Updated: Sep 13, 2022
-Teresa Jacobson, DBH, LPCC-S, NCC
September 9, 2022
When life hits especially hard we may feel a significant acceleration in aging. This writer's intention is not to proclaim the secrets to immortality; aging is inevitable. That said, a recent desire to slow chronic illness and the degeneration process down and find grace in aging, has prompted research worthy of sharing.
"A sedentary lifestyle and the lack of physical activity result in a substantially accelerated rate of aging characteristic of people of all age groups, that reflects the general trend towards deterioration in quality of life and health" (Andrieieva et al., 2019). Aging automatically puts living things at risk for degeneration through automatic processes. But automatic processes of degeneration can also accelerate with neurologic and physiologic changes in people from poor nutrition and high-risk lifestyles. " Regular physical activity contributes to the maintenance of functional independence of individuals, can prevent the emergence of a number of diseases, improve functional abilities, and reduce the risk of falls and injuries" (Andrieieva at al., 2019). Activity is vital, but nutrition is also an important consideration when evaluating the progression of aging.
"The fragility of the elderly is a condition characterized by an increased vulnerability to poor homeostasis resolution after a stress event, which increases the risk of negative outcomes, including falls, delirium and disability" (Capurso, Bellanti, Lo Buglio, & Vendemiale, 2019). Frailty is not inevitable, but a condition resulting from the intersection of "aging-related physiological alterations, poly-pathology, nutritional deficiencies up to severe malnutrition, and the negative impact of socio-environmental factors." The environment, including one's diet, dictates much of the lifespan of an individual. Capurso and colleagues (2019) studied the Mediterranean diet to increase lifespan and improve aging.
"It's generally accepted that the people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea live longer and suffer less than most Americans from cancer and cardiovascular ailments" (U.S. News and World Reports, 2022). "The not-so-surprising secret is an active lifestyle, weight control and a diet low in red meat, sugar and saturated fat and high in produce, nuts and other healthful foods."
The Mediterranean diet includes fruits and vegetables associated with longevity and a reduced risk of chronic illness which contribute to pain and degeneration. "From intrauterine life to old age, humans are constantly exposed to a series of stressors that includes physical and chemical pollutants and viral and bacterial antigens, as well as food-derived molecules that are sensed by a series of stress-responding mechanisms, leading to a lifelong adaptation" (Martucci et al., 2017). "Depending on the outcome of this adaptation, the balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory parameters may be preserved or not, and, consequently, aging will either be delayed or age-related diseases may emerge. The Mediterranean diet is a powerful tool to counteract inflammaging (inflammation process) and its consequences."
Aging as a lifelong adaptation to stressors (Martucci et al., 2017).
9 points of the Mediterranean diet
High consumption of whole-grain cereals
High consumption of vegetables and fruit
High consumption of legumes
High consumption of fish
High intake of monounsaturated fatty acids (olive oil) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (fish, nuts)
Low intake of saturated fatty acids and hydrogenated oils
Low consumption of meat and meat products
Low-to-moderate consumption of milk and dairy products
Moderate consumption of alcohol (red wine at meals (optional)
Some studies have shown a correlation between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and lower risk for Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimers Disease or the progression o Alzheimers Disease (AD) from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), including significant associates for neuroprotective factors with higher adherence (Singh, Parsaik, Mielke, Erwin, Knopman, Petersen, & Roberts, 2014). "The associations were significant even for the sensitivity analysis. This study suggests that there is evidence that MeDi (Mediterranean diet) may be neuroprotective for MCI and AD with higher adherence." Reports indicate the Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower level of C-reactive protein, and the ability to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, both named as factors contributing to degenerative disease.
Multiple studies point to the Mediterranean diet as staving off chronic illness, neurodegeneration, and overall quality of life. Mix this daily lifestyle change with physical activity and improve your overall health and life. It's no coincidence the U.S. News and World Report has named the Mediterranean diet as the best diet of the year for the 5th year (2022).
While the secret to graceful aging has yet to be discovered, I have found some serenity in using best practices the best I can to give my body and mind the grace as I age.
We cannot control the cards we are dealt, but we can certainly strategize in how to play them, and enjoy the time we spend doing it.
Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio and Kentucky adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth/Video visits. A strength-based, person-centered multi-cultural counselor, with an existential philosophy, Teresa can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, calling (513) 206-3026, or visiting https://www.steppingtowardserenity.org
Andrieieva, O., Hakman, A., Kashuba, V., Vasylenko, M., Patsaliuk, K., Koshura, A., and Istyniuk, I (2019). Effects of physical activity on aging processes in elderly persons. Journal of Physical Education and Sport (19)4: 1308–1314. DOI:10.7752/jpes.2019.s4190
Capurso, C., Bellanti, F., Lo Buglio, A., and Vendemiale, G., (2019). The Mediterranean diet slows down the progression of aging and helps to prevent the onset of frailty: An overview. Nutrients. Retrieved from https://mdpi-res.com/d_attachment/nutrients/nutrients-12-00035-v2.pdf?version=1577945725
Martucci, M., Biondi, F., Bellavista, E., Fabbri, C., Bertarelli, C., Salvioli, S., Capri, M., and Santoro, A. (2017). Mediterranean diet and inflammaging within the hormesis paradigm. Nutrition Reviews, 75(6):442–455.
Sing, B., Parsaik, A.K., Meike, M.M., Erwin, P.J., Knopman, D.S., Petersen, R.C. and Roberts, R.O. (2014). Associated of Mediterranean diet with mild cognititive impairment and Alzheimer's disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis 39(2), 271-282. DOI:10.3233/JAD-130830
Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3946820/
U.S. News and World Report (2022). The Mediterranean diet. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/best-diet/mediterranean-diet