The Science of Living Longer
Apr 14, 2011 06:31PM
● By Deepti Sadhwani, M.D.
The old question of Nature versus Nurture comes to mind when we try to defy the odds of old age and commit to live longer and healthier. In the most recent census, health officials predicted that by 2050, more than 800,000 Americans would be reaching their second century of life. The question however is: what is it that helps these people live to be over 100 years old?
Surprisingly researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology found evidence using yeast specimen that only 30% of aging for most people is genetically based. This means that a 70% variable is dependent upon our environment and lifestyle choices. Recent studies have shown for example, that when seniors exercise with resistance weights, they can improve their scores on cognitive tests of memory and decision making.
Our diet also falls into that 70% variable as something we can ultimately control and use to our advantage to prolong life. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are already known to help protect from age-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. This supplement now has been proven through research studies to slow down cellular aging. For quite some time medical schools have taught that telomeres are protective caps for chromosomes that are ultimately shortened with time thus causing the cell to age. In earlier studies, there was also a correlation made between telomere shortening and death risk in humans. In a recent study where doctors followed 608 San Francisco patients with stable cornary-artery disease, found that those with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids had less telomere shortening over the next five years. Alas, making a point that these fatty acids may actually help a person live longer by influencing the body on a genetic level.
Intake of a high dose of fish oil can be very tricky though, as many unregulated companied have fish oil over the counter with no check on Polychloinated biphenyl (PCB) and mercury levels. Recently the lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges six U.S. manufacturers and two drug store companies failed to warn the public that products made from fish and shark contained PCB compounds. This can potentially cause cancer. A process of micro distillation and ultra purification can remove these toxic products . Hence, where the consumer buys fish oil is very important.
All this talk about fish oil and omega fatty acids, however, can't supersede the importance of a good diet. Today more than ever, obesity is growing at an alarming rate. According to the CDC, over 64% of people are overweight or obese and 26% are obese, which is among the highest of all the countries. Obese people tend to die younger in part because of the systemic inflammation that occurs as a result of their weight. Elevated blood sugar, poor LDL cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are just some of the outcomes of obesity. These measures actually go on to cause further damage to the lining of our arteries which can lead to coronary artery disease. Diabetes is usually a consequence as well due to the high sugar levels. The excess fat also causes a metabolic disaster leading to cancer and joint pain which further more limits physical activity.
Leading a well balanced diet with additional supplements help individuals to not only keep their weight under control but also get the proper nutrition that helps the body prosper. Eating whole grains, low glycemic index vegetables and fruits and lean protein at each meal helps to regulate the internal hormones like insulin and glucagon. The key is to eat both protein and "good" carbohydrates together. When your body gets used to insulin reaching a high level repeatedly, it learns to ignore it all together which is the ultimate demise known as diabetes. This is also called Insulin Resistance or "starvation in the midst of plenty". Finally, substituting healthy alternatives to sugary food is an art that can be easily learned. Making healthy food choices away from home is now easier with a wide variety of ready to cook foods available by the various Bariatric Companies.
Deepti Sadhwani, MD is located at Quality Health Care in Sebastian. She will be presenting "Inflammation the Silent Killer – Heal it with Nutrition" at the Healthy Living Expo on Saturday, May 1. See expo supplement starting on page 51 for details. For more information on call Dr. Sadhwani at 772-581-2373.