10-Point Checklist for Staying Young when You are Old

By Meena Sreenivasan, NST

Ageing is inevitable but with scientific advances we are progressively finding out how people can stay a little younger.

While most people are concerned with their looks as they age, a few are taking the necessary steps to keep their minds sharp and their bodies healthy.

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Prince Court Medical Centre consultant physician and geriatrician, healthy ageing specialist Dr Rajbans Singh says our ageing population is on the increase and that the average life span is now 75 to 80 years.

"More and more people are hitting the ages of 75 to 80. If people do not age well, it will be an economic burden on the government. The focus on ageing has changed. It is now more on prevention, wellness, anti-ageing and healthy ageing," he says, adding that it is imperative to advise the elderly to stay young and healthy.

Here is Dr Rajbans's 10-point checklist for staying young when you are old.

1. Keep yourself active physically and mentally

 "Studies show that people in Okinawa, Japan, live longer because they have a purpose in life. You need to have a purpose in getting up in the morning and looking forward to doing something. A lot of older people, especially retirees, do nothing. Keep yourself occupied. Plan something for the next morning so you have a purpose in getting up.

2. Keep yourself socially engaged

"People who are loners age faster. But those who are close to their spouses, children or friends, live longer. Make it a point to get involved in social or community work where you meet people".

3. Take good nutrition

"A common problem with most elderly people is that they do not eat well. Some may have lost their teeth and others, their appetite. These are some examples. Malnutrition in the elderly is a big problem. If they are malnourished, their immune system drops and they end up having pneumonia or some other health problem. Getting assessed for nutrition and having a healthy, balanced diet is vital. They can take a supplement formula or a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement. Don't forget your daily dose of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D (1,200 mg), Omega 3 or fish oil (1,000 mg). If you are a vegetarian, take folic acid and a B12 supplement as well. Vitamin C plays a big role in the free radical theory. Eat plenty of whole fruit and at least six to eight portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

4. Exercise regularly

"Exercise is not really necessary for people below the age of 30 but from 35 to 40 years, it is important to do so.

When you are 60 years and above, it is mandatory to exercise. As you get older, age can rob you off your original aerobic capacity. Do a combination of aerobics, flexibility and strengthening exercises for at least half an hour daily to retain that original capacity. Aerobic exercise is basically walking, swimming or cycling. For flexibility, do yoga, tai chi or stretching. You can go for a walk one day and then do some strengthening or lightweight exercises the next day. The activities do not have to be strenuous. Just simply moving around and getting your heart pumping is good enough.

5. Stay slim, get enough sleep and have plenty of sex

"It is all about the mindset when it comes to sex," says Dr Rajbans. Most elderly folks think that sex is a no-no after 60. Some just lose interest in sex whilst others just can't. But if older people are physically active and have good nutrition, they don't lose interest in sex.

"One of the secrets of staying young is to be sexually active. For instance, kissing and touching are just as important. There is no reason why someone who is 70 or 80 years old cannot have sex. If they have problems, there is always medication to treat it".

6. Prevention of falls

"Be careful not to fall. When people get older, they tend to get osteoporosis. When you are 75 or 85 years, it is easy to get a fracture from a fall and be bedridden," he says.

7. Keep up your self-esteem and image

"There's no such thing as an ugly person, just a lazy person! Dressing up and keeping yourself looking good will build your self-esteem and give you a purpose in life."

8. Hormone balancing for internal ageing

"The buzzword in medicine is to prevent ageing, both internally and externally. For internal ageing, there are stem cells and hormone balancing. The newest issue is bio-identical hormone balancing where you can check your eight different hormones. We will see what is lacking in your body and replace them with bio-identical hormones".

In the case of stem cells, it is excellent for arthritis, Parkinson disease and other degenerative diseases. There will come a time when people rejuvenate their organs to stay younger. Hormone balancing is not very expensive," says Dr Rajbans. "If they can afford to dine in a fancy restaurant, they can go for this. Stem cells cost around RM30,000 to RM40,000 while bio-identical hormone balancing can be done in most laboratories and costs just a few hundred ringgit."

9. Aesthetic procedures for external ageing

"Go to dermatologists and plastic surgeons if you want to undergo any aesthetic procedure like botox or collagen fillers. But you need to go to the right source and not just anybody".

10. Nutri-genomics

"The next big thing is nutri-genomics - nutrition for your genes, be it fat genes, free radical, cholesterol or detox to name a few. You can also check on disease genes. What you are looking at are the preventive genes so that they don't cause diseases. We will check on what bad genes you have and then block it by using nutrition and supplementation. If you have a bad variant for fat, you can maintain your ideal weight and lifestyle by nutri-genomics.

"And here's a secret. If you modify your genes when you are young, there is a chance your children won't have any disease." 

"Last but not least, don't forget to pamper yourself and manage your stress".

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