You can’t turn on your TV these days without seeing at least one commercial for a product that promises to turn back the clock by erasing your fine lines and restoring your youthful appearance. In fact, the concept of anti-aging, or reducing the outward signs of growing older, has spawned a booming industry that has flooded the market with everything from wrinkle creams to cosmetic injections. And that market is being driven by popular demand.
According to Andrew Weil, M.D., many diseases associated with aging are due to chronic inflammation, which research has shown can be linked to diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart conditions, asthma and certain cancers. Visit www.drweil.com to learn more about his recommended anti-inflammatory diet, which is based on foods that are proven to control inflammation. The Web site also provides access to more than 200 recipes, eating guides, shopping lists and more.
According to The State of Aging and Health in America 2007, a study prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Merck Company Foundation, by the year 2030, the number of adults aged 65 and older living in the U.S. will reach nearly 71 million, thanks to an aging generation of baby boomers. “While there’s always been an interest in anti-aging among people in their 50s and above, you’re basically doubling the number of people who are interested at this point,” says Robert Binstock, professor of aging, health and society at Case Western Reserve University and member of the Gerontological Society of America (GSA). But these days, their interest is more than just skin deep.
While anti-aging typically has been associated with beauty products, the term has gone through a metamorphosis in recent years. Today, the idea of healthy aging—the “development and maintenance of optimal physical, mental and social wellbeing and function in older adults,” as defined by the Prevention Research Centers’ Healthy Aging Research Network—has replaced the conventional notion of anti-aging, as people focus not only on the external signs of aging, but also on the aging process itself and how it affects the body as a whole.
This shift is significant because it is fueled by scientific and theoretical research that has the potential to actually alter the aging process and ultimately eliminate negative stereotypes assigned to the elderly by allowing them to feel and be more active and vital as years go by. “The United States is really a youth culture,” says Thomas E. Johnson, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Behavioral Genetics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and GSA member. “I expect this [research] is going to result in some profound changes in the social consciousness in this country.”
Robert Binstock, professor of Aging, Health and Society at Case Western Reserve University, reveals that Resveratrol, the antioxidant found in red wine, could become one of the key tools in the fight against aging. While you’ll never be able to drink enough red wine to slow the aging process, scientists are conducting research to build upon the molecule and turn it into something that can be consumed (such as a pharmaceutical) and used as part of a healthy-aging regimen.
While scientific-based treatments for “slowing” the aging process abound (and new ones are being developed all the time), you may have the power to engage in healthy aging right now—without buying a thing. Andrew Weil, M.D., renowned pioneer in the field of integrative medicine and author of Healthy Aging: Your Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being, is a proponent of what he calls “graceful aging.” On Dr. Weil’s Web site, (www.drweil.com) he says, “While aging is inevitable, there is no reason why advancing years must be associated with pain, disability or mental decline. No matter what your age, small preventative steps can help encourage a long, vibrant, enjoyable and fulfilling life in body, mind and spirit.”
These measures include making positive changes in your diet, increasing your physical activity, taking vitamin supplements, improving your sleep and meditating. Dr. Weil’s extensive research has shown that these tactics can be very effective.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic support this natural approach to healthy aging, stating that, “The key to healthy aging is a healthy lifestyle. Eating a variety of healthy foods, practicing portion control and including physical activity in your daily routine can go a long way toward promoting healthy aging.”
Adopting a positive attitude about and being open to the aging process could be the best shortcut on the road to the fountain of youth. Weil recommends that you look for the positive aspects of aging, like the increased wisdom, life experience, maturity and depth of character that come with advanced years.
The experts at the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging note that the following healthy-lifestyle behaviors can have a considerable effect on healthy aging and longevity:
Although attitude can take you far in the healthy-aging process, science offers a multitude of options to help you look and feel younger. Experts from the American Geriatric Society’s (AGS) Foundation for Health in Aging explain that the aging process causes functional changes in cells and organ systems over time and is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors (with genetics taking the lead). Aging causes bodily changes in such areas as height, weight and body composition and affects your susceptibility to diseases, from arthritis to Alzheimer’s and heart disease. With this knowledge of how the body works, a variety of anti-aging medicines and therapies have been developed with the goal of slowing down, or even seemingly reversing, the aging process.
One sought-after treatment involves replacing the Human Growth Hormone (HGH), which is produced by the pituitary gland and decreases in production after the age of 35. HGH replacement is administered either through injections or supplements (pills or sprays) and is said to enhance metabolism, increase muscle mass, diminish wrinkles, increase bone density and more. On the downside, in addition to being expensive (upwards of $1,000 per month for a prescription), HGH is quite controversial, with many critics pointing to side effects like joint pain, fluid retention and high blood pressure while questioning the efficacy of the therapy.
