food. Not to mention the essential fatty acids themselves playing a crucial role in cellular, tissue and nerve health, to name a few.

Alongside healthy fat intake, hydration plays a vital role in absorbing the other vitamins and minerals that are water soluble. One of the easiest ways to increase your energy levels, mood, sleep and digestion is to improve your hydration. More than 50 per cent of the population is consistently dehydrated. Mild dehydration can cause fatigue, nausea, headaches, moodiness, cramping and constipation. Electrolytes in the form of sugar-free powders, tablets or even a small pinch of salt can vastly improve hydration levels in the body.

Fluctuating hormones are confusing at the best of times, but in an aging body, they can be especially disruptive. The hormone testosterone, for example, depletes as we age, an issue that can affect both men and women. Occasionally men can experience an age-related, steep decline in testosterone that can lead to many health issues. Often referred to as “male menopause,” symptoms are similar to those experienced in female menopause, such as hot flashes, breast tenderness, mood fluctuations and erectile disfunction. It is just as important for men to monitor hormone health as it is for women.

For women, the most obvious hormonal transition is the big M, menopause. There is no way to avoid menopause, but there are steps we can take to prepare for it. Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential. Equally important is fuelling the body with a diet that is focused on nutrient-dense whole foods, including healthy fats and proper hydration. Menopause is never fully predictable but well-balanced and supported hormones will ensure that the process runs as smoothly as possible, perhaps avoiding having to put ice down your shirt to cool a hot flash.

Reducing sugar intake is the most important dietary change needed to support hormonal balance and the whole body, at any age. Sugar depletes nutrients and disrupts hormone regulation. Insulin, testosterone and estrogen are affected when sugar intake is elevated. These imbalances can lead to insulin resistance which, among other things, can cause heart disease, some cancers and diabetes. Insulin resistance wreaks havoc on hormonal functions, disrupting digestion, weight, sleep, mood and stress tolerance.

There are many unknowns in the aging process and while feelings of uncertainty and apprehension are understandable, avoidance will create a missed opportunity. It is never too early or too late to start preparing your body for the next phase of life, and by incorporating a few preventative measures, you are more likely to create a solid foundation of health and wellness to launch from.

The more we learn about aging, the less it is about the end of life and more about the culmination of living. There may be a sense of dread as we creep toward each milestone, but what often follows is a growing sense of relief and freedom. Removing the fear and ignorance surrounding the aging process helps us understand how to support our body as we go through these changes. By paying attention to movement, nutrient density and hormone balance, we can not only ensure that we age on our own terms, but that we do so gracefully.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

FitnessHealthSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There are hiking trails aplenty around Quesnel, including at the West Fraser Timber Park right inside the municipality. (Submitted Photo)
Many things to do in the Cariboo

Jim Hilton’s column from Jan. 20

(Tracey Roberts Photo)
COVID-19 rule followers are not suckers

Cassidy Dankochik’s column from the Jan. 20 paper

A dust advisory is in place for Quesnel. Residents are asked to be careful near heavy traffic areas. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel under dust advisory

High levels of dust in the air can be dangerous for people with COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered B.C. teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Most Read