Are You Aging Too Fast?

Odds are you look and feel younger than your mother did at the same age. But you could probably be doing even better

by Meryl Davids Landau
face of woman on hourglass body illustration image
Photograph: The Heads of State

Take more than 800 IU of D a day
Getting 800 IU or more of vitamin D a day lowered the risk for hip fractures by 30 percent and non-spine-related fractures by 14 percent in a large study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. Most of the participants were over 65, and more than 90 percent were women. A dose of 800 IU is generally considered safe; 4,000 IU is the upper limit.

Switch to a Mediterranean diet loaded with olive oil   
You already know that a Mediterranean diet—one filled with grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, olive oil and fish but low in meat—reduces the risk of heart disease. Now a Spanish study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology shows that including a specific minimum amount of olive oil (almost 3½tablespoons) a day for two years also boosts blood levels of a marker for bone formation. In other words, the olive oil helps preserve your bones.

Go easy on the cola (diet or otherwise)  
Women who drink cola everyday have 3.7 to 5.4 percent less bone density in their hips than those who consume less than one daily serving, says a study led by Katherine L. Tucker, PhD, now professor of nutritional epidemiology at Northeastern University in Boston. Drinking other carbonated soft drinks has no effect. Cola’s impact may stem partly from its caffeine content (caffeine has a negative impact on bone density) but probably also from its phosphorus level. “When you take in regular doses of phosphorus without consuming other nutrients at the same time, calcium in your body may bind to the phosphorus and thus become unavailable for bone remodeling. Over time this could lead to bone loss,” says Tucker.

Quiz 3: Your Defense System

1. You used to get one or two colds a year; in the past few years, you’ve gotten:

A) None, one or two a year

B) Three or more a year; it seems as if anytime someone sneezes near you, you catch a respiratory infection

“The immune system has many germ-stopping safeguards, such as your skin, which blocks invaders from entering, and antibodies, which disable them,” says Roxanne Sukol, MD, medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Enterprise. “If you’re getting sick a lot, some part of that system may not be working as it should.”

2. Your stress level is . . .

A) Manageable

B) More than you can handle

A large body of research says that long-term stress lowers the effectiveness of your immune system, making you more likely to develop diseases and increasing the time it takes to recover from them. 

3. How much sleep do you typically get?

A) Less than seven hours a night

B) Seven or more hours a night

 Sleep deprivation suppresses your immune system by, for example, lowering the activity level of natural killer cells. In a 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine article, researchers demonstrated that this reduced resistance affects your ability to fend off infections. Sleep quality matters, too, reports a study in the online Journal of Aging Research. Compared with women who said they sleep well, those who reported troubled slumber had immune cells with shorter telomeres, or chromosome endings. This means women who slept poorly had immune cells that were biologically older than other women’s.

4. In general, how do you feel?

A) Pretty good

B) Not as good as you think you should

“If you don’t feel quite healthy, if you feel tired or rundown, these are clues that your immune system is flagging,” says Moreno.

TOTAL B’s: _____

If you checked one or more B’s, keep reading for slow-down-the-clock strategies.

Your Action Plan

First published in the December 2012/January 2013 issue

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