The two cornerstones of healthy aging

And ten other tips for a great old age

Andrew Weil | May 2006 issue
1. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
An anti-inflammatory diet is aimed at countering tissue inflammation that current research indicates may be the culprit in many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease. Such a diet should include a wide variety of foods, including lots of fruits and vegetables and as few processed foods as possible. Each meal would ideally have some carbohydrates, some fat and some protein. The basic goals are balance, variety and freshness. Meeting these requirements will ensure that you get all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs, and fewer of the unhealthy elements that are prevalent in many foods today. The body manufactures the hormones that control inflammation using essential fatty acids as building blocks. Essential fatty acids must be obtained from the diet; the body cannot make them. Seek out foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These include salmon, herring, black cod, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts and omega-3-fortified eggs. You could also take a fish-oil supplement.
2. Use dietary supplements wisely to support the body’s defences and natural healing power
I recommend taking a daily multivitamin-multimineral product that meets the following specifications:
It should not contain any preformed vitamin A (retinol).
It should give you a mixture of carotenoids, not just beta carotene. This should include lutein and lycopene, as well as other members of this family of antioxidant pigments.
It should provide vitamin E as mixed, natural tocopherols, not just a d-alpha-tocopherol or, worse, synthetic dl-alpha-tocopherol.
It should provide 50 milligrams each of most B vitamins, except for folic acid (at least 400 micrograms) and vitamin B12 (at least 50 micrograms).
It need not contain much more than 200 milligrams of vitamin C, which is all the human body can use in a day.
It should provide at least 400 IU of vitamin D, but note that you will need to take additional vitamin D to get my recommended daily intake of 1,000 IU.
It should not contain iron, unless you are a menstruating woman, are pregnant or have documented iron-deficiency anemia.
It should have no more than 200 micrograms of selenium, a key antioxidant mineral.
It should provide some calcium, preferably as calcium citrate, although most women and some men will need to take additional calcium to maintain bone health.
And ten other tips for a great old age
1. Use preventive medicine intelligently: Know your risks of age-related disease, get appropriate diagnostic and screening tests and immunizations and treat problems (like elevated blood pressure and cholesterol) in their early stages.
2. Get regular physical activity throughout life.
3. Get adequate rest and sleep.
4. Learn and practice methods of stress protection.
5. Exercise your mind as well as your body.
6. Maintain social and intellectual connections throughout life.
7. Be flexible in mind and body: Learn to adapt to losses and let go of behaviours no longer appropriate for your age.
8. Think about and try to discover for yourself the benefits of aging.
9. Do not deny the reality of aging or put energy into trying to stop it. Use the experience of aging as a stimulus for spiritual awakening and growth.
10. Keep an ongoing record of the lessons you learn, the wisdom you gain, and the values you hold. At critical points in your life, read this over, add to it, revise it and share it with people you care about.

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