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Jul 18 2013

Slowing Down the Aging Process

Who wouldn’t want to live a long and healthy life?  This is a desire, intrinsic to every person.  The natural state of the human body is to be healthy and in balance.  The proper balance presents the body with the capacity to heal itself.

Aging is a natural, irreversible process, taking place in cells, organs and tissues over the lifespan of any living organism.  It is characterized by a decline of biological functions and replacement of the functional tissue with fibrosis.

Wisdom from the East and the scientific advances from the West, provide the public with time-tested and well-researched “secrets” for achieving a long and healthy life.  While conventional Western medicine focuses on prescribing drugs to treat diseases, Eastern medicine views disease as a symptom of life being out of balance.  Emphasis has always been to prevent and maintain a good state of health.  Traditional Chinese Medicine employs a variety of natural therapies such as: acupuncture, herbs, diet, bodywork, tai chi and yoga.  TCM sees the aging process as: organ degeneration – body loses its ability to regenerate itself with significant changes in the internal organs; exhaustion of fundamental substances as vital energy, essence blood and body fluids – cause of common aging signs such as wrinkled skin, gray hair, muscle tissue decline and fragile bones; accumulation of metabolic wastes – as internal organs’ functions slow down, they cease to eliminate bodily wastes effectively.

Aging could be experienced as a pleasant process if proper attention is given to support the physical, mental and emotional welfare.  TCM anti-aging therapy is divided in 3 directions: skin health, physical health and mental health.  However, it should be noted that neither could be treated separately, due to their complementarity to each other.  Anti-aging therapy should not rely on a single prescription but rather use all available methods – only a comprehensive approach to the situation would lead to a substantial effect.

inflammation Inflammation is an important factor in wellbeing.  Although it marks the beginning of the body’s healing process, it can also inflict damage if healthy tissues are attackedl.  Persistent inflammation increases the risk of hearth attacks, strokes and even cancer.  Preventing it is the best strategy to ensure long-term health and longevity. 

Diet serves as a major influence on the body’s inflammation status.  A healthy, “anti-inflammatory” diet can reduce cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer and cancer.  The antioxidants present in vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, chocolate and tea aid in protection of our tissues and organs from inflammations.  Modern mainstream diet is significantly low in these protective compounds.  Moreover, it is loaded with inflammation-promoting fats in addition to rapid-digesting carbohydrates in the form of bread, pastries and sugary drinks.  The aforementioned are outlined as high-glycemic foods, which raise blood sugar levels rather quickly, boosting insulin secretion and increasing inflammation.

One can begin leading a healthier lifestyle by choosing slow-digesting forms of carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, squashes and cold climate fruits like berries, cherries, apples and pears.  With his motto “Eat less, live longer”, Maoshing Ni L.Ac. PhD, 38th generation doctor of TCM, found a strong correlation in centenarians and quantity of food consumed.  In his 100-centenarian study, he concluded that centenarians ate less than the average amount for a given meal.  In terms of fluids, water is the best choice.  Most people go about their day dehydrated, affecting their brain since it is more than 70% water.  Mayo Clinic recommends that men require an adequate intake of about 3L while women should consume at least 2L of water. 

With the advances of technology, water has been replaced by numerous kinds of soft drinks, overloaded with chemicals for taste and color, often harmful in speeding the aging process.  An unquestionable approach to slow this process is by eliminating the toxins created by these water alternatives.  Tea is a beverage most commonly used by centenarians around the world.  The free-radical inhibiting properties of tea are well known and scientifically proven.  Polyphenols in tea, especially catechins are powerful antioxidants, used to prevent and treat atherosclerosis, diabetes and some types of cancers.

ginger rootGinger has been well known remedy for digestive disorders.  Containing geraniol, compound that helps fight cancer, it also has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve pain and prevent blood clotting.  Another anti-aging herb with a 5000 year track record is Panax Ginseng.  Science has proven that Ginseng enhances bodily functions, boosts the immune system, improves memory while stabilizing cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Activities keep people young.  Exercise keeps an individuals body and mind in great shape.  The best exercise for slowing down the aging process are the disciplines of Tai chi and Qi gong – focusing on repetitive, gentle movement with attention to breathing, thus slowing down the heart rate, decreasing blood pressure and reducing stress hormones (adrenaline & cortison) levels. 

Sleep is essential as well.  The human body repairs itself best at night with good sleep.  Research has shown that getting at least 8 hours of sleep is required for good health among all age groups.  Poor sleep has been linked to hypertension, diabetes, strokes, heart attacks and obesity.

Acupuncture as been proven successful in treating stress and sleeping problems.  It gives a better night sleep and overall improvement in physical and mental health.  Oriental medicine offers additional techniques and tools like Tui na, Qi gong and herbal therapy.

The mental state greatly influences one’s physical condition.  Studies have shown that regular serenity for a few minutes a day can add years to a person’s life.  Peaceful contemplation, meditation or prayer allows the body to be still and the mind to slow down, thus facilitating the release of DHEA (dehydroepiandesterone) from the adrenal glands.  This hormone has been linked to longevity, peaking in people in their mid twenties.  As expected, the DHEA concentration declines as a person ages.

Today, numerous people in the west do and should utilize Traditional Chinese Medicine to supplement the anti-aging methods of conventional medicine.

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