Q: I’ve been panicking because I have Type 2 diabetes and narrowing of my arteries. I’m afraid I won’t get to do what I want after I retire in three years. How can I get healthy enough to enjoy my leisure years?
— Lamar G., Knoxville, Tenn.
A: We’re glad you asked, because many folks are feeling distressed about their health future. A new poll of 2,000 U.S. adults done by the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association found that 89% of folks with Type 2 diabetes, 90% with heart disease and 87% who have had a stroke are worried that their health will limit future life experiences and enjoyment.
That’s understandable. One study found that if you’re 60 and have Type 2 diabetes and have had a heart attack, your life expectancy is shortened by 12 years. But that’s not inevitable. You can do a lot when you’re older to improve your health today and tomorrow.
“The vast majority of variation in how old we live to be is due to our health behaviors,” says Dr. Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study at Boston University’s School of Medicine. “Our genes could get most of us close to the remarkable age of 90 if we lead a healthy lifestyle.”
So, how do you reclaim your health? Try these:
1. Control your blood glucose, reduce your A1C to under 6.4% and improve your heart function. You can do that by eating no red or processed meats, no highly processed foods, no added sugars, no syrups, no simple carbs and enjoying lots of veggies, fruits and whole grains.
Plus, get in 300 minutes a week of physical activity and two 20-minute strength-training sessions weekly.
2. Sleep seven to eight hours nightly.
3. Reduce your stress response using meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing — whatever suits you.
If you take those steps, your body will reward you with a lot more energy, pleasure and a younger RealAge (check out yours at www.sharecare.com). Enjoy!
Q: My osteoarthritis is getting worse and worse. What can I do to stop the pain and joint distortion that’s showing up in my hands and feet?
— Kelly D., Santa Fe, N.M.
A: You’ve heard of “divide and conquer”? Well, that’s what you want to happen to the cells in your joints. Turns out one of the hallmarks of aging is that the body begins to slow down the process of cell division. As a result, old, damaged, tired cells don’t renew themselves. Instead they hang around, are out of shape and become highly irritating, causing neighboring cells to age and damaging your joints and other important bodily systems.
The science of senolytics is discovering ways to move out those old cells (called senescent or senile cells) and allow new, younger cells to thrive. These newer versions are not associated with cellular damage. The result is that conditions such as osteoarthritis (as well as some cancers, immune diseases and wrinkly skin) may be stopped in their tracks. One company is in phase 2 clinical trials of a drug named UBX0101, designed to do that. The phase 1 trial established the safety and bodily effects of the drug. Other therapies are also in the works.
But until they’re on the market, you’ll have to make lifestyle choices that tamp down certain stressors, like tissue-damaging free radicals that can interfere with cells’ ability to divide and conquer the aging process. The five smartest ways to keep your cells young at heart: 1) Maintain a healthy weight; 2) move often, exercise regularly, avoid sitting for more than an hour at a time and make sure you take a walk after each time you eat; 3) ditch highly processed foods and red meats; 4) have an active network of caring family and friends and act generously to others, including strangers; and 5) see a doc at least once a year and keep immunizations up to date.