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Can ageing be prevented?

Published:Saturday | June 16, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dr Douglas Street, Contributor

From the beginning of time, man has been trying to find the 'Fountain of Youth'. Throughout centuries, this search has taken man in different directions, but the search has always proven futile.

As our years increase, our beauty and vitality decrease. It's the sacrifice we pay for experience. But as we want to have our cake and eat it, can we prevent the decline that ageing wreaks on our bodies and minds?

Why do we age? No one really knows, but there have been many theories. Biblically minded people believe that God has limited our years to "threescore and 10 ( i.e. 70), or by reason of strength, fourscore (80)". Science has shown us that there is a section of our DNA (the telomere) which shortens as we get older and has been shown to be a good indicator of our biological age.

As we get older, our entire constitution breaks down. In fact, one study recent concluded that after age 45, we generally start showing signs of mental deterioration. Also, it is generally accepted that after age 21, we start losing brain cells.

As we get older, we tend to lose our memory, our immune system gets weaker, our joints start breaking down, our cardiovascular system deteriorates, and we are more likely to get chronic diseases, including cancers, which accelerate the ageing/dying process.

Unfortunately, nothing has been able so far to halt the relentless march of the ageing process, but certain practices have been found to ameliorate it somewhat. For maximum effectiveness, these practices should begin during the youthful years.

Ageing is most obvious in the skin. To protect the skin, limit exposure to sunlight especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Get adequate Omega 3 from supplements and sources. Avoid smoking and use sunscreen when appropriate.

Slowing down process

Other measures include drinking eight to 10 glasses of water per day, getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night; getting 20 to 30 minutes of exercise three to five days per week; getting fresh air; eating meals which are composed of 40-50 per cent fresh fruits and vegetables, having whole grains and nuts in preference to refined foods; limiting alcohol intake; getting good dental care; and appropriate health screening and vaccinations.

Social and mental heath should also be taken care of by being part of a healthy, supportive group of people (family and/or friends), having a healthy belief system, and engaging in activities that stimulate the brain.

Dr Douglas Street is a general practitioner and has private practices at Trinity Medical Centre, Trinity Mall at 3 Barnett Street in Montego Bay, and Omega Medical Centre at Plaza de Negril, Negril. Send feedback to drdougstreet@yahoo.com.