The real fountain of youth
Posted on 18 December 2017
New studies show that maintaining a normal weight, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation are factors that add healthy years to your life. A GP weighs in on other ways to combat ageing and disease by making good daily choices.
While obesity, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are obviously detrimental to your general health, these and other factors also contribute to the ageing process. A shift in attitude and awareness can in fact make you physiologically younger.
‘There is a definite shift in the general population’s attitude towards health and fitness,’ says Dr Saville Furman, a Cape Town-based general practitioner. ‘Improved diet, exercise and lifestyle habits are on the rise and this is a good thing.’
Life is getting more frenetic. In fact, a 2017 study showed that around seven of every ten middle-class South Africans suffer from higher-than-normal stress levels.
‘While a minor level of stress is actually good and helps us cope in life, chronic stress levels are another factor altogether,’ says Dr Saville. ‘When cortisol levels are constantly elevated over a period of time, our immune system takes a knock, making us susceptible to illness, disease and ageing.’
Saville outlines additional factors that play a role in the ageing process.
Sun: ‘Sun exposure is a bit of catch-22 situation. Too much sun is bad for your skin and can lead to cancer, too little sun leaves you deficient in vitamin D.’
Exercise: ‘Again, a balance is required here. While inactivity is an invitation to obesity and other disease, too much exercise can be just as harmful. An optimum level of exercise is good for the heart, opens up collateral vessels and improves general mood, wellbeing and mobility.’
Diet: ‘You really are what you eat. And there is much crossover between diet and lifestyle. While good nutrition is part and parcel of strong immunity as well as looking good, poor eating habits are often a precursor to more serious conditions like obesity or anorexia.’
Hydration: ‘We take water for granted. While good hydration won’t stop your skin from getting wrinkled, chronic dehydration can alter your mood and memory and can be a factor in cardiovascular disease.’
Sleep: ‘We should all aim for 6-8 hours of sleep a night. Stress, depression and anxiety affect sleeping patterns and cognitive function and concentration are directly affected by sleep quantity and quality. Good sleep is a great healer and is critical is minimising the risk of disease.’
Prevention: ‘Prolonging your life is all about prevention. Getting vaccinated against influenza on an annual basis is highly recommended as you get older, particularly for those who suffer from asthma or lung-related ailments.’
‘At the end of the day, it’s all about balance,’ Dr Saville concludes. ‘Too much – or too little – of most essential elements in our lives such as sleep or food is not actually a good thing. Having a good health awareness goes a long way in the long run.’