But Binstock says other research is being conducted, and hopefully it will yield results that don’t stir as much debate. “There is a very active set of programs of research on the biology of aging, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH),” he says. “And the reason the NIH is funding this work is to find solutions that not only extend life, but extend life in a healthy fashion.” One such research initiative identified the first gene found to be associated with aging. Johnson, a member of that research team, explains that manipulations of the gene in a nematode (a worm) extended the worm’s life tenfold—a discovery that has led to other beneficial genetic research. “The hope is that this type of research will result in the generation of pharmaceuticals that would slow the rate of the fundamental aging process, which would then result in the amelioration of a number of different disease states, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and a variety of others,” Johnson says. “We really want to extend health span—not just life span.” And with more funding, he adds, the research holds myriad possibilities.
Whatever mix of methods and mindset you discover as your own personal fountain of youth, you can grow older with poise and finesse, showing everyone around you how to be your best self—at any age.
“I use Oil of Olay body wash every day, eat olive oil, have daily doses of sunshine and maintain a positive outlook on life. My workout routine is 5 days a week for at least an hour a day doing cardio and weight training, which I have to do to manage my hypothyroidism (an extra challenge).” —Barbara LaRossa, 58, Dunwoody
“Exercise—running, Jazzercise and dance classes—is my No. 1 aging/beauty secret.” —Denise Evans Elsbree, 46, Cobb County
“Yoga three times per week, and I don’t eat meat after 7 p.m.” —Linda Mohan, 47, East Cobb
“HRT is my secret... I live for my hormone implant. It keeps my levels balanced perfectly so my skin stays supple and healthy and my sex drive is through the roof... Who wouldn’t like that?” —Randi Layne, 57, Little Five Points
“I have always used a gentle scrub on my face, almost every day. My new favorite scrub is baking soda mixed into Origins Checks and Balances Frothy Face Wash. I also take long, warm daily soaks in a goat’s milk bath—not only does it make my skin look and feel silky, it boosts and restores my psyche.” —Beth Humphrey, 57, Cobb County
“I believe in the tried-and-true standards that we all really know, but sometimes find hard to follow—listen to your body, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise and spend time doing what makes you happiest. Also, the condition of a person’s teeth and smile can really add years to one’s appearance or—for those with a beautiful white smile—make them look much younger. I practice what I preach and whiten my own teeth.” —Deborah Gray King, D.D.S., 47, Brookhaven
“I take a nap almost every day! Even a 15-minute nap feels so refreshing. I eat very healthy and try to stay well-hydrated since I always look and feel better when I drink plenty of water. Also, I avoid excess sun exposure and use a good face cleanser and moisturizer every day.” —Sherry McAdams, 48, Alpharetta
“When someone is classy, they seem more beautiful—and class is something everyone can develop in themselves. Move elegantly. Be gracious and kind to everyone—everyone. Speak your mind without using ‘ugly’ words—think about how you sound. Dress at least 10 years younger than your mother did at your age, without being loud or flashy. Envy isn’t attractive—enjoy the beauty of younger women! (They will want to be like you some day.)” —Elaine Hightower, 49, Atlanta
“I received the Most Unchanged Guy Award at my 30th and 35th high school reunions. My secrets for healthy aging (for guys) include keeping nose, ear and eyebrow hair trimmed and never stop exercising (so you can eat what you want).” —Lawrence A. Sale, M.D., 54, Decatur
“I love to play tennis, jump rope and take long walks. I try to go to the gym during lunch when I can. I enjoy the outdoors and always apply sunscreen when out for any amount of time. I drink a lot of Propel (flavored water) and green tea, I love fruit and I take multi-vitamins daily. I also try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. When I was younger, I always used Vaseline to remove my makeup and as a moisturizer. Now that I am older, I still use Vaseline, but have added Neutrogena anti-wrinkle cream and several Dove products.” —Melody Perloff, 50, Suwanee
“I have used Retin-A since I was in my mid-20s, and stopped going in the sun, with rare exception, around the same time. I use sunscreen and a moisturizer every day. I have been athletic all my life, and exercise pretty rigorously, about 3-4 times a week. While I’m not a ‘food Nazi,’ I eat pretty healthy, lots of veggies and lean meats. I understand and accept myself better as I’ve grown older. I feel more peaceful inside. I am very close to my family, my son, Michael, in particular, and that gives me a great sense of belonging and purpose in the world.” —Sabrina Wenum, 52, Buckhead
“I drink water all day (some fizzy) and no alcohol. I also moisturize at least twice daily with Nivea, which I have used for at least 20 years, and exfoliate once per week. I keep stress levels low by meditating 30 minutes each morning and rollerblading in Piedmont Park with 10-pound weights in each hand at least 5 days a week.” —James Ross Detmer, 50, Midtown
TIPS FROM ATLANTA EXPERTS
We asked some local experts what you can do to put yourself on the path to aging well. Here’s what they had to say:
“Avoid psychological, physical and environmental stresses. Also, have a hormone panel done so you know where your hormone levels are—just be sure to visit a medical professional who is a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine because they are experts in this area.” —Dr. Jeff Semel, Atlanta Medical Institute
