Dr. Caroline Day is the owner and CEO of Tuscaloosa Integrative Family Medicine. She is originally from South Africa where she worked as a family physician for 14 years. She and her family relocated to the USA in 2002, where she did all the board exams and a family medicine residency to meet the requirements to practice... more
Have you noticed as you enter midlife that your body has started to change, and perhaps you feel that invincibility factor disappearing? Well, you are not alone. As we enter midlife, our bodies undergo some major, often unwelcome and challenging changes.
I find it helpful to consider our midlife bodies as having transformed into luxury cars that need extra care and preventive maintenance to function optimally. We can no longer get away with treating our bodies as second-hand cars with suboptimal fuel and maintenance.
Heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes cause almost 2/3 of deaths. Inflammation and its concomitant oxidative stress and immune dysregulation are the major factors leading to cardiometabolic dysfunction and chronic degenerative disease.
Genetics only contributes 10% to longevity; the rest is influenced by our environment and lifestyle choices.
The key to successful ageing is to address the root cause of inflammation (or ‘inflamageing’).
In order to address the challenges of inflamageing, I am going to look at a few key areas where some modifications can reap huge rewards.
I often get asked what the best overall diet is, and without a doubt, I have to say the Mediterranean diet with its emphasis on plant-based foods, healthy fats, lean protein and antioxidants that help keep arteries healthy and cancer at bay. It covers all the bases in terms of reducing inflammatory food culprits (i.e., sugar, processed foods, trans and hydrogenated fats). Adding intermittent fasting has also been shown to reduce insulin resistance which helps reduce inflammation and cancer risk and promote fat burning.
Being sedentary is one of the biggest contributors to ageing and early death. Midlife is a time to explore different enjoyable exercise options. Walking, stretching, resistance and weight training are all important to help prevent muscle and bone loss, promote flexibility, strength and balance. It is never too late to start exercising and starting out with 30 minutes 3x week is a good place to start. Biking, hiking, kayaking, golf, swimming, tennis, etc., are all things you may enjoy.
Bioidentical hormone replacement (BHRT) can help you feel years younger by improving energy levels, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep and mood changes, vaginal dryness and weight control. In both men and women testosterone can help stave off the main causes of nursing home admissions, viz., sarcopenia (muscle mass loss), osteoporosis (bone loss) and dementia. Apart from symptom relief, BHRT can slow down vascular ageing and improve vitality and sexual health.
So many of my patients are justifiably concerned about being on unnecessary or harmful medications. It is important to understand why you are on certain medications. BP meds like ACEs or ARBs can be very beneficial in not just reducing blood pressure, but also in protecting your heart and kidneys. Metformin (diabetic drug) has numerous anti-ageing benefits with its positive effects on insulin resistance. Even the maligned statin drugs, in the newer classes at lower doses, can have additional beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.
Consult with your doctor for recommended screenings: colonoscopies, mammograms, DEXA scan, lab work and vaccines. Don’t forget dental health where daily flossing is an extremely effective way to reduce inflammation and subsequent heart disease.
Cutting out smoking and moderating alcohol is also important in reducing overall inflammation.
Supplements that I routinely recommend include a good MVT, Omega 3 fish oil, Vitamin D, Magnesium, CoQ10 and Probiotics.
Finally, precision medicine, where working with a functional integrative medicine physician who has specialized in advanced testing, can be very helpful in navigating the complexities of ageing and tailoring specific nutraceuticals and medications to your particular genetic and health needs. This is fast becoming the way of personalized health optimization and medicine in the future.