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Depending on your age, the idea of growing older can evoke feelings of excitement or feelings of uncertainty. When you are young, getting older is viewed positively as you associate it with things like independence and opportunity. Fast forward a few decades and the idea of aging starts to lose its appeal as the realness of things like wrinkles, forgetfulness and physical decline sets in. But is this shift in mindset still warranted seeing that now, more than ever, you have greater control over how you age? We think not. Here’s why…
Though there are aspects of aging still outside of your control, the reality is, there are several choices you make daily that can impact your future health. Sure, you probably already know this; but, sometimes knowing something at face value is not enough. Think about it. You’ve likely made several decisions for the immediate reward without even considering their long-term effects. Or maybe you considered them but went ahead with the impulsive choice anyway.
When it comes to making decisions, your emotional brain has a hard time imagining the future despite your logical brains ability to clearly see the consequences of your current actions. This leads to many of your decisions being driven by your emotions rather than pure reasoning. The problem with this is that your older self is the accumulation of your everyday choices. Choose the immediate reward one too many times and there’s a good chance you are putting your future health at risk.
The key to making better choices lies in your ability to manage the competing influence of your emotional brain and your logical brain. Though there are likely many ways of doing this, one way is to become better informed. By becoming more informed, the greater the chance the wise decision will be made as your ability to reason goes up. So, here’s to becoming more informed about aging and the impact of your everyday choices on your future self.
Why We Age
As discussed in Biohacking the Aging Code: How to Increase Your Healthy Years, there are many schools of thought as to how and why we age. This expanding knowledge has led to the development of several methods that work to promote health with age and as such, preserve quality of life as we venture into our thirties and beyond. One method that holds great promise is that of maintaining balance within the body; the reason being that disruptions to this internal balance appear to be at the root of aging.
Here’s why this might be –
The most basic structure of your body is a cell. Your body is made up of trillions of cells that must work in concert for you to function optimally. Though cells are quite resilient, they work best when the body’s internal environment is kept constant. Every day, you are exposed to things that have the potential to disrupt this state of balance. Some things you have control over, others less so.
The body has an amazing ability to self-regulate but is not invincible. As such, it’s important that you minimize your exposure to disruptive forces in order to protect this state of internal balance and thus, the health of your cells. Remember, healthy cells equal a healthy body and a healthy body equates to youthful vitality, no matter what your age.
Balance within the body is achieved by managing inputs. In general, inputs are anything that go into the body. They can be experienced through your five traditional senses—sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch—as well as through non-traditional senses—balance, temperature, proprioception (spatial awareness), pain and other internal senses like hunger.
Here are some examples:
- Food. It gives your cells the energy they need to function which then allows you to do things like breath, think and move. The smells that come from food can also trigger the sensation of hunger.
- Music. The sounds you hear when playing music can evoke both motor and emotional responses.
- Endogenic Inputs. These come from within the body as a result of things like exercise. During a workout, carbon dioxide builds up in the body. Your body responds by increasing your heart rate to help move oxygen around to the working muscles. Exercise also stimulates the release of endorphins which create a feeling of well-being. Another example—when blood sugar levels drop, the hunger hormone (leptin) rises which tells your brain it’s time to eat.
- Verbal Inputs. Language, or words, can have a profound effect on your emotions. Non-verbal communication, can also impact your emotional state.
- Radiation/Light. The skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Too much exposure to the sun can lead to a sunburn. Additionally, the amount of light you are exposed to can affect your mood.
- Medicine/Supplements. Whether it be synthetically made chemicals in the lab or a natural blend of plant extracts, both medicine and supplements can trigger chemical reactions in the body that can have a positive or negative outcome.
- Air. Breathing in polluted air or cigarette smoke is harmful to the lungs and should be avoided. If you have seasonal allergies, you might feel tightness in your throat or itchiness after breathing in pollen from certain plants.
Better Inputs for Better Outputs
Just like we put a certain quality of oil or gas into our car to keep the engine running efficiently for years to come, we should be doing the same for our body. Everything that goes into the body should be high quality to keep our engine (our cells) working optimally year after year. With better inputs, we get better outputs—outputs being our behavior, our health and our performance. Below is a list of inputs you should keep top of mind every day.
A diet packed with nutritious foods supports better physical and mental performance. Stay away from highly processed foods as they are typically packed with calories and lack nutrients.
Your body needs between 6-8 hours of sleep every night to repair and rejuvenate itself. Adequate sleep helps support healthy immune function, cognitive function and is important when it comes to regulating hormone levels.
In the broadest sense, the people you surround yourself with can be considered inputs. Make it a point to surround yourself with positive people as they will help bring out the best in you. Negativity can quickly wear on your emotional health which will eventually carry over into your physical well-being.
4. Physical Activity
Regular activity, between 30-45 minutes most days of the week, is likely one of the more important things you can do to keep yourself healthy. Not only is it linked to lower risk of disease, it has also been shown support bone health, improve cardio-respiratory and muscular fitness, decrease levels of body fat, improve mood and boost cognitive skills.
Getting all the nutrients and things you need from your diet can be a challenge. That’s where supplements come in; they are there to help ensure that your body is getting what it needs to function at its best. Keep in mind, however, that supplements are not a substitute for a poor diet.
Constantly feeding the mind with new information keeps the brain active and engaged. Not only does continuous learning promote lifelong success, it appears to be vital for maintaining cognitive function with age.
As you know, being more informed about any subject matter can help you make better decisions. This concept is key when it comes to aging as how you age is largely defined by your choices; something that has become increasingly clear as new research emerges in the field of aging. By carefully considering the choices you make as they pertain to the six inputs listed above, you can positively influence your health and quality of life for years to come.