Longevity: Healthy Aging

Is “getting old” just a process of aging? So often I hear the words “don’t get old” and I often think about what the alternative to not getting old is. I certainly would prefer to not “die young”, which is often the alternative to “not getting old”. I’ve come to realize that even though we are unable to slow down our chronological age, in order to continue to have life we must get older chronologically, there are things to slow down and lower our biological age. In other words, our chronological age and our biological age are two different things and they certainly do not have to equal one another. This week we are going to discuss some of the ways that you can influence your biological age and hopefully slow down “getting old”. After all, shouldn’t the “golden years” truly be golden.

Today We Will Discuss:

Chronic Disease & Aging

The Importance of Movement for Longevity

Neurological Stimulation & Exercise

Chronic Disease & Aging

As for longevity, I look at many of our current standards that are working to keep us alive and to help us live longer lives and wonder if the things we are doing to sustain life in our later years are working to help add quality to those years or if they are just keeping us from dying. We as a society often become very dependent upon medications for many chronic conditions that can be drastically influenced by better lifestyle choices, many of which we have previously discussed in our Recovery Blog and last week in our Inflammation Blog. We all understand that medications do not come without possible negative side effects. Have you ever gone to the pharmacy and not received a multiple page document, typically with very fine print that explains all the negative side effects of the drug that you are being prescribed that is supposed to be helping you? Now my point here is not that medications are not a necessary part of our health care system or that they do not help many to manage or overcome some health conditions and concerns. However, are we ignoring some of the factors that could have the potential to limit or even prevent our need for medications for these conditions and just becoming dependent upon them as we age as a result of some poor lifestyle decisions? As we’ve previously discussed last week, genetics certainly have their role in disease. However, if we look at the research, genetic predisposition disease accounts for approximately 30% of all illnesses. This can still be a significant number and certainly for anyone who is genetically predisposed to a medical condition this number can be life altering and we certainly are not disregarding this cause of illness for these individuals. In fact, for these individuals’ medication may be their only option to truly manage their condition.

The important factor here is that many chronic health conditions that we associate and often blame on “getting old” can be positively influenced, delayed, and maybe even prevented through everyday lifestyle decisions. These lifestyle decisions can help us to live longer and healthier lives than we may believe to be possible. I believe too many of us are made to believe that age is the number one risk factor for so many chronic and often life changing health conditions after all we often hear that it is “just a normal process of getting old”. What if we took better care of ourselves throughout those “younger years”, do you think that may help our odds of feeling better and having more life in our later years? This is what the research tells us and supports. Therefore, is it that we should “not get old” or that we should be taking better care of ourselves to help slow down our aging process?

In the past few weeks, we have discussed many topics that directly relate to improving your odds of healthy aging and longevity including Recovery, Nutritional Supplementation, and Inflammation. These are all steps that we can take to help improve our ability to recover and reduce chronic inflammation are great starting points to improving longevity. I will not review these factors here as we have previously discussed them in length but I recommended returning to those blog posts to read more in depth information on those topics. Now, let’s discuss a couple of other factors that impact our aging process and how they can influence our possibility for healthy aging.

The Importance of Movement

Let’s start with a sedentary lifestyle that consists of limited activity and sitting. As it has been stated “sitting is the new smoking” one of the most important factors to healthy aging and survival is movement. Motion and the ability to move well is affected by many of our everyday decisions. First and foremost, we must continue to move if we want to be able to do so effectively into our later years. The phrase that we often here “use it or lose it” applies very well to our relationship with movement. Our body will adapt over time to the stresses that we put it through. We refer to this principle as the SAID principle, “Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand”. Therefore, if we sit for extended periods, which can be a result of many occupations and lifestyle choices (watching tv, video gaming, scrolling our phones, reading, etc.) our muscles and other connective tissues will tighten and stiffen resulting in a reduction of joint mobility, especially in our hips, spine, and shoulders. Loss of mobility has profound effects on our health as we age. When we lose mobility in one area, we need to compensate for it in another area. For example, a loss of mobility in our hips leads to more stress to our knees in activities that involve walking, squatting, rising, climbing, etc… This increase of strain can lead to overuse and pain in our knees and overtime can even accelerate degenerative changes such as arthritis in our knees. The problem here is that the actual problem that led us to knee pain and arthritis began in the hips. However, the traditional medical approach often addresses the area of pain and focuses on treatment to the knee, but often does not associate the involvement of poor hip function to the issues with the knee. As a result, nothing is done to improve hip function and even though the treatment for the knee at that point may be necessary to help alleviate pain and improve function. The improvement often is limited in its duration as the knee continues to be overstressed because of the remaining poor hip function.

