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

CP’s proposed logistics park would be in the fields just across the tracks from its intermodal yard in Pitt Meadows. (Google)
Pitt Meadows wants higher tax rate for CP Rail

Councillors decry a rate that equates railway to a dentist’s office

Almost every health region in the province saw an increase in overdose calls last year. (Blackpress files)
Overdose call numbers reach five-year-high in Maple Ridge.

BC Emergency Health Services responded to almost 500 local calls in 2020

Cam Blake released his first album called <em>Bad Vacation</em> on Jan. 15. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge musician releases first album

Cam Blake’s first album, Bad Vacation, released Jan. 15

Members of the Maple Ridge Disc Golf Club team up to update the “frolf” course at Thornhill Park. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge Disc Golf Club helps upgrade local course

Thornhill Park frisbee links usage has skyrocketed since pandemic

Cody Malawsky at the box lacrosse provincials in 2019. As the highly skilled player adds size he will dominate junior, predicts longtime coach Daren Fridge. (Tim McCormick/Special to The News)
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Francina Mettes and Thomas Schouten with the 200-page document they submitted in December of 2018. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Dutch man, 94, facing unwanted trip home can stay in B.C. with wife of 45 years

Immigration offices cuts red tape so couple of 45 years can stay together in Victoria area

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding Covid-19 for the province of British Columbia in Victoria, B.C, Monday, December 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Premier, health officials to discuss next steps in COVID immunization plan

Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Most Read