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Posted: May 01, 2009

Keeping Seniors Healthy

You Can't Stop Aging - But You Can Fight It

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

-- Dylan Thomas

Q. Aunt Becky is a young-ish 70-something, and says she is tired aging chronologically while feeling good physically and mentally. She says she’s tired taking aging sitting down and seems to think her will is stronger than the aging process. Is there really anything to that?

A. There’s nothing that will stop aging, but you know that. The most you can hope for is longevity with health. Here are some pointers from health professionals for a high quality of life. You may find these boring, but they work:

  1. Eat a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  2. Maintain a healthy weight
  3. Exercise daily
  4. Go to the doctor when you’re sick
  5. Go to the doctor when you’re well to get screened for disease.
  6. Don’t smoke
  7. Use sunscreen
  8. Stay close to your friends and family

Now, let’s get into some of the potions that are being marketed through drugstores. We’ll start with antioxidants.

As you process food, you make substances called “free radicals,” which are believed to contribute to aging and certain diseases. To neutralize free radicals, your body uses antioxidants that come from your food. Proponents believe that antioxidants can prevent chronic diseases.

The following are some antioxidants: Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Beta carotene, Folic acid and Selenium.

The best way to give your body the antioxidants it needs is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. There's no proof that antioxidants in pill form can improve your general health or extend your life.

Because some hormone levels drop with age, there’s a theory that this decline causes us to age. But, can you reverse aging by restoring your hormones?

DHEA, testosterone, melatonin and HGH are some hormone supplements out there.

Your body converts DHEA into the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Proponents say it also slows aging, increases muscle and bone strength, burns fat, improves cognition, bolsters immunity and protects against chronic diseases.

Declining levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone, have been linked with decreased energy and sex drive, muscle weakness and osteoporosis.

Melatonin is produced in your brain. It helps regulate sleep. Some claim it can slow or reverse aging, fight cancer and enhance sexuality.

Human growth hormone (HGH) is responsible for growth spurts in children. Advocates say injections of prescription-only HGH can burn fat, build muscle and renew energy.

There is no convincing medical evidence to support claims about these hormone supplements. And they are risky. For instance, even short-term use of DHEA or testosterone may cause liver damage.

Don’t believe advertisements that tell you supplements are "natural" remedies, implying that they can’t hurt you. Some people try supplements such as coral calcium, ginseng and echinacea to stop aging. There isn't any evidence to support the claims for these supplements either.

Talk to your doctor before taking any supplement. Ingredients in supplements can cause harmful interactions with your medications and serious side effects.


Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. He has written two published novels: Saltwater Taffy, and Local Angles. You can send your health-related questions to Fred at fred@healthygeezer.com.

© 2009 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.
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