Can You Actually Slow Down Aging?

Are you wading through the flood of anti-aging ads, fads, diets, supplements, and superfoods in search of the fountain of youth?

With the sheer number of products out there, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to anti-aging. But there are foods, habits, and lifestyle choices that can really help adults feel, look, and live their best lives.

The causes of aging have intrigued members of the scientific community—and the public—for a long time. Investigators have researched a range of treatments, including hormones, antioxidants, supplements, and diets that may or may not slow down the clock. According to The National Institute on Aging, researchers have found that some interventions, like consuming antioxidants (substances that can delay or prevent cell damage) and hormone replacement therapy (for men and women) may benefit some adults, while other treatments may not work at all, and may have potentially harmful side effects.

What scientists and medical experts agree on, however, is that all aging adults benefit when they follow these seven common sense guidelines:

1. Eat Simply, Eat Well

"You really are what you eat," says Liesa Harte, MD, a functional medicine specialist in Austin Texas. After all, "Human bodies aren’t designed to run on highly processed, artificial, chemical-laden foods. For optimal aging, eat foods that were available 100 or more years ago—organic vegetables and fruits, pasture [raised], grass-fed meats, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and water. And unless you want to encourage disease and premature aging, avoid sugary, processed, and lab-made or lab-manipulated foods."

2. Eat Food, Not Supplements

Many antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients in fruits and vegetables and other whole foods are known to support heart health, prevent cell damage, improve cell recovery, and support the immune system. But nutrients and antioxidants derived from supplements may not deliver the same anti-aging benefits. Ask your physician whether you need to add supplements to your diet.

3. Put Down the Smokes

Smoking shortens men’s lives by about 12 years and women’s lives by about 11, says the American Cancer Society. Smoking damages the heart, lungs, blood vessels, skin, and all vital organs. Adults who never smoke add years to their lives by preventing many of the serious diseases (like heart disease, high blood pressure, lung disease and cancer) that cause premature aging and death. Quitting smoking stops further health damage and improves heart and breathing function immediately.

4. Exercise

Countless studies indicate that exercise is the ultimate fountain of youth. It improves brain function and keeps the body stronger and healthier longer. It strengthens muscles and bones, improves balance, reduces stress, and keeps the heart, lungs, and blood vessels humming along at maximum efficiency. The American Heart Association says that when people are physically active and maintain a normal body weight, they live an average of seven years longer than people who don’t exercise and are overweight.

5. Stock up on Sleep

The body repairs and heals itself from day-to-day damage, stress, and injuries during sleep. That’s also when the brain processes information and cements memories. Older adults who sleep poorly are more likely to be depressed, have attention and memory problems, plus more daytime fatigue and nighttime falls, says the National Institutes of Health.

"Sleep is critical for optimal aging," Harte says. "Most people need at least seven hours of sleep every night. When people skimp on sleep, multiple hormones that regulate our physical and mental activities are adversely affected."

6. Dial Down the Stress

Chronic stress accelerates aging by increasing inflammation, elevating blood sugar and blood pressure, and reducing the body’s ability to heal and ward off disease, according to the American Institute of Stress. While stress is something most people can’t always avoid, "The way we react to stress is something that, with practice, we have 100 percent control over," Harte points out. "Worrying is hard on the adrenal glands (which regulate stress hormones), and can effectively accelerate aging.” Exercise, mindfulness activities like meditation, and a wide variety of other activities (like your favorite hobby) can help reduce stress and the damage it inflicts on the mind and body.

7. Strengthen Community

Studies show that senior adults who are involved in their communities and socially active, with close family bonds and good friends, enjoy longer, healthier and happier lives.

If aging is on your mind, start paying more attention to your diet, exercise and lifestyle and ask your physician about the health and wellness programs that are right for you.

Liesa Harte, MD, reviewed this article.


Harte, Lisa, MD. Email message January 4, 2016

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"Health Risks of Smoking Tobacco." American Cancer Society. December 11, 2015.

"Physical Activity Improves Quality of Life." American Heart Association. Accessed January 27, 2016.

"Seniors." The American Institute of Stress. Accessed January 25, 2016.

Cromie, William J. "Social Activities Found to Prolong Life." Harvard University Gazette. September 16, 1999.

"Sleep and Aging." NIHSeniorHealth. Retrieved Jan 26, 2016.