In the previous article, we listed 10 strategies to stay young: 1) Eat breakfast daily; 2) take tomato sauce and green tea; 3) eat more vegetables and fruits; 4) avoid excessive fat and alcohol intake; 5) be in love; 6) laugh a lot; 7) nurture a group of supportive friends; 8) have safe sex more often; 9) limit your risks and take safety precautions; and 10) sleep seven to eight hours a day.
Here are more ways to slow down the aging process:
Exercise moderately. Exercise has been proven to prevent diabetes, maintain body weight and lessen the pain of arthritis. Exercising a minimum of three times a week helps maintain muscle tone. If you plan to enroll in a gym, get a doctor’s clearance first. Try to avoid high impact exercises like basketball and badminton as you get older. Swimming, walking and tai-chi are excellent exercises.
Get a pet dog. According to Dr. David Demko, having a pet dog can add two years to your life. First, dogs can help owners exercise and lose weight. A study finds that people who own dogs increased their amount of physical activity by walking or playing with the dog. Second, pets may help their owners survive a heart attack. A study shows that pet owners who suffered a heart attack are four times more likely to be alive after one year, compared to non-pet owners. In another research published in The American Journal of Cardiology in 2003, Dr. Erika Friedmann reports that pet owners have healthier hearts. Friedmann notes that pet owners have better heart rate variability findings (a measure of heart attack risk). This could be because of the love and companionship given by the dog to its owner. Other studies show similar health benefits, with pet owners having fewer doctor visits, less hospitalizations, and fewer heart medications.
Brush your teeth and floss daily. Recent studies show that gum disease is associated with heart disease. Thus, having poor oral hygiene may reduce your lifespan by around three years. Some experts believe that inflammation of the gums somehow leads to inflammation of the heart arteries, too. Moreover, mouth wounds and infection can lead to a dangerous infection of the heart valves (medically called infective endocarditis). Hence, brush your teeth three times a day, and use a tongue cleaner to scrape bacteria off the tongue. And remember to floss at least once a day.
Get vaccinated. Do you need a flu, pneumonia or hepatitis shot? Ask your doctor to find out. You see, vaccines are the thinking man’s strategy to stay healthy. Consider serious diseases like hepatitis B, polio, rabies, tetanus and pneumonia. All these illnesses are preventable by a simple vaccination. It’s easy to say that vaccines are costly and doesn’t make you feel any better. But once you get hit by these illnesses, it could dramatically shorten your life. Don’t risk it.
Take only the necessary medicine. Don’t take too many or too few medicine. A senior American doctor wrote that patients should try to limit their intake of medicine to only four drugs. This is especially true for elderly patients. More than four drugs could mean more side effects and make the patient prone to falls and fractures. Conversely, taking fewer medicines means less side effects. Just imagine 10 drugs mixing, interacting or competing inside your body. On the other hand, not taking your maintenance medications can also lead to serious consequences. Consult your doctor and discuss the right amount of medicine you should be taking.
Be aware of your inherited risks. If you have a history of diabetes, heart disease or cancer in the family, it is best to get a checkup early focusing on these conditions. Then, take the necessary steps to prevent it. A first-degree relative who had a stroke or heart attack at a young age puts you at a higher risk for these diseases. So, your doctor can be more aggressive in checking and giving you the necessary medicine.
Drink eight to 12 glasses of water. Did you know that water can help prevent wrinkles and premature aging? Water helps keep your skin hydrated, soft and radiant. Just as a dehydrated person has deep-set eyes and wrinkled skin, so a fully hydrated person exhibits a normal and beautiful skin tone. Drinking water can also prevent kidney infections, kidney stones, migraine headache and constipation. One healthy habit is to drink a glass of water when you wake up. This is because you are naturally thirsty and dehydrated in the morning. Thus, drinking water in the morning helps flush out the toxins that have accumulated at night. So remember to drink up for beauty, health and long life.
Be weather-conscious. Our skin can be damaged by extreme weather. Strong wind, dust and pollution cause wrinkles to form on your face. If you’re using public transportation, go for air-conditioned buses. Avoid riding a motorcycle because the wind, heat and dust will damage your skin. Avoid the sun’s rays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you’re outdoors, use a sunscreen that has at least an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30. If you’re riding a car, have the windows tinted or place see-through window shades to minimize the sun’s rays. Young people might think they are immune to the deadly rays of the sun. However, the wrinkles and age spots only come out 15 to 20 years after sun exposure. Wear a hat, bring an umbrella, and just do anything to avoid the sun.
Avoid cigarette smoke. Doctors estimate that smoking reduces one’s life span by approximately six years, while passive smoking (inhaling other people’s cigarette smoke) still leads to a one- to two-year reduction in lifespan. This is because smokers actually hurt the non-smokers nearby with their toxic fumes. A Food and Nutrition Research Institute study shows that 47 percent of Filipino males and 16 percent of females are smokers, one of the highest worldwide. Both active and passive smoking puts you at higher risk for lung problems, heart disease, stroke and even wrinkles. The lesson: If you want to stay young and healthy, keep away from other people’s smoke.
Live within your means. Avoid debt. Financial stress can make one age quickly by two to 20 years. Keep your finances in order and save some money for emergency needs. Studies show that rich people usually (but not always) live longer, while people with lower incomes are prone to more diseases like tuberculosis, malnutrition and heart disease. Therefore, make a concrete plan for your future health needs and worry less today. Getting a health card or enrolling in PhilHealth is an excellent move.
Never retire. Medical wisdom says to “use it or lose it.” Thus, it pays to keep on studying, reading and interacting with other people. Doctors found out that intelligent people have more interconnections between the nerve cells of their brain. To stimulate the growth of these nerve cells, we should continually expose our minds to new inputs, new challenges, and new projects. Enroll in an adult-learning class. Solve crossword puzzles and play chess. Continue being busy doing what you love to do.
Aside from these tips, there are other more challenging ways to stay younger.
These strategies include 1) keeping your blood pressure at 120 over 80; 2) maintaining your ideal body weight; 3) reducing stress; 4) keeping your cholesterol level and blood sugar level within normal range; 5) avoiding air pollution and environmental toxins; and 6) treating chronic diseases with your doctor’s supervision.
Follow these tips and stay young longer. Good luck! — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 29, no. 7 (September 6-19, 2016): 11.