Dr. Sara Gottfried says it’s never too late to grow younger. Contrary to popular belief, 90-percent of our aging is due to lifestyle choices within our control, while a mere 10-percent is due to genetics. In her new book, “Younger,” the MIT and Harvard-educated gynecologist identifies the top ten things that rob us of our youth.
Top 10 Things That Steal Your Youth
1. Sleeping Less: “Sleep is as close to a panacea as we have when it comes to your health and to growing younger,” said Dr. Gottfried, “It’s the single most important thing that you can do,” adding new research shows 96 of Americans need 7 to 8 1/2 hours a night.
2. Getting Insufficient Vitamin D: Getting the right amount will helps us sleep well and improve health across the board. Dr. Gottfried suggests getting your Vitamin D levels checked and aim for between 60 and 90. This can be accomplished by getting more sunshine, Vitamin D supplements or both.
3. Sitting Too Much: For the 70% of Americans with desk jobs, Gottfried recommends setting a clock to remind you to get up and walk for 5 minutes every 45 minutes. Even better, she suggests using a standup desk like Veridesk and a treadmill set at a slow pace, such as 2.5 miles per hour while you work. If it seems strange at first, don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. “Your brain takes a little while to adjust. But it’s another one of those things: having new things, having novel things, that’s another way you keep your brain neuroplastic. So you’re addressing two of the problems that can affect your aging process at once.”
4. Losing Muscle: We typically lose five pounds of muscle every decade, muscle that is generally replaced with fat. Muscle loss can also lead to decreased balance, making injuries from falls more likely. Weight lifting and other forms of resistance training can fix this problem.
5. Certain medications: “It turns out that Benadryl can lead to dementia,” Dr. Gottfried said, “It’s associated with an increased risk of dementia.” She added, “There was a study showing that anti-anxiety pills like Xanax and Valium can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by up to 50 percent,” she said. Dr. Gottfried says many of the root causes for taking anti-anxiety pills and allergy medications are due to hormone imbalances. Therefore, she suggests getting your estrogen, testosterone, thyroid and cortizol levels checked and normalizing the imbalance through diet and lifestyle changes rather than with pharmaceuticals.
6. Lacking Vision and Purpose: Developing a passion for for something bigger than ourselves is essential to staying young.
7. Isolating Socially: Connecting with others, such as God, people, even animals is great for our overall health.
8. Feeling Stressed Out: Scientists are increasingly discovering the damaging, even deadly effects of stress. Therefore, learning to relax and developing a sense of gratitude and peace significantly improves longevity.
9. Eating Too Many Carbohydrates and Processed Foods: These are things like bread, pasta and chips, but especially sugar. “It’s more addictive than heroin. and I think we need to take it that seriously,” said Dr. Gottfried, “It’s also hard to stay connected to that sense of mission and purpose and service when you’re thinking about sugar all the time. So getting sugar out of your life not only makes you younger and adds ten years to your life, it opens the space for greater things to come in.” Dr. Gottfried suggests having your fasting blood sugar measured and says we should aim to keep it between 70-85. She warns us to avoid the mistake of eating too much protein, which can backfire. “What happens with protein,” she said, “When you get too much, is that it turns into sugar.”
10. Getting Fat: Toxins accumulate in your fat and increase your risk of cancer. Belly fat in particular is inflammatory, leading to a number of problems, including premature aging. Dr. Gottfried recommends eating one to two pounds of vegetables a day. She especially likes fermented vegetables, like kim-chee and sauerkraut, which contain healthy bacteria, also known as probiotics, which improve overall health and wellness. Dr. Gottfried likes the brands Rejuvenative Foods, Wild West and Ozuke and cautions against heating the products, which can kill the good bacteria.