Future-proof your health

Top expert tips for reducing your risk of age-related health conditions

A number of health conditions, from dementia to heart disease, are linked with ageing. However that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to protect your risk of age-related diseases. We spoke to a number of natural health experts to find out how to reduce your risk of disease and ‘future-proof’ your health through diet and lifestyle changes.

Rheumatoid arthritis
“Rheumatoid arthritis is an anti-inflammatory condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints,” says nutritionist Sarah Flower. “The hands, feet and wrists are most commonly affected, but it can also cause problems in other parts of the body.”

Future-proof it:
“There are many foods that can improve arthritis such as nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables, and hydrating foods,” says Sarah. “Zinc is a great anti-inflammatory, so fill up on pumpkin seeds, nuts, shellfish and wholegrains. Try to eat plenty of sulphur-rich foods such as meat, eggs, cauliflower and sprouts, which help to heal and repair connective tissue as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory. Combine these sulphur-rich foods with foods that aid the formation of collagen such as green leafy vegetables, fruit and vegetables such as berries, carrots and sweet potatoes, as this will help maintain lean muscle mass and boost joint and bone health. Following a sugar-free, alkaline diet can dramatically reduce whole body inflammation, including arthritic joints. If you’re struggling to eat plenty of sulphur-rich foods, you can also get sulphur from a supplement called MSM (Methysulfonylmethane). Glucosamine works really well alongside MSM, and aids joint problems, keeping the joints hydrated and preventing enzyme damage.”

Thyroid health
“Certain dietary compounds are essential for helping to look after the health of your thyroid naturally,” says Sarah West, a nutritionist with Zebedee’s Lunch Box (www.zebedees.co.uk). “The thyroid gland requires iodine for normal function. A low intake of iodine can cause your thyroid to work harder to keep the right amount of thyroid hormones in your blood, potentially leading to low levels (an underactive thyroid) long-term.”

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“This is something that can be addressed by eating more iodine-rich foods: such as fish, dairy products, nori (found in sushi wraps) and seaweed (the most concentrated dietary source of iodine),” says Sarah. “The potent effect of iodine on thyroid hormones means that excessive iodine intake can provoke an overactive thyroid in some cases – so it’s important not to overdo it. Selenium-based proteins and enzymes help regulate metabolism and maintain the right amount of thyroid hormones in the body. Selenium also helps regulate and recycle the body’s iodine stores. Brazil nuts are particularly high in selenium, but it can also be found in broccoli, butter, eggs, fish, garlic, onion, turnips and seafood.”

Osteoporosis
“Our bones can suffer as we age due to the hormonal change; the incidence of osteoporosis trebles as we move into the menopause,” says Sarah Flower. “Our bone cells consist of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts help build the bones, and osteoclasts break down the bone. Oestrogen controls the osteoclasts whilst allowing the osteoblasts to produce new healthy bone. As oestrogen and testosterone decline, so does our bone density, leading to thin and brittle bones.”

Future-proof it:
“You need a diet rich in vegetables, nuts and seeds, especially in green leafy vegetables which are rich in usable calcium, magnesium, vitamin K and B vitamins, “ says Sarah. “You also need foods rich in zinc, such as pumpkin seeds as well as oily fish. Vitamin D (from sunlight or a daily good quality D3 supplement) can all help to enhance your bone health and ease inflammation. CoQ10, which has a prime role in energy production and cholesterol, also regulates osteoclasts and osteoblasts. This is especially crucial if you are taking statins, as statins block CoQ10 manufacture. You can also opt for soya isoflavones in supplement form. Soya isoflavones contain genistein and daidzein. Genistein inhibits bone resorption whilst also stimulating the osteoblasts (strengthening and building new bone). Some women find that soya products can help, but these can be highly processed and unhealthy. If you want to opt for this, buy only organic fermented soya foods such as tofu and tempeh.”

Wrinkles
“To really get glowing skin, the job has to be done from the inside out,” says Amanda Hamilton, Udo’s Choice brand ambassador (www.udoschoice.co.uk).

