Exercise: More important than ever
Most people already know that one of the most significant and life-threatening effects of advancing age is the process by which our bones become more brittle, and that we need to continue to take in sufficient amounts of calcium and magnesium to slow or prevent the incidence of osteoporosis. However, simply increasing our intake of certain minerals and vitamins will not ensure that we maintain strong, healthy bones well into our later years. In fact, several studies have shown that without including sufficient exercise in our daily lives, the supplementation of calcium and other minerals may have little to no effect in preventing or slowing the development of osteoporosis. Regular exercise benefits us in a myriad of ways, from strengthening our heart and lungs by improving cardiovascular health, reducing our risk for heart attack and stroke, being a natural anti-depressant by increasing blood flow to the brain, supplying oxygen and nutrients, producing metabolites known as ketones that supply energy, and releasing endorphins and hormones such as serotonin that improve our sense of well-being. It also helps our bodies to more efficiently assimilate the vitamins, minerals and nutrients that we eat. It has been shown that even in older populations, regular exercise strengthens bone structures.
By stimulating increased blood flow, exercise assists our body's natural filtration systems process out toxins, as well. Perhaps most importantly, though, regular exercise helps us to regulate our weight, which becomes of critical importance as we advance in years. We know now that obesity doubles our risk of Alzheimer’s disease and heart attack, and it raises our risk of type-II diabetes by thirty-fold. This is perhaps the most startling and concerning figure, because type-II diabetes can have the most profound impact on the quality of our lives. This is because of the manner in which it damages the blood vessels supplying nutrients to our eyes, kidneys, heart and brain. The ancillary effects of advancing type-II diabetes include blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and the loss of limbs due to improper blood circulation, all of which are exacerbated by advancing age. Of course, if you have not been exercising regularly, start slowly to allow your body to acclimate – your tendons and ligaments will need time to regain healthy blood flow and improve elasticity to prevent injury from over-strenuous exertion. If you suffer from osteoporosis, heart disease, or are otherwise not already in good general health, I recommend that you consult your physician before embarking on a significant exercise regimen to ensure that you do so in a manner that is safe while still providing exercise’s many benefits.
Blueberries: A smarter antioxidant
Blueberries are already well-known as a tasty source of antioxidants, important molecules that neutralize naturally occurring free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that, in excess, can lead to heart disease, cancer, and the development of degenerative diseases associated with aging such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. It’s also believed that antioxidants improve cell membrane fluidity, making it easier for nutrients to flow into and out of cells. Other natural sources of antioxidants are spinach, kale, and strawberries. But unlike those other foods, recent studies are indicating that blueberries may have properties that improve our short-term memory, balance, and coordination – all of which tend to decline as we age.
Research conducted at Tufts University has identified blueberries as a component of improved memory and motor skills in rats (which are close enough to humans in their genetic makeup to make exciting correlations). A group of rats whose normal diet was supplemented with blueberry extract (which was equated to approximately one cup of whole blueberries) showed significantly improved balance, motor coordination and short-term memory over the course of an 18-week study. The animals also showed decreased presence of free radicals in their tissues. Although it is not yet clear exactly what dose size would significantly reduce the decline of these functions in humans, it has been suggested that just a half cup a day can benefit our mental and motor capabilities. As a holistic nutritionist, I highly recommend blueberries as a tasty addition to promote mental acuity and longevity.
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