When I say this many people look at me like I am crazy! They describe how they wake with aches and pains, need glasses to read a menu, experience forgetful moments. How is this a gift? It is because it’s a privilege denied to many.

This gets personal. I have been an advocate for healthy living my whole life. As a young athlete, I sought out nutrition and training approaches for optimal performance. I went on to pursue a career in physical therapy, combining it later with degrees in integrative medicine and nutrition.

I never used to think or worry about getting old and then I turned 50. Like many, I started searching for the “fountain of youth” and anything to halt and reverse the aging process. However, after the sudden passing of my sister and 2 other family members, all under the age of 60, my perspective on aging changed and I began to see aging as a gift.

If we are lucky, we get to grow old. But that doesn’t mean that we should sit back and succumb to creaky joints and chronic illness. The truth is, you have more control over healthy aging than you think!

With the population of aging adults now outnumbering children for the first time in US history, there has been a surge in anti-aging research and medicine. And what we are finding is that there are several factors that contribute to aging which are very much influenced by lifestyle and dietary habits.

Lifestyle and dietary habits can influence three powerful factors in the aging process: telomere shortening, oxidative stress and glycation. Let me explain.

Telomere shortening: Telomeres sit at the ends of our chromosomes which hold our DNA. They are described as being similar to aglets, the protective caps at the end of a shoe lace. Just like an aglet prevents the shoe lace from fraying, the telomere protects our DNA and genetic material from damage. Overtime, these telomeres get shorter and shorter causing our cells to age and stop functioning properly. Many scientific studies have shown a strong connection between the shortening of telomeres and aging, chronic disease and death. Some suggest that telomere length is independently associated with a decrease in BMD and the presence of osteoporosis in women.

Even though telomeres naturally shorten over time, it turns out that our lifestyle and dietary choices can actually impact the rate of telomere shortening. Habits such as smoking, excessive stress, lack of exercise and diet full of processed foods can accelerate the shortening of telomeres. And, you guessed it, a healthy lifestyle and eating habits can delay the shortening of telomeres and may even encourage lengthening.

Oxidative stress: Oxidation produces free radicals that can damage our cells and our DNA. It is a normal occurrence as a by-product of metabolism and our body defends against it with antioxidants. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radical production and antioxidant levels. There are many things that contribute to oxidative stress: toxins, nutritional deficiency, chronic psychological stress, poor sleep and a sedentary lifestyle. Oxidative stress damages cells and DNA that contribute to aging as well as several age-related conditions from cardiovascular disease to cancer, and even osteoporosis.

Glycation: Glycation is the process by which sugars bind to proteins and fats creating harmful molecules called “advanced glycation end products” (ironically known as: AGEs). AGEs accumulate naturally as you age but are also created when you consume foods high in sugars and foods cooked at high temperatures, like fried foods. High levels of AGEs have been linked to the development of many disease as well as premature aging. AGEs can also trigger systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. If you regularly cook foods at high temperatures or eat large amounts of processed foods, you AGEs levels are probably high. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and plant proteins and lower in processed foods and red meat will likely decrease the production of AGEs. Physical exercise can reduce the accumulation of AGEs as well.

Do you see how unhealthy lifestyle habits can contribute to these key factors that promote aging and how a nutritious diet, exercise, stress reduction and healthy habits can help prevent them?

This is one reason why I have created the Healthy Aging Summit! This online summit brings together 39 experts in the health and wellness field to discuss the steps you can take to stay healthy, active and vibrant at any age. From tips on preventing chronic conditions associated with aging to the secrets that will keep you looking and feeling your best.

Aging is a gift, but the key is aging in good health with vibrance and vitality so you can continue to do things you love and enjoy life’s special moments with the people you cherish most.

Join me. Come learn what you can do to put a halt to telomere shortening, oxidative stress and glycation! It is never too early or too late to take control of your health.

The summit starts tomorrow. Sign up today so you can get full access to all the expert interviews over the next four days.

If you are someone that wants to be able to remain active, travel, fully enjoy your family and friends and live independently to a ripe old age….you don’t want to miss this summit!

Susan Brady is a Physical Therapist, Nutrition Consultant and Doctor of Integrative Medicine.

She has been treating women with osteoporosis for over 30 years and is dedicated to helping them achieve lasting good health and vitality.

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