OPINION: ORAL HEALTH, EXERCISE AND SLEEP ARE IMPORTANT PARTS OF AGING

IIs it possible to age without aging? Many journal articles have been written about a recently published book by aging researcher Andrew Steele. In it, Steele provides an overview of current research and successes in the field of aging and presents some easy lifestyle solutions we can all do to help slow the aging process.

First, let’s separate aging from age. Age is a number, and they never decrease. Aging, on the other hand, is a decline in our abilities, mental, physical, both on the macro scale as in muscle strength and on the micro scale as in immune function. The trick is to slow the decline as much as possible. None of us will get out of here alive, but quality of life is key to enjoying the time we have.

Scientists are working very hard to slow and reverse aging. It’s not far-fetched to think that some of our children might be healthy after 100; I personally believe that the first 150-year-old man has already been born. But what can we do to maximize our abilities as we age? Ironically, we have already learned these things.

Oral health is an important key. Poor oral hygiene leads to an elevated low-level inflammatory response. It has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, dementia and decreased immune response. Go back to your dentist, brush your teeth twice a day and floss. It really is that simple.

Exercise is another major component. At the chromosomal level, exercise has been shown to correlate with longer telomere lengths. Telomeres are very important parts of our DNA; they allow it to replicate. When the chromosomes lack telomeres, the DNA (which ultimately means the cell) stops replicating and dies. Exercise also increases collagen levels (proteins between body organs that hold it together and retain water); as it decreases, we wrinkle and become more susceptible to injury. Another benefit of exercise is that it increases mitochondria in muscle cells. Mitochondria give muscles their energy.

Finally, sleep is very important. Like the three bears, there is a sweet spot, and it’s no less than 7 hours and no more than 11 hours a day. Sleep allows the brain to detoxify and this helps prevent forms of dementia.

The good news is this: just do what your mother has told you all your life, brush your teeth, go out and play, and get to bed on time. The ironic thing about slowing down the aging process is that it helps you age!

Have a great week and be healthier today than yesterday!


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