Q: I try to do what you two recommend for diet and physical activity, but at age 63 I feel like I'm getting old too fast. What am I missing? - Katya F., Minneapolis, Minnesota
A: Great question! Eating a plant-based diet free from inflammatory foods that age you prematurely and getting aerobic/cardio and strength-building exercise is essential to achieving a younger RealAge. But research shows that if you want to slow aging and maintain a youthful mind and body, you also need to adopt beneficial social and behavioral activities that help you cultivate resilience.
Social scientists from the University of Southern California recently published three related studies in Ageing Research Reviews. Their bottom line: Social factors directly affect biological aging - but you can overcome the aging impact of certain life circumstances and habits and achieve a longer healthspan.
The aging social and behavioral factors that you want to identify and then modify in yourself include smoking and excess alcohol intake, overeating, depression or gloominess, and being caught in what the studies call a toxic stress response. The research showed that older folks with these traits, as well as loneliness, lack of life purpose, and limited social connections, were more likely to have multiple chronic health problems (some had five or more), cognition issues, and problems with everyday living.
To help combat those super-agers, you want to cultivate resilience. After all, your chronic stressors won't go away, but you can change how you react to them. If you do that, you will reinforce the anti-aging benefits of physical activity and good nutrition so you get maximum benefits.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation and meditative exercise like yoga can build resilience. Volunteering to help others and making frequent plans with family, friends and acquaintances fight loneliness and create a sense of purpose. Smoking or drinking too much? Reach out to online and in-
person groups that offer support and guidance. Adopting a two-pronged approach to maintaining your health and happiness as you get chronologically older is the most effective way to live younger.
Q: I've read a lot about the benefits of certain fats, but it's confusing. Can you explain the difference between and benefits of omega-3 LCFAs and SCFAs?
A: Long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are two types of polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential to your health and can be gotten only through food.
The main long-chain omega-3s are DHA and EPA; the main short-chain omega-3 is ALA. Your body can convert ALA, found in high-fiber foods such as flax, chia seeds, canola oil, soybean oil, edamame, navy beans, avocados, walnuts, 100% whole wheat and oatmeal, into DHA and EPA, but not very well. You really need to get LCFAs from food sources such as salmon, anchovies and sardines.
Research shows that SCFAs help fight off and control metabolic diseases, like diabetes, and promote weight loss. In addition, ALA and other SCFAs produced in the colon by bacterial fermentation of dietary fibers pave the highway between the gut and brain, helping prevent depression, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and autism spectrum disorder.
LCFAs help nerves function properly, maintain brain health, protect cardiovascular health and reduce chronic inflammation, which is implicated in everything from cancer to Crohn's disease and diabetes. Their most impressive feature, however, is the enormous benefits they convey when you substitute them for saturated fats by eliminating dairy, red meat and poultry skin from your diet. One study found substituting olive oil, an LCFA, for butter cuts the risk of Type 2 diabetes by up to 15%. Another found saturated fats (in meats, for example) make you store visceral belly fat and promote obesity, while LCFAs help you burn fat and keep your arteries clear.
Aim to average around 250 to 500 mg a day of EPA and DHA - your best bet may be from 8 ounces of salmon or seafood a week. If you want to take a supplement, ask your doctor to make sure it's smart for you.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily(at sign)sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.