Although all humans age, the characteristics of the aged range from chronic disease and mental and physical debilitation to vibrant health throughout the lifespan. It is the latter condition that is called optimal aging (other terms are successful, productive, conscious and positive aging). Rather than focusing on chronological age, positive aging concepts take genetic, biomedical, behavioral and social factors into account, with the goal of retaining or even enhancing people's ability to function.
The answer is: pretty much everything. Genetic factors certainly play a role; if an individual's ancestors lived long, healthy lives, he or she probably has the genetic makeup to do the same. Nutrition plays a large role, as does adequate sleep. Exposure to natural radiation can cause cellular mutations that affect the aging process. Too much of anything — exercise, body fat, alcohol or sexual activity, for example — can negatively affect the aging process. Lifestyle habits like smoking accelerate the aging process.
The goal of a naturopathic physician is to promote health and wellness for each patient. This requires an individualized approach to such lifestyle issues as diet and exercise. Many of the treatments and remedies used in naturopathic medicine are meant to support the body, using a preventive approach rather than waiting until disease appears and then dealing with the fall-out. Naturopathic physicians practice holistic medicine, which ensures that all areas of health — mental, physical, emotional and spiritual — are considered in providing care.
While people can't do anything about their genetic make-up, lifestyle has a huge impact on aging. One of the most important things people can do for their health is to avoid tobacco in all forms, as tobacco directly contributes to heart disease, blood vessel disease and cancer. A good diet, with organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed or pasture-based meat and poultry, and minimal processed food, provides the body with optimum nutrition for all metabolic processes. In some cases, supplements may be helpful. Regular exercise and adequate sleep (at least seven hours a night) round out the self-help activities.
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