1. Mitochondrial Dysfunction
With age comes wisdom (for most of us at least!) but ageing can also have a few less desirable effects. The older we get, the more likely we are to experience aches and pains, forgetfulness, and increased susceptibility to colds and flu, as well as a range of chronic health conditions. Is healthy ageing possible, then? Absolutely! The trick is knowing which of our bodily systems tend to weather ageing well, and which ones need a little extra support.
Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells, producing all the energy we need to keep us active and healthy. As we age, mitochondria become less efficient, which can lead to both mental and physical fatigue.
CoQ10 is highly concentrated in energy-hungry tissues like the heart and brain, where it also acts as an antioxidant to protect mitochondria (1). Supplemental CoQ10 may be especially beneficial for anyone taking a statin or beta-blockers, as these drugs decrease CoQ10 production and can lead to serious muscle problems, fatigue, neuropsychiatric symptoms, poor blood sugar control, and, ironically, cardiovascular problems (2).
Fortunately, we can make sure to give our mitochondria the right nutrients to support optimal energy production regardless of how old we are. One such nutrient is coenzyme Q10, a key nutrient in the production of the body's main energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
There's a reason why annual flu shots are highly recommended for older adults: with age comes immune senescence. Basically, this means that the immune system is less able to mount a rigorous defence against any invading viruses, bacteria, or other pathogens that cause disease and illness.
One of the ways immune senescence comes about is through changes in the microbiome or the makeup of bacteria in the gastrointestinal system. Study after study show that immunosenescence in the elderly is linked to a changing microbiome and that restoring a healthy bacterial balance in the gut can dramatically enhance immune function whatever our age (3, 4). Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT), found in the digestive system, accounts for about 70% of our immune system, so it's no wonder probiotics can make a profound difference to our overall health.
Some of the most important probiotic strains for immune health include Bifidobacterium breve, B. longum, B. infantis, and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
3. Adrenal Burnout
It can be tough to navigate the stresses and strains associated with juggling a career, family, and whatever else life throws at you. It's no wonder, then, that some of us start to feel burnt out, lacking the energy for fun hobbies, volunteer work, or even basic daily chores.
Fatigue and burn-out are not an inevitable part of ageing, however! Finding healthy ways to manage daily stresses can help keep us active and happy throughout life, while specific nutrients offer extra support at times of need. Siberian ginseng is one such nutrient and is clinically proven to enhance cognitive function and performance during stressful challenges as well as enhancing our resistance to symptoms of stress, such as fatigue and infections (5).
Ginkgo biloba offers further support for mental and physical energy by enhancing circulation. This means that vital nutrients are delivered to cells and that cells can quickly clear away toxic metabolites. Ginkgo has been seen to improve some neuropsychological processes, including supporting memory, attention, and speed of processing, giving it a role to play in
supporting cognitive health during stressful times (6).
Getting older might mean we see some things more clearly than in our younger years. However, with age comes an increased risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of vision loss in older adults).
As with many chronic conditions, loss of vision is often associated with oxidative damage in the tissues of the eyes, including the retina. The best way to protect eye health is to ensure a good intake of the types of antioxidants that concentrate in eye tissue.
5. Cognitive Decline
Some of the most protective antioxidants for eye health include lycopene, lutein, and polyphenols found in brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables like bilberries and carrots. These antioxidants help neutralise damaging free radicals associated with ultraviolet light damage and can cut your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration dramatically (7). One review of clinical trials found that taking a 10 mg lutein supplement daily for a year led to improved glare recovery, near vision, and contrast sensitivity in people with AMD (8).
Our brains use more energy than any other organ in the body. While all this activity helps us think faster and perform better, it also increases the production of toxic metabolites and the risk of oxidative damage. Over time, this can lead to cognitive decline, forgetfulness, and even full-blown dementia.
Along with getting enough exercise and staying social, the right fuel and nutrients can help us stay mentally sharp as we get older. Lecithin is a great source of many such nutrients, including inositol and choline (part of the B vitamin group), and phosphatidylserine. Together, these nutrients help protect and nourish neurons (brain cells) and nerves throughout the body and enhance the production of neurotransmitters, helping to safeguard memory and cognitive function (9). Inositol has even been found to improve symptoms in people with depression, panic disorders, and phobias (10, 11).
Getting older is inevitable, but many age-related health issues need not be. Thanks to researchers and scientists all around the world, we now have more information than ever about how to grow older, wiser. And it starts with a commitment to healthy ageing.
Written by Leigh Matthews
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