Aging is a natural process that typically accompanies biochemical and physiological changes that disrupt normal cellular functions. Maintaining optimal cellular function is critical for supporting overall health and quality of life and well‑being into older age. As we grow older, we tend to focus on external factors in the fight against aging - finding the right hairstyle or clothing, for example. That’s a perfectly normal reaction, but things that truly create the vitality and energy of youth come from within.
Cellular health impacts our energy, appearance, strength, digestion, and much more. And although aging is inevitable, optimizing cellular health can support a healthy aging process, energy levels and quality of life on the way.
The Aging Process
Cells are the building blocks of the body. They’re powered by mitochondria, which produce an energy-producing molecule called adenosine triphosphate. With age, your mitochondrias’ ability to produce this energy source begins to fade.
When cells stop dividing and regenerating with age, it’s called senescence. This affects mitochondria function, which has a cascading effect on our overall vitality.
The processes behind aging are complex, but many come down to an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in our cells. Free radicals are unstable molecules that perform some vital functions in the body, such as fighting bacteria, but they can also harm cells’ DNA.
During normal metabolic processes, your cells are protected from free radical damage by antioxidants, which neutralize the free radicals. Oxidative stress happens when there isn’t a good balance of antioxidants and free radicals.
Exposure to some elements increases free radicals and raises the risk of oxidative stress.
Those elements include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Heavy metals
- Some medications
To support cellular health, we can take several measures to both reduce exposure to free radicals and increase antioxidants.
1 - Eating for vitality:
A diet high in antioxidants helps to reduce oxidative stress. Fortunately, an antioxidant-rich diet is easy to achieve (and delicious!), by focusing on whole foods. Incorporate the following foods in your diet to boost your vitality naturally.
Fresh fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least five servings a day. Produce high in antioxidants is often brightly colored - berries, bright leafy greens, and broccoli are all good choices.
Dark chocolate. Yes, chocolate can be part of a healthy diet! Dark chocolate is the best choice for chocolates, and, in fact, studies have found that its antioxidant levels are comparable to some fruits and vegetables.1 As always, however, moderation is the best approach.
Olive oil. A cornerstone of the anti-aging Mediterranean diet, olive oil is high in antioxidants and has potentially anti-inflammatory properties. Some research has also linked olive oil consumption with a lower risk of skin damage with age.2
Green tea. Replace sugary beverages with antioxidant-rich green tea. Recognized for centuries for its restorative abilities, drinking green tea is another way to help protect your skin from aging, according to a study published in Nutrients. 3
Quality proteins. Protein plays an important role in repairing cells and building new ones. Focus on lean proteins like fish and legumes, and avoid processed meats, which often contain large amounts of processing aids and fillers.
2 - Shut-eye for cell support:
There’s a good reason why your energy dips after a late night: your cells repair themselves while you’re asleep. Inadequate sleep creates cellular stress which impacts your energy levels.
It's largely a myth that we need less sleep as we age. Ironically, however, many seniors experience poor sleep. A study published in the journal Neuron 4 took a deep dive into the sleep needs of older adults and concluded that some of the cognitive difficulties experienced by older adults may be because they aren’t getting enough sleep. If you experience problems falling or staying asleep, work with us to create routines that will help with sleep.
3 - It’s all about the telomeres: How exercise impacts cellular health:
There’s many reasons why exercise is often called a veritable fountain of youth, and many of them come down to telomeres. Telomeres are sections of DNA found at the end of chromosomes, where they play a protective role. With time, however, telomeres shorten, leaving chromosomes more vulnerable to damage. A meta-analysis of existing research concluded that exercise, particularly cardio, has a beneficial effect on preserving the length of telomeres.5
Strength training is also important. The rebuilding of muscle tissue that follows breaking it down through resistance training has been shown to improve mitochondrial capacity. 6
4 - Smart supplementation to slow senescence:
The anti-aging industry is a powerful force, estimated to be worth an astonishing $64 billion in the U.S. alone.7 In such a vast industry, it’s important to take a close look at marketing for supplements that claim to support aging. Considering how a supplement affects your cellular health is a good starting point.
Promising research has examined the role of nicotinamide riboside in supporting cellular vitality and thus promoting healthy aging.* Nicotinamide riboside is converted to molecules called NAD (which includes NAD+ and NADH). At the cellular level, NAD plays a role in the body’s natural DNA repair process.* It also helps to convert food to energy.*
NAD levels drop as we age.8 It may, however, be possible to help support the body’s NAD metabolism with supplements containing nicotinamide riboside,* which is a form of vitamin B3, also called niacin.9
Other supplements support cellular health by providing antioxidants. In addition to a diet high in antioxidants, supplementing with zinc10, vitamin C11, and vitamin E12 can add extra support.
Make A Plan For Healthy Aging
As an integrative medicine practitioner, together we can analyze your current risk level and create a lifestyle plan that supports your cellular health and vitality as you age. Book an appointment with us and together we can create a customized plan for you.
The Team at Princeton Integrative Health
1 Carlsen, M.H., Halvorsen, B.L., Holte, K. et al. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Nutr J 9, 3 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-9-3