To Your Health
May, 2009 (Vol. 03, Issue 05)
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Healthy Aging

Natural Ways to Maintain a Youthful, Healthy Self

By Ronald Klatz, MD, and Robert Goldman, MD

While cosmetic surgery may make you look younger (for at least awhile), and a wide array of medications are available that claim to fight diseases attributable to aging and excess, there are easy ways to slow the aging process without having to resort to risky surgery or drugs. It's time to learn some of the natural secrets to healthy aging.

Last year, the U.S. government forecast that the nation's health care spending would consume an expanding share of the U.S. economy during the next decade. In 2007, U..S. health care spending stood at $2.2 trillion; officials predict it will approach $4.3 trillion by 2017 and account for nearly 20 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Healthy Aging Woman - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark One of the contributing factors to the surge in health care spending is the aging baby boomer population. In the U.S., men and women born between 1946 and 1964 are turning 60 at the rate of 330 per hour. They are also now cashing in on Medicare health benefits; by 2017 Medicare payouts will climb to $884 billion - more than one-fifth of all national health care spending and nearly double the program's spending in 2007. How long can such soaring spending continue? A number of public-policy experts predict Medicare will be bankrupt by 2019. One more reason to take control of your health today.

Fighting the Natural Aging Process

As we age, changes take place in our body systems. Cellular processes slow down, and our organs and tissues become less robust in performing their tasks and functions. From head to toe beginning as early as the second decade of life, believe it or not, our body systems begin to demonstrate signs of old age. That's the bad news; the good news is the diseases and disabilities of human aging are largely preventable and treatable. Evidence suggests we can delay or minimize these age-related changes with appropriate diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications. Here are a few natural ways to maintain youth and vitality with age, according to the latest research.

Maintain Your Metabolism

Loss of strength and muscle mass are common consequences of aging, as is the tendency to gain body fat. Preserving muscle mass is critically important for older adults, as frailty increases the risks of disability and disease. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology last fall, Bret Goodpaster, from the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues investigated whether increased physical activity could prevent or reverse losses in strength and skeletal muscle mass and weight gain in older adults. In a study involving 11 older men and 31 older women, all of whom were overweight and sedentary at the start of the study, the research team assigned each to one of three groups for 16 weeks: a reduced-calorie diet only, a supervised exercise regimen only, or a combination of reduced-calorie diet plus the exercise program.