Avoid Middle Age Dip In Health & Vitality: Simple Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Vitality is defined as ‘the state of exuberant physical strength and mental vigour; being strong and having energy: ready to explore and enjoy the world.’
But is it possible for someone to enjoy a steady flow of vitality every day and for the rest of his or her life?
As a general rule, vitality declines exponentially as we age. Eat the right food, exercise regularly, manage your stress levels and sleep well, and you’re likely to enjoy a good deal of it for long time.
Many people stay mentally and physically vital into their 80s and 90s, with no special care. We may assume that their genes are the major factor in a long and vital life, but scientific research now shows that inherited genes only account for about 20% of their health.
Your Genes Are Not Your Destiny
There is compelling evidence in the medical literature to confirm that your genes are not your destiny. Instead your environment that includes your attitudes, beliefs, values, food, physical and mental activities, and social support make the most significant difference to your health and disease status.
It’s all in the emerging science of epigenetics: how your genes are influenced by non-genetic factors. You might not expect your genes to change, but your environment can send messages that can influence your genes’ behaviour.
This can result in your genes being switched on and off in favour of either health or disease. With this knowledge you can stay healthy irrespective of your family and genetic history, if you are sensible enough to make the right healthy lifestyle choices.
The ‘Normal’ Vitality Curve
The vitality curve is drawn on an average lifespan of 78 for men and 84 years for woman. The curve indicates that the peak vitality level falls between the age 20 and 30.
It is sensible to assume that if a middle-aged person continues to follow normal living and takes standard healthcare advice then is expected to decline at a normal rate. The result is shown in the graph below.
The human ‘biological clock’ certainly allows life well over 90, so the range of the graph can probably be extended. Simple extension of life span with no positive gain in vitality: means the person lives longer but with a lower quality of life. This results in a serious gap between life and health span; which then needs to be filled with expensive medical and social care.
What Happens When You Hit Middle Age
Vitality continues to decline gradually with age until you hit mid 40s, when the decline become steeper. The body shuts down: Your cell become less sensitive to insulin and your metabolism slows down. This results in a major change in body composition: You lose muscles and gain fat; making you heavier and movements less efficient. The process is often triggered by a period of reduced physical activity and results in significant hormonal changes. Your testosterone falls back to lower levels while cortisol soars.
This may sound very dramatic but going through these physiological changes means you are at a T-junction: You can either work hard to return to the normal path or surrender to disease, disability and dependency.
Many appreciate it as a wake up call that should prompts a series of actions to restore back their health and vitality to continue enjoy life again.
By failing to act you risk losing muscles and body programming. In all probability this could mean a lower quality of living, perhaps in a nursing home, in later life.
What Are The Biomarkers Of Vitality?
In order to reverse the middle age changes you need to be aware of individual components of vitality so you can target each effectively to an optimal level. I am sure everyone would agree that having normal body composition and optimum cellular function is paramount to health and vitality.
Biomarkers are characteristics that identify a particular physiological or pathological process. These can be molecules, genes and other characteristics that may suggest that you are at risk of disease, but they can also indicate that you are on the right pathway for good health.
Muscle mass and strength, bone health, glucose tolerance, body metabolism, energy production and body temperature regulation are all biomarkers for vitality (good and bad), at the right levels you can be expected to maintain excellent vitality levels from middle to old age.
How can you achieve these optimal levels?
In simple terms you need to trade fat for muscles and revive your cellular energy production. You also need to have a reliable transport system to supply oxygen and essential nutrients to your body: optimal cardiopulmonary function.
In practical terms you need to reduce your stress levels, sleep well, increase your physical activity and cellular integrity.
Why? Stress and lack of physical activity are the commonest causes of muscles loss. Stress causes the accumulation of belly fat; oxidative stress related to stress and poor diet destroys your cells ability to produce energy – while exercise increases their capacity.
What could you do to stay on top of the game?
You need to adopt a program of physical activity (both aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises) to build up muscles, stamina and endurance. Pursue a healthy diet to nourish your cells and neutralise free radicals that damage your mitochondria and ability to produce energy.
Exercise For Vitality
That exercise program should be tailored to achieve bigger and stronger muscles, healthy bones, optimal cardiopulmonary function, good insulin sensitivity and optimal metabolic rate.
The cardio exercise such as walking, jogging, running and swimming improves your cardiopulmonary function and enhances transport of essential nutrients such as oxygen and energy to your muscles and the rest of the body. As your heart become more efficient your blood pressure normalises and pulse rate comes down. Your heart pumps more blood every time it contracts and hence achieves higher output with less number of contractions, every minute.
Cardio fitness also improve your insulin sensitivity allowing energy such as glucose to go into your cells to produce the form of energy (ATP) necessary for your cells to run vital activities such as growth and repair. This accelerates your metabolism to enjoy a continuous flow of energy and vigour. You also become more efficient to regulate your internal body temperature.
You also need muscle strengthening exercises such as weight lifting and sprinting. This will have the magic effect to produce bigger and a stronger muscles as well as stronger tendons and bones: you get all your hardware optimised in one go!
Muscles are metabolically active tissues that literally suck energy like a sponge to meet their increasing demands. This protects you against obesity in the future.
Healthy Diets For Vitality
As your cells burn food and oxygen to generate energy, free radicals come as by-product to damage your cellular energy plants (mitochondria). This oxidative stress destroys your ability to produce energy.
To combat this you should consume a diet high in antioxidants such as vitamin A, C and E: plant-based foods such as carrots, peppers, kiwi, oranges, nuts and seeds. You will also get more antioxidants from colourful fruits and vegetables that contain phytonutrients.
On the other hand you need to avoid energy dense, high glycaemic processed food that produces more free radicals. We all know what these foods are – processed, junk, high sugar, and foods high in carbohydrates.
In summary, if you are really keen to avoid middle age vitality dip you need to increase your physical activity: both cardio and muscle strengthening exercises. You also need to enhance mitochondrial activity: consume nutrient dense, organic colourful fruits and vegetables.
You should also understand that unlike modern machines the human machine gets better with more use, and that your body has unlimited natural healing capacity that needs to be activated through healthy life choices.
Observing these measures will help you gain more years into your life, and more life into you years. Instead of being ‘normal’ you can keep your vitality curve up longer than expected in the average person who does nothing, as shown on the graph below.
Finally, remember that genes only count for 20%. You can improve your health at any age, irrespective of your family history or disease profile.
Find out whether you’re ‘normal’ and what your vitality levels are like by taking the 5 Minute Vitality Test today. Click here.