My husband and I have a great relationship with our neighbors. They are a generation ahead of us and have become like parents, and we have cherished times together with them. Many of our conversations center around life experiences that they have had, which have helped to expand our views on work, relationships, and health. In one of those recent discussions, they were sharing with us about the failing health of their siblings, all in their late 60s and early 70s.
In contrast, our neighbors live healthy, active, and hugely productive lives as they are on the verge of their 70s. They attributed their good health to the major differences in diet and nutrition versus their siblings’ poor diets and lifestyle choices. Their family members suffer from low immune systems, ongoing illnesses, and taking a multitude of prescription drugs to manage their symptoms. We all agree that diet plays a significant role not just in the quantity of life but the quality of life that we have as we age.
Epigenetic (Biological) Aging
There is an important marker of age called epigenetics. The word is derived from the Greek word “Epi,” meaning “over” and “above.” When put together as the word epigenetics, the meaning is that you can age yourself over and above your years by practicing poor habits that take away from your health.
Epigenetic aging matters because it’s the portion of the aging process you can control because it relates to biological age. While we can’t control our chronological age, we can control the outcome of aging by modifying epigenetic patterns such as diet, obesity, and physical activity. Other things that factor into epigenetic aging can also be controlled, like alcohol consumption, nicotine smoking, stress, and environmental pollutants. You can improve your epigenetic age by eating right and exercising regularly.
A Healthy Diet Slows Your Epigenetic (Biological) Age
An article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that higher diet quality relates to decelerated epigenetic age. They analyzed data from nearly 2000 participants with an average age of 67 years, 55% of those being women. This study found that practicing good nutrition positively affected maintaining healthy aging. The study’s findings emphasize that adopting a healthy diet is crucial for maintaining healthy aging.
Your Biological Age Is Your Real Age
We all know someone who seems to defy aging. They look wonderful – younger than they are in their years and are physically energetic. We all have a biological age that combines factors of genetics and lifestyle. This reinforces the idea that while we can’t control our chronological age, the outcome of our aging process can be drastically altered by factors we can control. Your biological age is compiled by your risk for chronic diseases of aging, mortality, and your physiological ability to perform tasks. An unhealthy 50-year-old can easily have a biological age of nearly 60 if they are living a chronic, unhealthy lifestyle. This means that your biological age is flexible, and research shows that we can reverse biological aging with diet and lifestyle.
Top 3 Ways To Reverse Epigenetic (Biological) Age
Knowing that biological age is flexible and can be improved, what are the first and simplest things you can do to change the markers that factor into your epigenetic age?
Improving your diet improves heart health, reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease, which is strongly influenced by diet. Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and changing your diet can add years to your life, which should include the following:
- Increased intake of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Nuts and legumes
- Fish & high-protein meats, including red meat
It may be easy to underemphasize sleep, but quality sleep can be more important than aggressive exercise. Dr. James DiNicolantionio, a cardiovascular research scientist, says, “It doesn’t matter how clean you eat and how hard you train if you don’t sleep well, you are going to look and feel terrible.” His advice is to prioritize sleep. Prioritizing sleep certainly doesn’t mean that you compromise other important areas such as diet and exercise, but it does mean that if you’re sacrificing quality sleep to pursue these other “healthy” things, you could be compromising a healthy outcome. Always make sure you prioritize sleep as part of a long-term plan for healthy nutrition and physical exercise.
3. Resistance Training
While regular exercise does provide many improvements and benefits to your health, resistance training is the most important type of exercise to incorporate into your routine. Weightlifting, even with lighter weights, enhances muscle mass and preserves bone calcium. All kinds of resistance training, whether with body weight, barbells, dumbbells, weightlifting machines, or resistance bands, have all been proven to result in biological age reversal. Don’t skip the weights!
You Can Control Your Biological Age
It’s far too easy to accept that you’re genetically predisposed to diseases, obesity, or bad habits. The reality is that most of our health and vitality outcomes as we age are related to everyday choices. If you’re struggling in all these areas, including diet, sleep, and exercise, choose one place to start overhauling.
If you start with a better diet, you’ll likely find that you’re sleeping better. Once you’re eating and sleeping better, you’ll have the physical and mental focus to be more active, with the goal of beginning and maintaining weight training to preserve muscle mass. Improvements in these things will give you not just a longer life but a higher quality, more active life as you age.