Live your best life now, no matter what your age. Here, looking and feeling your best, from A to Z!
A | Aspirin
Aspirin, or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), inhibits blood-platelet clumping, a major factor in both clotting and inflammation. “People who have had heart attacks or are at risk for them are advised to take a small dose of Aspirin every day — 81 milligrams — to prevent heart attacks and strokes,” says Dr. Akbar Panju, professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton. Because there is a risk of a gastric bleed or bleeding in the brain, the Canadian Medical Association advises consulting a physician before starting Aspirin therapy for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. This is particularly important if you are allergic to Aspirin, or have bleeding disorders or suffer from ulcers.
B | Berries & other antioxidants
Berries — especially blueberries — are loaded with powerful disease-fighting antioxidants. “Many believe free radicals and oxidative damage (what happens to our cells when free radicals attack) are responsible for aging,” says John Berardi, author of the cookbook Gourmet Nutrition (www.gourmetnutrition.com). “This means a high intake of antioxidants from foods like rich-coloured fruits and veggies, green tea, high-percentage cocoa chocolate and others can be critical to our anti-aging efforts.” You should eat five servings of antioxidant-rich foods every day.
C | Connecting
“Connecting with old friends and close family members, enjoying the benefits of shared memories and common experiences can make you feel more grounded in your history,” says Lindsay Sukornyk, executive leadership coach and founder of North Star Coaches in Toronto. “Developing new friendships is a great way to stretch yourself in new directions. You will benefit by surrounding yourself with people who love and care about you.”
D | The Sunshine Vitamin
No wonder Scandinavians love herring. The fatty fish, like salmon mackerel and sardines, is one of the few good dietary sources of vitamin D, other than fortified foods like milk, margarine and cereal. In winter, northerners don’t get enough sunshine on their skin to produce adequate vitamin D (10 to 15 minutes are needed daily). People with dark, melanin-rich skin are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. The vitamin increases calcium absorption, which is needed for healthy bone tissue. Scientists now believe vitamin D also plays a role in reducing some cancers, including colorectal, breast and prostate. The Canadian Cancer Society suggests older people supplement diets with 1,000 IUs daily.
E | Eye care
“People over the age of 40 begin to develop presbyopia, a condition where the [eye’s lens] loses part of its elasticity, resulting in a loss of reading vision,” says Dr. Sheldon Herzig, medical director of the Herzig Eye Institute in Toronto. “There are a number of innovative treatment options that can provide permanent vision correction,” he says, ranging from laser or radio frequency energy used to reshape the cornea, to lens implants. Eyeglasses are the reliable standby, and bifocals or multifocals are getting chicer by the minute. It’s crucial to have regular eye examinations, which can detect sight-destroying diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.
F | Fibre
Fibre is important for keeping cholesterol levels in check and keeping you regular. Aim for up to 40 to 50 grams of mixed fibre per day. In order of importance, “your main fibre sources should be vegetables, beans, nuts, fruit and grains, like oatmeal,” Berardi suggests. “If you eat one ounce of mixed nuts, one apple, two cups of kidney beans and two cups of mixed vegetables each day, you’ll be getting about 40 grams of fibre.”
G | Green living
Adopting a green lifestyle does wonders. Eat green vegetables rich in antioxidants, enzymes and phytonutrients for good health. At home, replace cleansers containing harmful chemicals with non-toxic green alternatives. Decorate with plants like spider plants, peace lilies and philodendrons that clean the air by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen.
H | Hearing
The Canadian Hearing Society notes 46 per cent of people aged 45 to 87 have hearing loss. John McIntyre, an audiologist at West Hill Hearing Centre in Toronto, suggests having a hearing test around age 55, or if you or family members notice you’re missing conversation. These days, there are elegant solutions for mild to moderate hearing loss — digital hearing devices that slip behind the ear without plugging the ear canal with a piece of plastic. Some come in colours like high-tech silver or racing green. And people are feeling more comfortable about hearing aids, McIntyre says. “I’m definitely seeing more people at a younger age.”
I | Imagination
Research shows that people who continually challenge themselves intellectually and creatively not only maintain and enhance their cognitive abilities, but they can fight off early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Sukornyk suggests you get out those Sudoku and crossword puzzles. Even better, “the next time you are around a child, take some time to get into their world and rediscover how innately creative we humans are.” Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “Never be bored and you will never be boring.”
J | Just Do It
There is no time like the present to create the life you want. When it comes to creating a vital, full life, a certain amount of dreaming and planning is necessary, but the real results come from taking action. “People often know what they want but get stuck on the how,” Sukornyk says. “This can be paralyzing, and the best way to overcome it is to just do something. Make a phone call, do some research, tell people what you want to do or sign up for something new. Once you have taken one step, you can re-evaluate and figure out what the next step is.”
K | Kick it up a notch
“Walking and jogging, while good for your heart, do next to nothing when it comes to keeping body fat down and preserving muscle as we age,” Berardi says. “The best workout plan includes a mixture of resistance exercise like weight training and conditioning routines.” In a study at McMaster University, resistance training reversed the effects of aging in muscles of older adults — even bringing their genetic “fingerprints” dramatically closer to those of younger study participants.
L | Laughter
Laughter has been shown to reduce depression, stress and pain, while boosting vitality, creativity and a sense of well-being. Make it your new project to get out there and “find the funny.” According to the Canadian Laughter Yoga website, laughteryoga.ca, “the average child laughs between 300 and 400 times per day, [but] by the time we reach adulthood, we are reduced to laughing, on average, only 12 times a day!” And that’s just sad.