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Future-proof it: “Staying hydrated is essential so drink plenty of water and cut down on dehydrating alcohol,” says Amanda. “This helps but is not enough to keep wrinkles at bay. In addition to drinking plenty of water you can slow oxidation down by taking large amounts of antioxidants, significantly more than are in an average diet. Antioxidants counter the effect of oxidation or put into other terms, free radical action. Free radicals are unstable elements in the body that can be produced through metabolic actions involving oxygen, and by stress and pollution. Powerful antioxidants include vitamin E, beta carotene and vitamin C, flavonoids (in fruits and vegetables), lycopene (extracted from tomatoes), lutein and antioxidant mineral co-factors like selenium, copper, manganese and zinc. Last but certainly not least, ensure abundant intake of the essential fatty acids that are crucial to skin hydration and help you achieve that lovely supple, glowing look. Ideally, consume in a ratio of 2:1:1 for the omega 3, 6 and 9 to redress to common imbalance in a typical British diet of too much omega 6 and 9, and too little omega 3.”

Dementia
By making simple lifestyle tweaks into your daily routine, you may be able to improve your brain function as well as protect it from decline in later years, say the clinicians at cognitive health clinic Re:Cognition Health (recognitionhealth.com).

Future-proof it:
The fresher your diet, the healthier you (and your brain) will be. Pack your plate full of antioxidant-rich fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses, grains, seeds and try to eat two meals containing oily fish such as salmon, tuna or mackerel each week. Limit the amount of processed foods, sugar, preservatives and fats in your diet. Many studies have been conducted on the benefits of exercise in relation to reducing the risk of developing dementia and the extensive research has indicated that aerobic exercise is one the best things that can be done to safeguard against dementia. A minimum of 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity should be undertaken each week. Sleep helps our brains to clear away toxins, plaques and proteins that build up throughout the day, helping to protect against diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Sleep also helps us to remember new things we have learnt, improves concentration, mood and metabolism, so it is vital we enjoy between six and eight hours’ sleep each night. Meditation reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which is understood to increase the risk of dementia. A daily 15 minute dose of mindful meditation, yoga, tai chi or simply switching your mind off when exercising or commuting may help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Diabetes
“Eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly can help maintain a healthy weight and ensure blood glucose levels are within normal ranges, reducing the risk of developing diabetes,” says Alexis Poole, company nutritionist and registered associate nutritionist with Spoon Guru (www.spoon.guru).

Future-proof it:
“Keep sweet treats, which raise blood glucose, and high-fat foods, which are high calorie, to a minimum. Opt for wholegrain versions of bread, pasta and rice as these raise blood glucose slower, keeping within normal ranges. Eating too much salt can increase risk of high blood pressure, which itself increases diabetes risk. Aim for less than 1 teaspoon of salt per day. Eat five 80g portions of fruit and vegetables daily as these are low in calories and a great source of nutrients. Exercise helps you lose or maintain a healthy weight, lowers your blood sugar and helps your body use insulin more efficiently. Aim for 150 minutes, or 30 minutes for five days of aerobic exercise per week to lower your risk of developing diabetes. Resistance, muscle-strengthening activity should be included twice a week.”

High cholesterol
“Cholesterol is a fatty substance also known as a lipid and it is essential for the normal functioning of the body,” explains Callum Melly, a fitness columnist and personal trainer (www.bodyin8.com). “Some foods contain cholesterol; however, it is mainly made by the liver. Cholesterol is carried around the body in your blood by proteins; when combined they are known as lipoproteins. You have HDL (high-density lipoprotein) known as the good cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) known as the bad cholesterol. High cholesterol is caused by a number of factors, such as smoking, an unhealthy diet, medical history, diabetes and high blood pressure.”

Future-proof it:
“Like most health-related illnesses, cholesterol levels can be managed by a combination of a healthy, balanced diet and regular exercise,” says Callum. “When it comes to your nutrition, limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Some is good and perfectly healthy for normal bodily functions; however, excess saturated fats can lead to countless health-related illnesses as well as increasing your cholesterol levels. Stick to a good variety of lean protein sources, starchy and fibrous carbohydrates and healthy fats. Exercise that will promote lean muscle growth or maintenance and fat loss is also recommended. A combination of resistance/weights workouts and cardio would be a great way to not just promote a healthy cholesterol level, but also improve your general health and wellbeing. Obviously, personal influences such as smoking and your family’s health history that can influence your cholesterol levels should be taken into consideration. Stopping smoking will have countless health benefits, as will seeking lifestyle and health-related advice from your doctor should you suffer from high cholesterol.”

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