Thursday, July 3, 2008

5 Causes of Rapid Aging

Comments Most people are aware that negative lifestyle habits like smoking and excessive alcohol can lead to rapid aging. But what about the repeated stress and poor nutrition that are so often a part of a high-pressure style of living today? Read on to see what could be causing rapid aging in your life.

1. Poor Diet
What you eat probably affects your health more than anything else you do. When you eat a poor diet—fatty, processed, or fried foods and simple sugars—you invite rapid aging by burdening your body with chemical additives and trans-fats and depriving your body of essential nutrients. On the other hand, when you eat the life-giving foods, you prevent disease and improve organ functioning.

In general, your diet should consist of a wide array of colors and balance of organic sources of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Numerous studies show that the different pigments in the skins of fruits and vegetables are powerful antioxidants that are crucial for maintaining health, preventing cancer, and protecting against environmental toxins.

Avoid fatty foods, processed or fried foods. Keep dairy to a minimum because most dairy products are high in saturated fat. Take candy, sugar, soda, and all simple sugars out of your diet. Excess sugar gets stored as fat in your body, which spells in weight gain—a sure path to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes. You truly are what you eat, so eat well!

2. Unhappiness
Unhappiness does not only depress your mood, it also negatively affects your health. In fact, depressed, unhappy people are twice as likely to develop heart disease. And it has been confirmed that personality profile Type C—people that tend towards melancholy, depression, and excessive worry—are prone to develop cancer. Do not underestimate the power of your mind. Your experience is determined by the energy you embody, and in the end, it is your choice to have a negative perception or a positive attitude in reaction to life's breakdowns.

Years ago, I had the pleasure of working with the late Norman Cousins. His research showed that the mind has a powerful influence on many physiological functions, including the immune system. He found that an increase in immune killer cells that attack cancer occurred in cancer patients who experienced 30 minutes of deep belly laughter every day for twelve weeks. Laughter also increases the release of endorphins, compounds that give you a sense of well-being. Undoubtedly, joyful people liver longer and healthier lives.

3. Lack of Exercise
I have never met a healthy person or centenarian that lived a physically inactive life. Exercise is essential for a healthy metabolism, proper energy circulation, and the expelling of cellular wastes. Being overweight and inactive is a surefire path to rapid aging and a host of diseases. Cardiovascular exercise is the key to speeding up your metabolism, burning excess calories, and fighting body fat. Brisk walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, bicycling, stair climbing-the options are endless for cardio health! Exercise for 30 minutes at 60-80% of your MHR (You can find this number by subtracting your age from 220.) Regular exercise is also the key to preventing non-insulin-dependent diabetes, which is the fastest growing disease in industrialized countries throughout the world.

You can stave off rapid aging to your muscles, joints, and tendons by practicing exercises that extend your range of motion; some options include tai chi, qigong and yoga. Check out simple tai chi moves that you can learn easily in my book, Harmony Tai Chi by clicking here. Also, moderate load-bearing exercises are essential for bone density and muscle strength. Don't forget when you are exercising to always warm up and cool down properly to avoid injury.

4. Stress
Stress is a huge byproduct of our busy lives and it takes a tremendous toll on our health. Our body's "survival mode" gets turned on all too often these days. When you are experiencing stress, your body is programmed to go into fight-or-flight mode, a state that requires a lot of energy. Adrenaline is released from the adrenal gland, and it tells the body to convert stored sugar from the liver to glucose because the energy needs of the body increase substantially during the supposed fight-or-flight scenario.

Unfortnately, this scenario almost never plays out and the excess blood sugar that never got used ends up being stored as fat—inevitably resulting in weight gain. What's more, all of this stress continually depletes your body of its energy resources until it crumples under the overload, leading to adrenal exhaustion, a nervous breakdown, or a broken-down immune system.

To stay stress-free, remember to breathe deeply all day. And give yourself a break! You are a human, not a machine. Try taking a 15-minute powernap during your lunch break. If you only have 5 minutes to spare, just closing your eyes will release tension. Better still, consider taking up meditation, a great way to dissolve stress. To learn more about how to use meditation to decrease stress, click here.

5. Lack of Sleep
There's no way around it: the average adult needs seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night to maintain health. Consider that your immune system drops by an average of 60% after just three nights of poor sleep. Without sufficient "recovery time" each night, you will run your body down and wear out your life force, paving the way for disharmony and disease.

I hope you find the ways to live long and live strong! I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao

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