This is a main factor that we take into consideration with your therapy and training here at ChiroFitt with our Functional Screening and Assessment. We evaluate the body as a whole and not just assessing areas of pain. Just like the hip can affect the knee, they can also impact and negatively affect our lower back and our shoulders (we should create power and strength through our lower body to assist our upper body with activities that involve reaching, lifting, etc.; try to stand still and throw a ball versus being able to take a step and through a ball, which goes further?) Though we have focused here on the negative impacts of tight hips, realize that this same effect happens throughout our body, this is best explained by the joint-by-joint approach, which we have previously discussed. The main point to grasp here from an aging perspective is that movement and maintaining good mobility is vital to longevity and that limiting your body from motion can have significant detrimental effects that accelerate degenerative changes, including arthritis which can further reduce our ability to move, which creates a vicious cycle and loss of function. One of the best ways to maintain good mobility as we age is to actively work on flexibility and stabilization based training. Our foundation fitness class is a wonderful way to learn how to safely and effectively work on stretching, flexibility, and stability based training and is appropriate for all ages.

Neurological Stimulation & Exercise

Loss of mobility which can result from lack of activity and exercise also has consequences on our mental health. Movement provides great neurological stimulation to our brain and helps to support our cognitive health. This can be seen in what many people describe as the runner’s high, where movement helps to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals (hormones) that are released in response to pain or stress that help to relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve your sense of well-being. Endorphins attach to receptors in your brain, which results in these positive effects. One of the easiest ways to release endorphins is through exercise and movement.

It is inevitable that we are going to gradually lose strength and power with aging. However, movement and exercise can help us to slow the progression of these physical assets. Every decade after the age of 40, power declines by 17% and strength declines by 10%. In 30 years (at age 70), you’ll have lost 30% of your strength and 51% of your power. This loss of strength and power as we age appears to be associated with 2 main factors, loss of muscle quality and a reduction of the nervous system’s ability to control muscle contraction, also known as innervation. In other words, we go through denervation as we age, which is a loss of nerve supply to our muscles. The better the nerve supply to our muscles the stronger a contraction, or shortening, of a muscle we can create, which results in increased strength. The good news here is that we can ultimately decrease these 2 main factors through movement and exercise. Though, it is never too late to slow these progressions through exercise; the best way to limit these changes is to keep exercising throughout life. Weight training appears to be best for maintaining muscle quality, while aerobic and power-based training seems to be best to maintain a healthy relationship between your nervous system and musculature. Without slowing these progressions, we significantly increase our risk of musculoskeletal injury, balance issues, and falls as we age.

Next Steps…

If you are new to exercise or are not sure where to start, we would be honored to help you on your journey to living a healthier and more vibrant life. Though exercise has so many wonderful benefits to our health and well-being, we need to be sure that we are properly stressing our body through an appropriate training plan, as discussed in our Does Exercise equal Fitness” Blog. Therefore, if you do not have experience with exercise or fitness training, it is advised that you work with a fitness professional. Here at ChiroFitt, you have the unique advantage of working with a fitness team of trained professionals; including Dr. Kielbasa, a sports certified chiropractor and certified functional strength coach with numerous other advanced fitness certifications and McKinsey Bailey, a functional movement specialist and nutrition coach. Let us simplify your transition into functional training with a focus on helping you improve your longevity by signing up for our No-Stress Fitness Strategy Session from there we can help build you a safe and effective training plan.

Let’s get out of the “Don’t Get Old” mindset and focus on maintaining good health and well-being into our later years and truly make them “Golden”.

Thanks for reading, until next time…

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