I’m sitting here watching the Sex and the City movie and just saw the scene where Carrie’s editor invited her to do the wedding dress photo shoot, you know the one I’m talking about! She (the editor) called it the Fabulous at 40 issue. It got me thinking, I’m going to be 40 next year. Holy cow. I can’t believe it. 40. Forty. FORTY. 40. Yikes. Scary stuff. Next thing I will be 50, then 60…and that scares me because I feel like my life is just beginning! I have two very young children, (I started late in life because I wanted to travel and I hadn’t found that right person yet), and I’ve finally found my passion, my voice, my raison d’etre (hint, check out other blogs on this site and this page).
But as they say, 40 is the new 30, so I guess I shouldn’t fear it too much.
So here I sit, turning 39 this year and am thinking of ways in which I can age gracefully. The fact is that as women age stuff starts to slow down and then menopause hits and things get really wonky. But there are things we can do now to prevent a huge decline in the common issues such as bone loss, sexual desire, flexibility and maybe even illness and disease. It all boils down to what you eat and your mental state of mind.
Here are my top tips to aging gracefully:
1) Take care of your liver. Taking care of this very important gland – the largest in our entire body – will help prevent a whole host of issues in the future. Your liver performs over 500 functions including detoxing, hormone regulation, metabolizing sugar, fat, and many vitamins, and circulating healthy blood to our heart and all our cells. A malfunctioning liver can make menopause symptoms so much worse – like hot flashes and mood swings, and can even be part of the reason why your joints are so stiff. Liver symptoms are waking in the middle of the night, poor digestion, low energy among many others. In Chinese medicine, it is believed that conditions involving the liver age us.
So how can you nourish your liver? Lemon water in the morning is a good start, and eating cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale), beets, Brazil nuts and bitter greens like arugula (rocket) are also very nourishing to the liver. Artichokes, green tea and garlic are also exceptional for the liver. Incorporate these foods as often as you can to give your liver a helping hand.
2) Take care of your bones. You know that when you do start to go through menopause that estrogen levels drop and that means that less calcium and magnesium get into the bones and so they become vulnerable. The best thing to do is start when you’re like 20 by eating really good bone supporting foods…but since we’re likely way beyond that point, you can still do a lot to help prevent it – and not a single bit of this advice includes milk. Bones need calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin K and some trace minerals like boron and manganese. A really good quality bone supplement with these nutrients can help, but don’t forget about food! These foods will help you put some strength into those bad boys: sesame seeds, almonds, spinach, fennel, leafy greens, eggs and salmon. Watch for foods that can cause bone loss such as pop, too much meat, dairy. Nightshades can also compete with calcium absorption – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and tobacco – so just something to be aware of. This is likely why you see things like eggplant parmigana, caprese salad, those Italians figured out a long time ago that having dairy with those foods helps counter the effect of bone loss! Bones also require exercise – did you know that they are constantly being broken down and built up? Weight bearing exercise, such as yoga, squats, lunges, using weights, helps this breakdown/buildup cycle and so helps your bones!
3) Manage that stress!!! We hear this ad nauseum…but the reality is how the hell are we supposed to manage stress when it’s coming at us from every angle? I try to manage mine through yoga, and every night at bed I use my Mindful app and my Pranamat (a lovely gift from the beautiful Joy at Joyous Health) to chill out before bed. Deep breathing and meditation are key practices I do every day.
Ok, so what is it about stress that makes aging harder? Well, stress hormones are regulated firstly through our sympathetic nervous system which then tells our adrenals (two little caps on top of our kidneys) to release cortisol (that’s the stuff that gives you a muffin top) and adrenaline (that’s the stuff that gets you to MOVE when the proverbial tiger is approaching). When these hormones are constantly being released it does so much damage to the body, constantly releasing damaging free radicals that cause damage to our cells, including our telomeres. Our what??? Telomeres – they are relatively new discovery and not quite mainstream yet – so you heard it here first. Telomeres are at the very end of our chromosomes and the more cells split and divide, the shorter they get and the faster we age. Your adrenals also help manage your libido, and produce a hormone called DHEA. If this hormone isn’t being produced properly (because your adrenals are exhausted from stress) menopause symptoms will be way worse.
4) Change up your beauty routine. I’ve completely gotten rid of any commercial brand cleaning/moisturizing product since they all contain endocrine (read: hormone) disrupting chemicals and if I’m completely honest, they didn’t do a single thing to help my skin. Ever since I started to try to manage my stress (stress gives you wrinkles), eat more veggies and drink more green juices/smoothies and LOTS of water, and switched to either all organic products like Consonant, or simply using coconut oil and rice flour, my skin is even better now than when I was in my 20’s. No joke. All of these things you do to make your insides feel better make your outsides look better! Remember, your cells are constantly renewing so make each new one better than the last!
5) Yoga. I can’t say enough about this. If you don’t know anything about yoga or think it’s too hard, please check out some basic/beginner yoga sessions you can do at home here. The thing I hear the most from people who give up is that they tried a class but it was too hard, or they weren’t flexible enough. That makes me sad. Yoga classes generally cater to those who have been in practice for awhile – and notice I said “practice” – that’s what it is, practice. And remember – practice makes perfect! The benefits of yoga are one thousandfold but two are: flexibility and mindfulness. Just think, all of those inversions (where your head is hanging below your heart) are giving your face a lift (and your boobs too!).
6) Things that AGE you. There is actually something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) which are proteins or fats that become glycated after exposure to sugars. They affect the body at the cellular level, doing extensive damage that leads to aging, diabetes and atherosclerosis. They are oxidizing and create inflammation in the body. Sugar is the number one AGE food, and sorry to say, but bacon is very high on the list too. Staying away from these foods, stress, avoiding smoking and excess alcohol will help you actually feel 30 at 40 (or 40 at 50…and so on). Digging into those healthy antioxidant foods like berries, greens and any of the ones mentioned above will help stay away from things that age you!
There’s so much more that we can do but the key is to love your body and nourish your soul. Don’t let aging get to you, embrace it. Think of how far you’ve come in life and where you want to go next. In my geriatrics course I read that women in their 60’s and 70’s claim that sex at that age is way better than anytime earlier in their lives. So that’s something to look forward to, eh? If you’re feeling a little slumpy in that department, check out my Mayan Heat Smoothie – guaranteed to rev up your motor.
I’d be interested to hear what you do to stay healthy and vibrant…let me know in the comments below!
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