Written by Panteha Rezaeian, MD
1. Love your heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. High cholesterol,
high blood pressure (hypertension), high blood sugar (diabetes) and genetics
are essential risk factors that lead to hardened arteries and can cause
a heart attack or stroke. To help control these risk factors, eat an appropriate
diet, exercise regularly and manage your weight. This list is growing,
so especially as you age, it is recommended that you work with a physician
educated in the field of cardiovascular disease prevention.
2. See your doctor on a regular basis
People used to visit their primary care physicians only when they got sick—and
sometimes not until they were seriously ill. This approach has changed,
and now the emphasis is on preventive medicine. The main preventative
measures include vaccinations, cancer and prevention of chronic disease
(such as high blood pressure and diabetes) and complications. Flu, pneumonia
and HPV are relatively new but vital vaccinations most populations can
benefit from—particularly seniors or those with chronic disease
such as diabetes.
3. Stop smoking
If you smoke, quit. Avoid smoking in any form including vapes, e-cigarettes
and hookahs. Smoking causes cell damage and death and speeds up the aging
process. It causes unwanted wrinkles too!
4. Limit your alcohol intake
Moderate to heavy drinking is the #1 cause of cirrhosis and liver damage
in the United States. Heavy drinking changes body metabolism and can deplete
critical vitamins, electrolytes, nutrients and antioxidants. Of course,
long-term drinking is also associated with reduced brain function and
heart complications. It’s important to note that the frequency and
amount you drink has a significant effect on your future health.
5. Eat well and watch your weight
Consume a balanced, nutrient-rich diet high in antioxidants. Antioxidant-rich
foods such as berries help reduce free radicals—which are molecules
that promote cancer development and the effects of aging—in your body.
- Avoid highly processed, high-carbohydrate and greasy foods and saturated
fat. Increase the amount of anti-aging foods you consume including vegetables,
fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, poultry and lean protein.
- Eat more whole grain bread (not to be confused with multigrain bread, which
may be highly processed).
- Avoid fatty fish (like tuna) that might be contaminated with mercury. Also
some seafood, including lobster and shrimp, is high in cholesterol.
- Stay hydrated, regardless of your age. Dehydration may negatively affect
energy levels and cognition. Try to consume half your body weight in ounces
daily—meaning if you weigh 140 pounds, consume 70 ounces of water.
- Watch your weight. When you are overweight, you increase your risk of multiple
leading causes of premature death. Extensive research has clearly linked
obesity with many health complications including heart attack, stroke,
high blood pressure, diabetes, infertility, obstructive sleep apnea and
cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight can significantly improve positive
6. Keep moving
Physical activity will essentially enhance your quality of life. Moderate,
regular physical activity will strengthen your bones and muscles, which
can reduce your risk of falling as you age. Exercise is not only related
to physical wellness but also to mental stimulation. Exercise can be as
simple as walking for 30 minutes daily or getting the recommended 10,000
steps a day. Try lifting weights to maintain your strength and balance.
7. Exercise your brain
Stay social and look for ways to continue social interaction. Make a habit
of reading books, solving puzzles, traveling and discovering new cultures
and tasting new foods. Try learning a new language, solving math problems,
taking a cooking class or practicing a new musical instrument. Neuroscience
research has shown that mental activity increases neuroplasticity, the
brain’s ability to form new neural connections throughout life.
Also, based on a number of studies, staying socially connected can potentially
reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, depression, hypertension and more.
8. Find peace
Studies reveal a direct association between stress, anxiety and negative
thinking patterns and the development of health complications including
cardiovascular events. Carrying around negativity can actually speed the
aging process. Multiple studies have linked anxiety, stress, and feelings
of hostility and anger, as these factors increase the risk of dementia,
heart disease and stroke. Studies show physical activity and laughing
can modify chemical imbalance and secrete hormones that can decrease pain
(endorphins) and increase joy (serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin). Relaxation
methods, including meditation, yoga and mindfulness can lower your blood
pressure, improve immune function, promote positive blood flow and reduce
9. Protect your skin
Take preventive measures to protect your skin by limiting sun exposure,
using sunscreen, hats and protective clothing. Moisturize your skin throughout
the day and before bedtime. Stay hydrated. Use retinol to reduce wrinkles.
It increases the production of collagen which prevents fine lines. It
is also responsible for the development of new blood vessels, leading
to a healthy rosy skin.
10. Get enough sleep
In our high-paced world, the value of sleep is overlooked. Sleeping poorly
will not only show visible signs of aging on your face, but it will also
make you perceive yourself as less attractive. Studies show the more hours
of sleep you get, the more time your skin has to recover from the negative
effects of the sun—hence delaying the aging of process. It turns
out the term beauty sleep is not a mythical concept after all!
Panteha Rezaeian, MD, ABFM, is a primary care physician with the Torrance
Memorial Physician Network. She practices at 3333 Skypark Drive in Torrance
and can be reached at 310-784-6300.