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Which of the following in NOT a direct benefit of a regular walking regimen?
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 Nutritional Programs: Nutritional Program for Anti-Aging  
  • Problems of the Aging Process
  • Theories of Aging
  • Diet and Supplements
  • Herbs
  • Anti-Aging Nutrient Program

  • In this section, the basic process of physical and mental aging as it relates to many of the chronic degenerative, and sometimes fatal, diseases will be explored. This program can be used in conjunction with other programs, such as Immune Enhancement, Anti-Stress, Cancer Prevention, Sexual Vitality, Cardiovascular Disease Prevention, and Skin Enhancement. For example, since this Anti-Aging plan may help to prevent both cellular and DNA changes, reduce the level of mutagenic cells and decrease the impact of environmental chemicals, it may help us prevent the twentieth-century plague of cancer.

    This program can also take us beyond just learning to be healthy; it can lead to an enhancement of vitality in our elderly years so that we can experience the fruits of our years of labor and embrace more the wisdom and joys of life. Aging is not inevitable. To live 100–110 years in a healthy state is not out of the question if we just take care of ourselves in regard to diet, exercise, and the many other factors discussed here. Though it may be difficult in our younger years, we will look back and know the worth of our efforts as we enjoy feeling good and staying youthful. The goals of this program are twofold: first, to increase longevity by preventing and decreasing the potential for and progression of degenerative disease and, second, to improve the vitality and tissue health of the body through proper nutrient support.

    There is, of course, a wide individual variation in the aging process. Genetics and constitutional factors will make some people more predisposed to problems in such areas as the cardiovascular system and circulation, skin, or memory. But with better care and by following some of the guidelines of this program, those less fortunately endowed can increase their potential and lengthen their years on Earth, while those genetically well-endowed people will further increase their health and longevity.

    The aging process does not have to reach a level that interferes with function. The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, almost 30 years old itself with no gray hair, has shown that many healthy older people can have cardiovascular systems and memories as functional as those of much younger people. It is true that to keep the body fit, we need to exercise it, and to keep the mind sharp, we must also give it a regular workout. Unless there are specific health problems, particularly with the circulation, our memory should not really diminish until a late stage of life. Similarly, sexual hormones, particularly in men, are present and active in the later years, most assuredly in those who have been sexually active and who have maintained their activity into their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Sex is not just young people’s activity.

    The program presented here can be employed by anyone over 40 years of age, especially those who wish to begin the protective, antiaging process early, though it can also be utilized in later years. This Anti-Aging program can also be useful to those under stress or with demanding jobs, as well as people who push themselves in work or have trouble dealing with day-to-day demands. People who live in cities and those whose work or life exposes them to chemicals may benefit from many of the suggestions here. Those on diets of processed foods, red meats and cured meats, and other chemical foods would do well to change these habits and follow the Anti-Aging plan for at least six months to experience the benefits. Smokers, alcohol drinkers, and those who have used other drugs that contribute to body breakdown are also candidates for this program, which can reverse some of the damaging effects. There are other programs for most of the above-mentioned concerns in Part Four.

    Problems of the Aging Process
    The most common problems of aging affect the cardiovascular and nervous systems, as in atherosclerosis and senility. Others include arthritis, cancer, diabetes, certain immunological diseases, gastrointestinal problems, such as diverticulosis, and skin diseases. People with these problems or those who want to prevent them can utilize either this program or one more specific to their condition. Here we explore some of the common physiological effects of aging that generate many of these diseases. Most of these lifestyle-related diseases, of course, come about when we do not take the best care of ourselves. Many subtle and gross changes in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems lead to poor delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. In conjunction with an insufficiency of the necessary nutrients coming into the body, this is the most important underlying factor in most problems of aging. Many other changes occur in the heart and circulation prior to the diminished nutrient supply. A reduction in heart pumping action with decreased lung capacity reduces oxygen delivery and increases carbon dioxide buildup. An increase in blood vessel stiffness and blood pressure with age also diminishes circulation. Many aspects of living, such as smoking, a high-fat diet, and lack of exercise, affect these changes. Other diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, contribute to further problems of atherosclerosis, abnormal heart function, and reduced circulation.

    The nervous system can also be affected, with a slowing of nerve conduction, loss of brain weight, reduced reflexes, and a decrease in memory and learning capacity. Dementia or senility may result from the diminishing nervous system function along with the cardiovascular effects of reduced circulation. Brain neurotransmitters are vital to nerve conductivity and brain function. Acetylcholine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, the three main neurotransmitters, are all produced and affected by dietary nutrients, such as choline, pantothenic acid, and the amino acids tyrosine, phenylalanine, and tryptophan. Acetylcholine supports brain function, memory, and sexual activity; norepinephrine also affects sexual and general energy levels, memory, and learning; and serotonin aids relaxation and sleep.

    Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of senile dementia (loss of mental capacity), has received a lot of attention recently. It often begins earlier (in the 50s) than other types of senility. Theories as to its cause range from aluminum toxicity or sensitivity to an autoimmune process to a virus infection affecting the brain. Cigarette smoking clearly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s. Microscopic brain cell and brain tissue changes described as "neurofibrillary tangles" are classic in Alzheimer’s disease; the diagnosis is most often accomplished by excluding other possibilities. The main effect seems to be on the "cholinergic" system, which is governed by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, but other neurotransmitters are probably affected as well. Many treatments have been tried, without much success. Clearing excess aluminum and reducing aluminum intake may be helpful. Lecithin or choline supplements have been helpful in some people.

    Other body systems affected by aging include the musculoskeletal system and the gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and endocrine organs. There is often a loss of muscular strength and coordination with aging. There is often some thinning of spinal discs and bones in general, degeneration of cartilage and ligaments, and the loss of tissue elasticity and flexibility. With aging there is a loss of height and an increase in bone fractures. Arthritis becomes more common with the years and leads to greater joint wear and tear. The hips are a common site for both joint pains and arthritis in the elderly.

    Good digestive function is important to proper assimilation of nutrients. This begins with good teeth. Teeth are made up of minerals, nutrients that are not well absorbed when there is low stomach acid and pancreatic digestive enzyme function. Good colon function and elimination are also important to prevent constipation and diverticular disease, common problems with aging. Kidney function may also diminish with aging, inhibiting clearance of excess nutrients, chemicals, and toxins. The prostate and sexual organs also need good blood and energy supply to keep them functioning properly.

    Many hormonal changes also occur with aging. The basal metabolic rate and thyroid hormone function may diminish, thus decreasing the energy level. Weakened glucose tolerance can lead to more problems with diabetes. Body fat percentages usually increase with age, even with the same dietary intake. Immune functions may also be reduced with the "scavenger" white blood cells becoming less effective, allowing an increase in infections. Cell repair and elimination of defective cells may lessen, leading to an increased incidence of cancer. Autoimmune problems from a misguided immune system may also occur.

    Many habits and activities affect these common changes of aging. Factors that increase aging and degeneration include smoking, excess alcohol, fats and chemicals in food, poor or deficient diet, overeating, stress, pollution, and laziness. Psychological factors influencing aging include extreme emotions, negativity, resisting positive suggestions and support, getting trapped in ruts, and hanging onto depression, loneliness, anger, and grief. A positive attitude and psychological health will greatly increase longevity and delay "getting old."

    Theories of Aging
    My own combined theory of aging is that stagnation is the key—stagnation of bioenergy circulation and stagnation of the digestive tract and bowels. Good colon function to prevent toxin buildup, regular exercise to stimulate energy production and circulation of the blood and lymph, dealing properly with extreme emotions and stresses, and maintaining a positive attitude all help to support vitality and circulation on all levels. Chemical irritants and nutritional deficiencies accelerate the aging process. We need to maintain proper food acquisition, digestion, assimilation, and elimination to have long-term health and minimize the aging process. We also need to have all the nutrient building blocks available to the cells and tissues when they need them. This requires eating wholesome, nutritious food, as well as proper digestion and assimilation.

    Aging Theories

    Stagnation and toxicity
    Aging clock and hormones
    Cross-linking of proteins
    Free radicals
    Errors in DNA
    Changes in brain

    The aging clock theory regards the aging process as programmed by an inherent, preset number of possible cellular divisions. Our individual set of cell divisions and the time between them determines our life span. Different cells have different division rates. Lifestyle factors such as stress and nutrition, degenerative changes, and immunological and hormonal health can affect our inherent cell division potential or the length of time between cell divisions. Our genes are most closely influenced by nucleic acids, RNA and DNA. When RNA is affected, it may influence cell activity, protein building, and tissue repair and healing. Basic wear and tear and random insults to our genes can speed up our aging process. Chemicals, microorganisms, random toxins, and nutritional or functional deficiencies (such as reduced digestive enzyme production) all affect this important cellular process.

    As far as we know, at present there is no hormone or code that causes death or self-destruction. But there are many subconscious, self-destructive tendencies such as not taking care of ourselves in the best ways possible. As we age, we must attend to minimizing internal aging to maintain vitality and tissue health. This is accomplished in part by eating light and staying light, but eating well. It is the synergy of nutrient and emotional deficits and depletions that contributes to both aging and the subsequent dying process.

    (Excerpted from Staying Healthy with Nutrition ISBN: 1587611791)
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     About The Author
    Elson Haas MDElson M. Haas, MD is founder & Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (since 1984), an Integrated Health Care Facility in San Rafael, CA and author of many books on Health and Nutrition, including ...more
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