M | Metabolism
After the age of 40, your metabolism slows down, causing the body to lose muscle mass and gain fat. To boost your metabolism, you’ll need to exercise almost every day (some days with high intensity and others with low intensity), increase your protein intake and supplement your diet with healthy omega-3 fats. Berardi says, “If you’re willing to change a few habits, you can even turn back the clock by building a leaner, healthier body.”
N | Nutrition & nutrients
“Most people in their 40s need to be conscious of getting enough lean protein, veggies, and healthy fats, while controlling their carbohydrate intake,” Berardi says. “The pot-belly usually comes from eating too many calorie-dense but nutrient-devoid foods, such as high-fat protein sources, processed foods full of trans fats, processed carbohydrates and drinks sweetened with sugar and/or high-fructose corn syrup.”
O | Omega-3 fatty acids
According to medical researchers, the benefits of omega-3 fats can’t be overstated. These healthy fats can reduce inflammation in the body, leading to a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and more. To ensure you’re getting enough omega-3, strive to eat fish (especially fatty fish) two or three times a week, along with other sources, such as tofu or flaxseed and walnut oils. People who aren’t fond of fish might want to talk to their doctor about taking a supplement.
P | Passion
Oscar Wilde, no stranger to passion, had great insight when he said, “An inordinate passion for pleasure is the secret of remaining young.” Sukornyk says that as we get older, “it is easy to forget about our passions as we focus on building a career, raising children and saving for retirement. All of these things can be done much more effectively if we also tap into the limitless source of energy found in cultivating our interests. Whether you are passionate about reading, cooking, music, gardening or chocolate, be sure to put the pursuit of passion right up there on your to-do list.”
Q | Quit smoking
Smoking is a major risk factor for such diseases as stroke, heart attack, lung cancer, bronchitis and chronic lung disease, Panju says. But research shows the risk of heart disease and stroke drops within a few years of quitting. At any age, butting out cuts the chance of dying from cancer related to smoking. Declare your car and home
R | Red wine
Red wine, in moderation, is definitely considered a way to promote health. Rich in resveratrol — a non-flavonoid antioxidant (an anti-aging compound) and beneficial for those with high cholesterol, one
S | Sleep
Without adequate sleep, we begin to dramatically age faster. It is during sleep that growth hormones, which are important for maintaining vitality and youthful vigour, are produced. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends, and establish a soothing bedtime ritual that helps you fall asleep fast. The good news is that recent research in Britain indicates that older people may actually need less sleep than younger people — an average of only 7.5 hours versus nine hours a night.
T | Tests and checkups
See a health-care professional regularly to have blood-pressure checks and blood tests to measure cholesterol and sugar levels, Panju advises. “These results can help you make crucial decisions to prevent certain diseases like heart attacks, stroke and diabetes before they happen. Once you have the results, act on them.”
U | UVA-UVB
“UVA and UVB rays penetrate the skin, producing effects ranging from wrinkles and skin burns to skin cancer melanoma,” says dermatologist Dr. Paul Cohen. “Year-round protection through the use a of a broad spectrum SPF 15 moisturizer is important to maintain healthy skin. You can obtain all the vitamin D you need while wearing sun protection, as it takes minimal sun exposure of five minutes at midday to synthesize enough vitamin D. You can also get it from dietary sources or supplements. Indoor lighting causes minimal UV damage,” Cohen says. “It’s the
UVA exposure through glass windows, like those in your car, that sneaks up on you.”
V | Vitamins
With the abundance of processed food in the North American diet, many of us have become deficient in key vitamins and minerals. It’s for this reason that several Canadian and U.S. medical organizations have recommended a daily multivitamin, multimineral supplement. “You can think of this as an insurance policy against vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” Berardi says. If your diet is already excellent, you might not need the supplement. If it’s suspect, add a good vitamin to your plan.
W | Water
“By drinking enough water, you can prevent dehydration, which is actually more common than most people think,” Berardi says. It can cause headaches, fatigue, brain fog and an inability to clear toxins from your body. “I suggest drinking at least two litres of water daily — more if you’re active or it’s hot weather.”
X | X Factor
In Napoleon Hill’s famous 1937 book Think and Grow Rich, he says, “Our sexual energy and emotions … are the most powerful of human drives, inspiring us to develop a keenness of imagination, courage, willpower, persistence and creative ability unknown to us at other times … which may be used as powerful creative forces in literature, art or in any other profession or calling.” Sukornyk suggests dusting off that old copy of the Kama Sutra, or getting on the Internet for some inspiration. “Celebrating your sexuality is one sure way to tap into creativity — on your own and with another.”
Y | Yoga & meditation
Exercises in yoga, both physical and mental, are designed to unite the body with the mind, explains Jennifer Findlay, director of yoga at 889 Yonge Yoga & Holistic Lifestyle Spa in Toronto. Breathing in a slow, deep, rhythmic manner brings a sense of calmness and focus, while physical exercises balance, stretch, tone and strengthen the body. The result: a healthy body and a peaceful mind.
Z | Zinc
Zinc is a mineral that’s essential in our diets. Because many North Americans (especially vegetarians) are thought to be deficient in this micronutrient, it’s important to eat zinc-rich foods like shellfish, red meat, chicken, milk and dairy foods, and, if needed, take a supplement. Without enough zinc in the diet, eyesight, sexual function and soft-tissue health can suffer. But be aware that more study is needed, since too much zinc can affect immune functioning, as well as lower levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol.