How to Turn Back the Clock

healthy agingIf you’ve already crossed the midpoint of your first century on earth, Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book Younger: A Breakthrough Program to Reset Your Genes, Reverse Aging, and Turn Back the Clock 10 Years might have some appeal. For while we can’t stop the ticking of the clock, there’s much we can do to make the time pass more pleasantly.

Dr. Gottfried tells us that genes only account for 10% of our body structure as we age. Our lifestyle controls the other 90% by virtue of its effect on our biochemistry and, therefore, the expression of our genes (a.k.a., epigenetics). If we want to look and feel younger, we need to make healthy lifestyle choices consistently.

Left unattended, five forces work against us as we age.

  • The MUSCLE Factor: We accumulate fat and loose muscle.
  • The BRAIN Factor: Our neurons lose speed and flexibility, and our brains resist mood-elevating estrogen.
  • The HORMONE Factor: We make less estrogen and testosterone. Sluggish thyroids slow down our metabolisms. And we’re less adept at regulating insulin (to manage blood sugar) and cortisol (to control the stress response).
  • The GUT Factor: Our intestinal health and quality of our microbiome (i.e., the colony of healthy bacteria that digest food and support immune function) either speed up or slow down our biological clocks.
  • The TOXIC FAT Factor: Belly fat accumulates environmental toxins and causes more rapid aging.

Accelerated aging occurs when the body loses its capacity to clean up its daily damage – i.e., removing mutated DNA, improving sluggish hormone and enzyme production, and neutralizing highly reactive molecules (a.k.a., free radicals). The following conditions impede the body’s efforts to maintain itself in peak operating condition:

Getting fat
Sitting too much
Medication (anti-anxiety, antihistamine)
Too much processed food
Losing muscle tone
Sleeping too little
Lacking vision or purpose
Getting too little Vitamin D
Feeling stressed
Social isolation

Fortunately, it’s never too late to build new habits. Our bodies continue to adapt to their environments – for better or worse – until we die. To that end, Dr. Gottfried provides a 7-Week program during which the motivated reader can transform his or her life. Here’s a brief summary:

WEEK 1: FEED. Get rid of processed foods. Eat homemade meals. Include 5-10 cups of fresh vegetables daily. Avoid common allergens (e.g., gluten, dairy) as well as sugar, sweetener, and caffeine. Minimize red meat and fat. Ingest collagen in bone broth or powdered form as it’s rich in antioxidants, lowers blood pressure, and improves bone density. Opt for organic red wine when drinking alcohol. Floss and brush twice a day.

WEEK 2: SLEEP. Make sure you get 7-8 hours of high quality sleep every night. Sleep promotes physical restoration, memory consolidation, and brain detoxification. Avoid stimulants and artificial lights at night. (Use blue-blocker glasses after sundown if you can’t avoid artificial lights.) Make the bedroom conducive to sleep.

WEEK 3 MOVE. Integrate physical activity into your day. Excessive sitting weakens bones, atrophies muscles, promotes organ damage, impairs circulation, and causes back issues. (If working in an office, alternate between sitting and standing at your desk!) Get at least 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of strenuous) aerobic activity each week. Increase muscle mass through strength training.

WEEK 4: RELEASE. Find ways to release the tension and habitual tightness that builds up in the body. Yoga and other forms of release clear stress, increase range of motion, boost respiratory health, and improve recovery time. They also supports the body’s mechanisms to supply fresh nutrients to tissues and whisk away toxins and chemical byproducts.

WEEK 5: EXPOSE. Increase intake of key vitamins, minerals, fiber, and nutrients to strengthen the liver’s ability to collect and process the body’s garbage. Eat foods rich in antioxidants – e.g., leafy greens (especially kale, broccoli sprouts), berries, organic walnuts, green tea. Use natural cleaning products (or make your own). Take saunas, steam baths, or hot water baths with Epsom salts to encourage the body to sweat out the toxins.

WEEK 6. SOOTHE: Eliminate stressors or find effective ways of coping with them. Add new responses to your defaults – e.g., prayer, mindfulness, yoga, meditation, qigong. Connect positively with others. Get enough sleep!

WEEK 7: THINK. Change the perception of your external environment to create a healthy internal environment. Create new neural pathways such that your self-talk becomes loving and supportive. Cultivate an affirming community of friends.

This brief post hardly does justice to the wealth of material in Dr. Gottfried’s book. Hopefully, it encourages a deeper dive!