“Limiting sun exposure and protecting the skin properly from harmful UV rays is one of the best ways to slow down the aging process. UV exposure, whether from the tanning bed or direct sunlight, in addition to causing skin cancer, breaks down the elastic fibers of the skin, causing premature aging. It is important to read labels thoroughly on sunscreens, wear sunscreen daily and always reapply every 2 hours, regardless of waterproof claims. To prevent premature aging and protect your skin from harmful skin cancers, look for sunscreens that have high percentages of zinc oxide and other broad-spectrum ingredients, or look for the Skin Cancer Foundation seal of approval.” —Dr. Alan Gardner
“Drink plenty of water.” —Joy Barnhardt, Weight Watchers
“Commit to an anti-aging skincare regimen, which includes exfoliation, hydration and sun protection. Consult with a skin-care professional to determine your skin condition and skin type—follow their advice for the best treatments and products to give your complexion the proper care.” —Lyn Ross, Institut’ DERMed Clinical Skin Care
“The most important factor involved in aging well is without question to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Exercising consistently, eating well and avoiding obesity, as well as limiting intake of those things known to not be so good for us, are the common habits of those who age well.” —David A. Martin, VeinInnovations
“My No. 1 tip would be Super Nutrition Opti Energy packs (no relation to my store, just coincidence). You can check them out at www.supernutritionusa.com.” —Greg Hynson, Super Nutrition
“One of the most important things to aging well is prevention by using the correct topical preparations with the correct PH balance, potent antioxidants, pigment-modifying agents, rejuvenators, exfoliation, moisturizers and sun protectors.” —Cecilia Ryle, SeSDerma
“Stay active! Physical activity is great for the body and work is great for the mind, whether that be through jobs, volunteering or community involvement. Of course, combine these with a healthy diet and you’re set on a positive path for your golden years.” —Penny Fry, Fresh ‘n Fit Cuisine
“I believe the foods you eat throughout your life have the greatest effect on your health as you begin to age. It’s never too late to begin eating more nutrient-rich foods. Fresh, seasonal foods always have more nutritional value than those that have been chemically ripened and shipped for thousands of miles. Avoid foods with artificial fillers and chemical processing and you will reduce toxicity in your body, which prevents disease and increases vitality. Remember the apple a day they always told you about? Turns out it just might work!” —Jennifer McCormick, Whole Foods Market
“A must is to cover gray hair as it appears. You should match your natural color up to 50-percent gray. As the gray becomes 50 percent or more, you should color your hair 2 shades lighter—it’s more flattering to your complexion. Mother Nature lightens your skin tone as gray hair appears. A low-maintenance and flattering technique is to have your colorist weave in 2-3 different shades of hair color. Another tip: If your eyebrows have any gray, color them to your natural brow color.” —Perri Higbie, Carter Barnes Hair Artisans Phipps Plaza
“Start anti-aging practices before you become symptomatic—preferably in your 30s.” —Sharon Harley, M.D., FACOG, Harley Anti-Aging Institute
“The most important thing we can do to age well is to keep moving. When the body stops moving, so does the mind. Maintaining a strong level of physical activity with a regimen like Pilates or Gyrotonic that is not jarring to the joints and preserves (or enhances!) mobility not only keeps the mind active, it helps combat osteoporosis and improves balance and coordination.” —Jessica Gowen, Core Pilates and Gyrotonic
“In the field of cosmetics, there are many things that help battle the aging process; however, my No. 1 tip would be to open yourself to change! Too many women really date themselves by refusing to change their makeup routine or appearance. Also, many people cling to the idea of a ‘signature look’ (for example, ‘I only wear red lipstick’). Trust your makeup artist—it’s our job to make you look your best. Don’t be scared to do something different, or to give something up that you’ve always done. Remember, it’s makeup—it washes off!” —Kiev Osborne, Carter Barnes Hair Artisans Phipps Plaza
“The No. 1 thing I have seen over the years for healthy aging is to stay engaged in life and to continue to learn new things. In the ballroom-dance-studio environment, you see some of the most dynamic seniors you could imagine. What they all have in common is that they seek out new experiences and are willing to learn new things. This environment also places them in social situations that include all ages. It is great to see a dancer in his or her 70s showing a fellow student in his or her 20s a new step or a great hint. Age disappears when an admired skill is present.” —Kristine Knipp, Ballroom Dance Clubs of Metro-Atlanta
“Embrace your prime by keeping hair above the shoulder or shorter for a mature, attractive appearance.” —Melayne Brooks, Vibrance A Hair Studio
“The most important thing to aging well is exercise and proper diet. From a dermatologic standpoint, taking care of your skin is important. Wearing sunscreen of SPF 30 daily is important. Sunscreen prevents skin cancer, as well as decreases the signs of aging in the skin. When you look good, you feel good and have a better quality of life. I am also a big believer in the powerful antioxidant effects of green tea both topically on the skin and internally for the health of the organs.” —Melissa Babcock, M.D., F.A.A.D., Babcock Dermatology