Thursday, February 26, 2009

February/March Blog on Aging and Nutrition

It's a bummer getting old. As we age, our body effects many changes, most undesirable. Here are the changes your body goes through as you age and some things you can do to help it.
  • SKIN: Your skin loses its strength and elasticity due to degeneration in the connective tissue (collagen and elastin). This sets the stage for wrinkles, folds and furrows. What can you do: limit exposure to the sun, use sunscreen. If you smoke, quit! Make sure you use lotions to keep your skin moist and lubricated. There are many cosmetics available to help reduce and repair the damage of aging and help reduce wrinkles. Stay hydrated with moisturizers and drinking plenty of water.
  • MIND: mental acuity declines with age. Physical activity and mental activity (reading, puzzles, games, crosswords, etc.) may help offset the decline and decrease the risk of Alzheimer's. Anesthesia for surgery increases the risk for early Alzheimer's. B-vitamins may also offset the risk of Alzheimer's as well.
  • VISION: Acuity deceases in your 40s. Macular degeneration and cataracts may develop as we age. Vitamin supplements such as high levels of anti-oxidants such as Vitamin E and C and beta carotene with zinc may help reduce macular degeneration risks. UV-shielded sunglasses also reduce cataract risk. New treatments are available for wet forms of macular degeneration.
  • BONES: bone mass peaks at age 35. Post menopausal women, andropausal men, inactive individuals, and those having used steroids extensively are all at risk of osteopenia or osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercises can help strengthen bones and increase density. Consider weight lifting, walking type exercises. Nutritionally, make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. After age 50, 1200 mg of calcium/day and 400 IU of vitamin D (from 51-70, then increase to 600 after 70). We also lose .4 inches every 10 years after age 40, so by 70 you will likely have shrunk over an inch.
  • JOINTS: weight bearing joints and joints we've overworked often become osteoarthritic as we age-knees, spine, hands, etc. Exercises to strengthen the quadriceps will help the knees. Range of motion exercises will also help. Nutritionally, I like to put my patients on Osteo-biflex (glucosamine with boswellic acids which is also know as 5-Loxin) and fish oils. This combination helps with cartilage health and inflammation. I have seen this combination work as good as the prescription NSAIDS. More severe cases may require medical intervention in the form of steroid injections or lubricant injections (Hyalgan or Synivisc) and in the most serious cases, joint replacement. Heat may help some joints while others do better with ice depending on inflammation and swelling.
  • MUSCLES: muscle mass decreases significantly by age 60 and is replaced by fat. Weight lifting and aerobic exercise (walking, treadmill, elliptical, jogging) can help stave off this decline and build muscle. Muscle burns more fat. More muscle also keeps skin more taut.
  • DIGESTION: your stomach produces less acid as you age making B12 absorption more difficult. Digestive enzymes may help. Fiber to improve diminishing intestinal motility is also important-men need 38 grams and women need 25 grams. Supplements, high-fiber cereals, certain vegetables, beans, etc. all help with fiber. Taste buds decrease at age 40 in women and 50 in men. Smell also diminishes, especially after 70.
  • CARDIOVASCULAR: Your heart loses its ability to pump large amounts of blood quickly. B12 to offset anemia (and neurological problems) after 50 and folate to reduce homocysteine levels is necessary. Decrease sodium intake, eat at least 2 servings of fish (preferably cold water) a week (omega 3 FAs), decrease unhealthy trans fatty acids. 30 minutes of daily brisk exercise raising the heart rate. Increase fiber intake such as oatmeal. If you are taking statin drugs (Lipitor, etc.) supplement with CoQ10-100-200 mg/day, chewable.
  • SEXUAL ACTIVITY: hormonal, health and cardiovascular decline may lead to loss of interest or function. Medications may help. Testosterone supplementation may help males.
  • MISCELLANEOUS: hand grip strength decreases, nerve cells mass decreases and the number of nerve cells decrease which may cause spinal cord and brain atrophy. Some loss of nerve coating may occur slowing nerve transmission. Hearing starts declining about age 50.


  • NSAIDs-traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are enzyme inhibitors (Cox 1 and Cox 2). Short-term inhibition of these beneficial enzymes (acute stage) is not dangerous. However, long-term use results in gastric erosions or ulceration and can be dangerous. There are also side effects from long term inhibition of the COX 2 enzyme in the form of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. About 80% of serious stomach problems come without warning, with risk factors if you've had ulcers, consume alcohol regularly, take other medications with NSAIDs, use steroids or blood thinners, take more than the recommended dosage and are over 60 years of age.
  • Inflammation is connected to a lot of health problems: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, Alzheimer's and cancers.
  • NUTRITIONAL SOLUTIONS: Omega 3 fatty acids or fish oils (EPA, DHA). We need a 1:1 to 4:1 range ration for omega 6 FAs to Omega 3 FAs. Consumption of Omega 3 FAs may decrease chronic pain and inflammation without the risks of gastric erosions. Fish, especially cold water, seafood, seaweed and fish oils are good sources. EPA in the Omega 3 has blood thinning characteristics and needs to be taken under supervision if taking blood thinners of any type (warfarin, coumadin, aspirin). Another supplement that seems to work well is Zyflamend which is available at health food stores. Many herbs possess anti-inflammatory properties: tumeric (Alzheimer's, liver problems, cancers), willow bark (effective to twice as effective as Motrin), Boswellia (hits multiple enzyme systems, effective for arthritis and muscle pain).
  • Mediterranean Diet: the diet may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (adult onset) by 83%.
  • Preventing Cognitive Decline: Berries and grapes. blueberry and grape seed extract, vinpocetine, phosphatidylserine, glycophosphocholine (GPC), uridine-5-monophosphate (UMP), ashwagandha, ginger, rosemary, hops, and the hormone prgnenolone may help protect brain tissue. Brain Healthy Diet: abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, lean protein while avoiding high fructose corn syrup, trans and hydrogenated fats, artificial sweeteners, gluten and dairy. Supplement with B vitamins, Omega 3 fatty acids, D3, calcium and magnesium.
  • Glucosamine: long term use follow up studies show reduce knee joint replacements.
  • Modified Citrus Pectin: demonstrates properties in blocking cancer cell aggregation, adhesion and metastasis and shows promise in chelating heavy metals.

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