• Kerry D. Friesen, MD

Do These 5 Things Now to Slow-Down the Aging Process!

Have you noticed how some people seem to age gracefully while others grow old before their time?

Just about every health problem you can think of is the result of a gene-environment-diet interaction. The aging process is no exception. While you can't pick your genes, you can modify your lifestyle and minimize harmful environmental exposures. I'm going to skip the obvious age accelerators such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and tanning beds and focus on the latest state-of-the-art age-busters and longevity boosters.

Here are five things you can do right now to maximize your genetic potential and delay the aging process:

1. Go To Bed Hungry

As a physician I am often asked the secret to permanent weight-loss. My advice is always the same– go to bed hungry. Conventional weight-loss wisdom states that a calorie is a calorie regardless of when you eat it. The truth is many people have inherited metabolic disorders that make keeping weight off nearly impossible. For these people, indulging in late night meals or snacks can be the straw that breaks the camel's back–here's why.The human brain is in synch with a natural, universal, 24-hour circadian rhythm. This built in molecular body clock is designed to maintain energy balance at all costs. For example, your liver shifts from managing calories consumed during the day to cranking up the production of cholesterol at night. Meanwhile, your brain uses this downtime to file memories and regenerate in preparation for yet another stress filled day. Your metabolism, breathing and heart rate slow dramatically making a calorie consumed at night more likely to remain as excess weight. You can break the cycle of slipping into a nightly food coma by not eating after 6:30 pm. Instead of snacking, brush, floss, drink water and go to bed hungry. Fewer calories consumed at night can add up to a longer, healthier life!

2. Remember To Breathe

Three deep breathes in a row can be magically calming. Take a moment and try it now.

The calmness that follows deep breathing can decrease the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Excessive amounts of cortisol lead to weight gain, memory impairment and overeating. Chronic stress accelerates the aging process by damaging the DNA found in chromosomes tucked safely inside the nucleus of every cell in your body.

Chromosomes are delicate strands of DNA wound so tightly around itself that a six-foot strand can fit inside the nucleus of every cell. They come packaged with "caps" called telomeres that shorten over time when cellular repair cannot keep pace with ongoing damage. When the caps are worn out, your time is up. Remember to breathe when feeling stressed. Be mindful of your breathing as it goes in and out. Don't try to control it, just listen. Enjoy the calmness that follows knowing that you're keeping your telomeres and you alive a little longer.


People feel old even if they don't appear to be when they lose the flexibility and the agility of youth. This is a classic use it or lose it scenario. The good news is most people can regain lost flexibility with a simple at home (or work) stretching program. If you're on the road consider adding stretching exercises to your travel routine. For example, checking your tire pressure can be done with a well executed squat, cleaning your side mirrors becomes an invigorating reach and carefully stepping down out of your car or truck can help stretch tight calf muscles. More flexibility means greater agility and a more youthful aging process.

4. Skip the Sugar

The bitter truth is that sugar can accelerate brain and skin aging even faster than a tanning bed! By deleting sugar from your diet you can slow the accumulation of nasty proteins known as Advanced Glycation Endproducts or AGE's. AGE's interact with receptors found on cells everywhere in your body damaging DNA. Over time AGE's stiffen arteries, wrinkle skin and wear out internal organs contributing to dementia, cataracts, coronary artery disease and cancer. Skip the sugar, but be aware that heavily processed foods and even overly ripe fruit and potatoes can cause blood sugar to skyrocket leading to greater glycation and accelerated aging.

5. Learn to Love Green Tea

Now that you know that sugar can accelerate the aging process, it's equally important to know that there are ways to prevent it. The antioxidants found in green, white and to some extent black tea inhibit the formation of AGE's and delay damage to cells. Our skin is especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of glycation. Two to three (six-ounce) cups of green tea per day makes for the ultimate "AGE" buster! Try several varieties before deciding it's not for you. White tea is lowest in caffeine and highest in antioxidants while black tea is the lowest in antioxidants and highest in caffeine. Green tea is great for skin, brain, heart health and AGE-less living!