Preventive health adds up

As our society becomes more health conscious, the common hook is to look and feel younger. In the ultimate quest for the fountain of youth without going under the knife, it is important to understand that preventative health is cumulative. Like a retirement fund, your health builds up over the years so you can enjoy it later in life. When the future is not accounted for, chronic disease and the aging process have the opportunity to take over.


There are numerous important reasons to decrease sugar in your diet, like diabetes and heart disease, but the argument that most often leads people to change their habits lies in vanity: Over time, sugar degrades the collagen in the skin, causing skin to prematurely age.

The detoxification of a high sugar diet results in molecules called advanced glycosylated end products (AGEs). This by-product of sugar breakdown converts strong Type III collagen to weak Type I collagen, making the skin increasingly fragile.

In addition to reducing sugar in your diet, incorporating antiaging superfoods like green tea, berries, colorful vegetables, raw dark chocolate, and goji berries help to combat toxic damage.


For both men and women, bone loss can be mitigated by a diet rich in minerals including calcium, magnesium, and zinc and by consistent weight-bearing exercise. Beyond dairy products, calcium is actually better absorbed from spinach, kale, and other dark leafy vegetables. If you choose to supplement with calcium, look for one with a complex of minerals.

For women, the greatest drop in bone mass parallels the drop in estrogen during perimenopause. Many women consider the pros and cons of bio-identical hormone replacement, which can prevent bone loss and other conditions associated with aging.


Part of maintaining healthy bones is supporting them with healthy muscles. As hormones and activity tend to lower with age, muscle mass and tone follows, so exercise plays an essential role. Studies show that men who continue to do weight-bearing exercise and eat low-sugar diets have higher testosterone levels than men their age who do not exercise and follow a healthful diet.

A key nutrient that supports muscle mass maintenance, healthy bones, a strong immune system, and healthy skin is vitamin D. We absorb vitamin D from the sun and utilize it in multiple body systems; our skin naturally becomes tan to block excess absorption. When living in areas with more time spent indoors, most people require oral supplementation. Because our bodies store vitamin D, it is important to consult a doctor regarding supplementation to prevent possible overdosing.


Naturally as we age, hydrochloric acid, our natural digestive aid created in our stomach, reduces. Low hydrochloric acid can cause symptoms of indigestion, acid reflux, bloating, change in bowel movements, and reduction of nutrient absorption.

Acid reflux symptoms often lead doctors to give patients proton pump inhibitors, but this can further reduce nutrient absorption and contribute to conditions like osteoporosis.


Maintaining a healthy level of hydration supports all systems in the body, including bone health, digestion, and youthful skin. The discs of the back include a sponge-like center, and under physical stress, this spongy center can bulge causing a herniated disc. Disc herniation is considered a normal aging process, but by using caution when lifting heavy objects and staying adequately hydrated, any associated pain can be prevented or minimized.

Adequate hydration varies from person to person depending on body size and activity level. One guideline is to ensure that your urine maintains a light straw color. Another option is to divide your body weight in half. The resulting number is the number of ounces you require per day without added activity.


Again, preventative skin care is a cumulative process that starts at an early age. By maintaining a healthful skincare regimen, you can support cell regeneration and mitigate sun damage. Applying sunscreen daily is the single most important thing you can do. Even when it is overcast, the sun’s rays still penetrate to reach your skin.

A few additional products can also be beneficial. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, and though it has numerous benefits within the body, studies have shown that oral consumption of vitamin C does not support skin collagen. To reduce the effects of sun damage and support skin integrity, applying a vitamin C serum every morning can be a great addition.

For skin regeneration, it is helpful to lightly remove the dead skin cells with a retinol cream at night. While dermatologists commonly prescribe Retin-A, it is often too harsh and causes irritation. There are retinol creams specifically created for antiaging purposes that can also reduce acne. When using retinol, it is important to also apply sunscreen daily. Retinol should also be avoided if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have questions, consult your dermatologist or aesthetician.


You are only as young as you feel, and my patients who feel the youngest are those who are forever students. These people keep up with the times and new technologies, learn languages, read avidly, and travel to experience cultures. Many utilize local programs like the University of San Francisco Fromm Institute, where courses in various topics are offered specifically for those 50 and older. Staying sharp mentally is the compass for all of the areas listed above and for enhanced quality of life.

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Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor at Discover Health. Her background includes both conventional and alternative modalities, and her practice is primarily focused on weight management, hormone imbalances, and gastrointestinal conditions. E-mail: drthalia@