While a fountain of youth may be a myth, there are steps you can take to lessen aging’s toll on the body. Dr. Mike Roizen, author of the book Real Age and a five time guest on Oprah is a leading expert on anti-aging. He shared with us some of his secret weapons—including vitamin D, antioxidants and calcium.
What causes aging?
Dr. Mike Roizen: This question is key. There are two important concepts here: the concept of age-related disease and the concept of aging in general. While we do not know the molecular basis of aging, we are getting much closer and many believe it is related to mitochondrial DNA function--that is the DNA that isn’t in your nucleus, but the DNA that is in your mitochondria. This theory relates the chronic damage of mitochondrial DNA to aging. We believe that we are getting close to understanding what occurs in the mitochondria and that we will be able to extend the healthy life span from some place around 90 to 100 years to, perhaps, 120 years.
We now know how to extend the well life span in most Americans from 70 years to 95 years–if that person wants to achieve that. We know how you can control many of your genes. What now causes the body to age is age-related disease--disease of your arteries, disease related to the immune system aging and disease related to environmental causes and disabilities, such as a broken hip. Although your genes will take you where they want you to go if you don’t do anything about them, over 75% of age-related disease that is caused by genetic make-up you can control.
What can I do to prevent aging prematurely?
Dr. Roizen: By doing things which prevent the aging of your arteries, aging of your immune system, and ensuring your safety against environmental and caused disabilities. Taking these steps will prevent premature age-related disease.
We know many things each of us can do to prevent aging of the arteries: everything from taking an aspirin a day to taking the right vitamins to doing all three forms of exercise – aerobic activity, strength building activity, and stamina building activity. Make sure your blood pressure is 115/75 or so, avoid saturated and trans-fat, and avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. Aging of the immune system can also be delayed significantly by making sure you get the right amount of vitamin D through sun, diet, or supplements.
What role do supplements play?
Dr. Roizen: Supplements are absolutely important to delay aging. When I was first educated as a medical student we were told if you eat a balanced diet you get all the vitamin, minerals, and supplements you need. That isn’t so. A multivitamin is critical. I also believe the data for B-vitamin complex, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, selenium and vitamin E shows they are critical for good health and fighting aging. You should eat at least four fruits every day and at least two of your five vegetables should be leafy green ones eaten with a little healthy fat to ensure proper absorption and digestion.
What other factors are critical to fight aging?
Dr. Roizen: I think a positive attitude and the attitude that you want to delay age-related disease is the most important one. More than 70% of age-related disease may be as much as 85% of heart disease, stroke, memory loss, aging of your immune system, and accidents and disabilities that can be prevented by your doing the right thing. The most important thing I think is a positive attitude--learning how to deal with stress through group participation or your own reframing of situations. Also, managing blood pressure, committing to a great diet and doing increasing amounts of physical activity and taking the right vitamins are equally important in the fight against aging. The other thing, and I can’t emphasize it enough, is to start with only three things and build from there. No one does everything, the choices are yours--but don’t try to overwhelm yourself by making every choice today. Make the choices you can today, and focus on making more good ones tomorrow.