Thursday, June 23, 2011

Inflammation and Aging or How did I get to look so old?

Twice now I’ve been asked if my sister is my daughter. Sheesh. I am 10 years older than her but really, do I look like I could be her mother? Am I aging faster than I want to? I decided to look into some of the causes of aging and what I can do to slow it down.

Inflammation, which takes place on a cellular level, is triggered by a wide variety of factors such as the ingestion of toxins (cigarettes), a weakened immune system, excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation, hormonal changes, stress and eating pro-inflammatory foods. Inflammation has been linked to many things that we associate with aging, including wrinkles, arthritis, heart disease, memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Chronic inflammation contributes to the aging process because it floods tissues with free radicals and promotes the destruction of normal cells.

As we age, we become more susceptible to the long-term effects of oxidative stress (a condition where the body basically has too many free radicals) and inflammation on the cellular level. The theory is that antioxidants and other age-defying compounds help cells ward off damage from free radicals and minimize the impact of aging.

Much inflammation can be reduced or prevented by changing our habits and environment or following an inflammation-reducing diet. Some steps to reduce inflammation include:

Better dental hygiene.

Exercise. Regular exercise improves low-grade chronic inflammation.

Weight loss. Obesity appears to increase the overall level of inflammation in the body.

No smoking. Smoking floods your systems with free radicals and irritants, promoting inflammation and other forms of damage.

Avoid Irritating the skin. Unprotected skin exposure to the sun and using cosmetics with harsh chemicals. (Gathered From the Garden's Facial products are so gentle on your skin!)

Anti-inflammatory diet. Reducing or eliminating saturated and trans fat; increasing the intake of omega-3 fat (fish, fish oil, flaxseed oil); increasing consumption of multicolored fresh fruits and vegetables. Also an anti-inflammatory diet should be high in fiber and low-glycemic foods. Add foods such as kale, spinach, dark leafy veggies, legumes and fruits like blueberries and strawberries.

“If we eat large amounts of saturated or trans fatty acids, sugars, and starches, insulin levels surge and trigger an anti-inflammatory response and accelerate the aging process," says dermatologist and best-selling author, Nicholas Perricone, MD. (oh, that darn sugar!)

Another expert says that a healthy diet and lifestyle may improve your health and keep you feeling young but don't expect wrinkles to disappear…"Skin aging is related primarily to genetics and exposure to the sun. If you want to age gracefully, stay out of the sun, use sunscreen, don't smoke, eat a healthy diet, and drink plenty of water”, says Atlanta-based dermatologist, Kenneth Ellner, MD.

I can make smart lifestyle choices like those mention by Dr. Ellner. But I guess  some of those wrinkles I’m just going to blame on genetics. In the meantime, do I need to get a name tag that announces I’m Mary’s SISTER, not her mother?!

4 of my 5 sisters. I'm on the far left, then Nancy, Mary, Lisa and (the baby) Pam. My sister, Annie lives out of state.

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Chef in Training said...

You have a great blog! I am visiting from the Boost My Blog Friday! I am your newest follower and would love it if you would follow me back! thanks so much!

Carol said...

Hi Nikki,
Welcome! I checked out your blog. Love your blog design. I'm now following you too!


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