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Supplementing the 50+

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While entering the realm of seniorhood, our risk of many age-related health problems, such as macular degeneration, osteoarthritis, and mental deterioration increases. Here are several supplements that nutritional scientists are advising we include in our daily health programs to enhance the quality and quantity of our elder years.

Once you hit 40, seniors are those people 10 years older or more than you. Nonetheless, those of us who are 65 or older are commonly described as seniors. While entering the realm of seniorhood reduces the cost of public transportation and the admission price to movie theatres, it also increases our risk of many age-related health problems, such as macular degeneration, osteoarthritis, and mental deterioration.

Here are several supplements that nutritional scientists are advising we include in our daily health programs to enhance the quality and quantity of our elder years.

Get on Ginkgo!

Everyone's heard of the brain-boosting benefits of Ginkgo biloba . The leaves of this beautiful ancient tree have become the medicinal herb of choice for an aging population.
Ginkgo's wide range of benefits stem from its properties as a neuroprotective agent, antioxidant, free-radical scavenger, membrane stabilizer, and inhibitor of platelet aggregation (clumping).

Thanks to the positive study conclusions reported by researchers around the world, enlightened physicians routinely recommend ginkgo to their older patients (after screening for potential drug interactions).

American Family Physician reported that there are over 120 published clinical studies on ginkgo, primarily from Europe. A review of these studies found that ginkgo works as well as prescription medications to improve the symptoms of dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and cerebral (brain) insufficiency. Ginkgo was also found to improve circulation and is especially beneficial for intermittent claudication, a blockage of leg arteries. Tinnitus, a ringing in the ears sometimes caused by compressed blood vessels, may also be improved with the use of ginkgo. Sexual dysfunction caused by some antidepressant medications has been improved with the use of ginkgo, as has macular degeneration.

Ginkgo also boosts the brain power of older people who don't have significant symptoms of memory loss. The results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of ginkgo extract showed enhanced neuropsychological and memory functions in cognitively intact adults 60 years old and over.

A daily dosage of approximately 160 mg taken in two to three doses is generally recommended. It takes up to 12 weeks to experience noticeable results.

Adapt With Ginseng

Panax ginseng, North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium), and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) have all shown some very positive adaptogenic effects on older men and women. In herbal medicine, adaptogens are defined as substances that help all systems of the body adapt well to stress.

An article published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics (2004) reported the results of a randomized clinical trial of Siberian ginseng taken by people over the age of 65. The researchers found that after four weeks, patients taking Siberian ginseng scored higher in social functioning and other aspects of mental health.

In January 2004 the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published the results of a North American ginseng study conducted on more than 200 men and women, aged 81 and 84. The study concluded that an extract of North American ginseng helps prevent acute respiratory illness in the elderly.

The older we get, the greater our risk of breast or prostate cancer. Fortunately, ginsenosides, the primary active constituents found in Panax ginseng have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of these particular cancer cells.

A Dynamic Duo That Alters Aging

A world-renowned molecular geneticist who pioneered the research on oxidative stress, Dr. Bruce Ames is now focused on the role of mitochondrial decay as a major contributor to aging and age-related degenerative disease.

Mitochondria are the cell's energy producers, and improving the healthy functioning of these energy factories may also slow the aging process. Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with many senile dementias, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Ames discovered that a combination of alpha-lipoic acid and acetylcarnitine creates a synergistic effect that enhances their therapeutic benefits. While alpha-lipoic acid can dramatically lower overall oxidative stress (decreasing damage to mitochondria throughout the body), acetylcarnitine enables fatty acid uptake into the mitochondria where it is used more efficiently for energy. It is thought that both of these natural substances repair damage to the heart and cross the blood-brain barrier, where they protect the brain.

A Metabolic Tune-Up

Dr. Ames calls the B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folic acid, key to "metabolic harmony and disease prevention." He refers to their role in optimizing health as a metabolic
tune-up.

His article in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Nutrition states: "An optimum intake of micronutrients and metabolites, which varies with age and genetic constitution, would tune up metabolism and give a marked increase in health…Approximately 50 different human genetic diseases…can be remedied by feeding high-dose B vitamins."

Slow Aging with Antioxidants

The antioxidant team of nutrientsSource: The World's Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org)vitamin A from carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin E complex in its natural form with tocotrienols, selenium, and zincSource: The World's Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org)support healthy aging. These antioxidants also work to protect vision and prevent cancer.

Daily exercise, a positive outlook, and a balanced, nutritious diet with appropriate nutritional supplementation can support the worthy goal of living an extended, healthy life.

25 Foods and Drinks for Healthy Aging

  • almonds
  • apples
  • blueberries
  • broccoli
  • cinnamon
  • dark chocolate
  • figs
  • flax seeds
  • garlic
  • ginger
  • green tea
  • kale
  • lemons
  • limes
  • lentils
  • millet
  • miso
  • mushrooms
  • oatmeal
  • oregano
  • pumpkin seeds
  • salmon (wild)
  • tomatoes (especially cooked)
  • turmeric
  • yogourt (with live bacterial culture)

Source: The World's Healthiest Foods (whfoods.org)

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