Is Diet the Fountain of Youth?
By Letha Sgritta McDowell, CELA
Did you know that diet may be the best way to fight aging? The benefits of diet and exercise have long been touted as beneficial, and we hear about obesity leading to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes which ultimately leads to an early death. However, beyond simply improving looks and living longer, studies are now showing that a healthy diet may be the secret to anti-aging.
As we age our bodies change. Not simply in looks but in function as well. For example, thirst sensation decreases with age which means a person feels less thirsty. The result may be a failure to drink enough water. It also takes longer to digest a meal as a person ages and the ability to taste can be reduced which may lead to being disinterested in eating. Because our bodies change as we age, our diet needs to adapt as well. The diet we had in our 20s and 30s may simply not work anymore.
One key to a healthy diet (at any age) is water, but it becomes more important as an individual ages and in improving the aging process. As mentioned above, the sensation of being thirsty reduces as a person ages so older adults are more likely to be dehydrated. Not only does that affect organ function but our looks as well. Being dehydrated can exacerbate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Blueberries are extremely high in anti-oxidants, not to mention low in calories. Anti-oxidants are important, because they neutralize free radicals which exist in our bodies. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can attack cells, and they have been linked to diseases such as cancer. Recently, research has shown that an appropriate diet can help slow cognitive impairment that comes with dementia, and it is believed that blueberries and other foods high in anti-oxidants play a significant part in that.
Walnuts are high in phytochemicals such as polyunsaturated fatty acids which reduce pressure on the brain. Studies are also showing that consuming walnuts helps increase brain activity and slows cognitive decline, making walnuts a true brain food.
Believe it or not, watercress is an excellent food to add to a diet to reduce the signs of aging. Watercress contains potassium, calcium, manganese, phosphorus and a host of vitamins. Included in these are anti-oxidants which are discussed above, as well as compounds which increase circulation, improve the delivery of minerals to cells, and reduce basal DNA damage. Therefore, watercress may help prevent cancer and helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
Papaya has a number of important vitamins and eating papaya has been shown to improve skin elasticity. It also contains an enzyme called papain which is a known anti-inflammatory and exfoliant. So, eating papaya can help shed dead cells and leave you with glowing skin.
This is a short list of foods which are beneficial to our bodies at any age but which can provide even more pronounced benefits as we age. There are many other foods which could be listed that can reduce cell damage, prevent heart disease, slow memory loss, and help us look younger. Many of us are unaware of how our bodies change as we age and that modifications to our diet can aid us in looking and feeling great well into old age.
Ask Kit Kat: NC Animal Shelters Well-Prepared
Hook Law Center: Kit Kat, what can you tell us about how the animal shelters in North Carolina are some of the best prepared in the country for emergencies like flooding or hurricanes?
Kit Kat: Well, yes, North Carolina does seem to have developed a great system for the organization and storage of supplies to keep pets and humans together during storms which result in large evacuations or sheltering. In fact, according to Wendy Pulley, interim human services branch manager of the NC Division of Emergency Management, “North Carolina has become the gold standard for pet shelters.” What is unique to North Carolina is that people and pets can stay together in the same shelters in the majority of cases. North Carolina, in essence, has pre-prepared trailers of pet supplies which can be unpacked should the situation require it. In the trailers are animal crates in folded condition, large rolls of plastic sheeting which can wrap an entire room or hallway to maintain sanitary conditions, leashes, food, etc. Very quickly a shelter can be established, and cleanup is a snap.
North Carolina, after Hurricane Katrina, took seriously the law enacted by Congress, that all states have evacuation plans for animals. In North Carolina, that meant mandating that every county have a plan for the evacuation of animals. About half of North Carolina’s 100 counties have purchased the trailers with animal supplies. Trailers with equipment-only cost $16,000. Those with air conditioning and which are self-contained units cost $35,000. In some cases, other systems were already in place which met the law’s requirements. For example, counties on the coast like Dare and Currituck, have vehicles to move the animals inland to areas/shelters not so vulnerable to flooding. Pets are checked in by trained volunteers, and each pets gets an ID attached to its collar or crate. The goal is to eliminate the need for people to make a choice between evacuating and leaving their pets behind to fend for themselves. North Carolina has done a wonderful job in helping both people and their pets. (Jeff Hampton, “N.C. Shelters come with everything needed to save animals during storms,” The Virginian-Pilot, July 27, 2019, p. 3)