• Dr. Bill Rawls


    Dr. Rawls is a licensed medical doctor in North Carolina and a leading expert in integrative health. He has extensive training in alternative therapies, and is the Medical Director of Vital Plan, a holistic health and herbal supplement company in Raleigh, NC.

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Healthy Aging

Aging doesn’t happen overnight, but sometimes it can feel like it does. While aging is inevitable, feeling old is not. Implementing healthful aging practices can help you embrace each year as it comes and maintain optimal physical, mental, and psychological health well into your senior years. And, if you do it just right, you can also hold onto those good looks along the way!

Habits That Influence Healthful Aging

Every cell, organ, and system in the body is affected by aging, and your body is naturally designed to renew, regenerate, and rebuild. Genetics do play a role in how gracefully you age, but lifestyle plays an even bigger role. Many of the issues often associated with aging can actually be attributed to thing you control, including diet, stress, sleep, and activity.

Your body is constantly aging and changing — cells are dying and being regenerated even as you read this — so every habit you keep plays a role in how you age. Here are some ways that different aspects of your life may influence healthful aging:

    • Nutrition: Healthy food provides the building blocks each cell needs to thrive and perform its necessary role in the body. However, today’s food supply is overrun by processed and artificial ingredients. When you eat a diet filled with fast food, refined grains, and other foods low in nutrients, your body does not get the fuel it needs to perform at its best and age healthfully. Processed foods lack the antioxidants provided by plants like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. They can end up doing more harm than good, which requires the body to devote more attention to mitigating their negative impact.
    • Stress: While operating under constant stress has become a way of life for many people, your nervous and endocrine systems were not designed to stay on high alert 24/7. Stress impacts every system within the body, stealing attention and energy from other aspects of health and well-being. Emotional stress as well as physical stress, including injury, wear and tear to the body, and constant exposure to changes in temperature and pressure, have an impact on aging. Healthy stress management may help take years off of each system in your body.
    • Toxins: Modern technology certainly has its ups and downs. On one hand, we have made innumerable advancements in science, medicine, and technology that our ancient ancestors could never have imagined. However, there are also at least 84,000 chemicals in use today — many of which are derived from petroleum. In your daily personal care routine alone, you may be exposed to 126 different chemicals. Toxins enter the skin through the air you breathe, the food and drinks you consume, and contact with your skin — the biggest organ in the body. Once inside, the liver and other components of your natural detoxification system are programmed to filter out these unwanted toxins. However, the more toxins you are exposed to, the more work you create for the body. Over several decades, these toxin exposures add up, and can take a major toll on the body and the aging process.
  • Microbiome balance: A healthy microbiome supports healthful aging. Your microbiome is the sum of all the microbes that inhabit your body. Most microbes join your microbiome as normal, healthy flora, giving back to your body as much as they take from it. A wide diversity of normal flora is associated with good health.

However, it’s natural to encounter unhelpful flora, too. Your immune system’s job is to promptly recognize and dispatch these harmful microbes. Some are stealthy — they seem friendly at first, but eventually overstay their welcome. Because of their stealthy characteristics, the immune system has a hard time eradicating them, so they linger in the recesses of the body.

You have some stealth microbes in your body at all times — everyone does. Maintaining healthy habits helps to keep these invaders in check so that, over time, they don’t distract your body from its vital work of keeping you happy and healthy at all ages.

Tips to Promote Healthful Aging

If you’re actively taking steps to support your overall health and wellness, including following a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of phytochemicals from herbs, you’re on a great path to promoting healthful aging. Here are some other ways you can ensure that age is just a number:

Support optimal blood flow. Blood delivers oxygen, nutrients, and antioxidants to all tissues in the body. Optimal blood flow is essential for overall health, and it depends on a strong heart to pump blood, clean blood vessels, and maintain low blood viscosity.* Regular exercise, avoiding smoking, and drinking plenty of water can help support healthy blood flow.

Support optimal immune function. The immune system is responsible for removing old and damaged cells, containing microbial threats, and continually repairing damage to cells and tissues. The immune system naturally weakens a bit with each passing decade, so taking steps to support it can also help promote a healthy aging process.

Promote the health of your brain, joints, eyes, and skin. Antioxidants provide support for all areas of the body, including the ones that commonly show signs of aging, like the brain, joints, eyes, and skin. Participating in mentally-stimulating activities and maintaining meaningful relationships can help keep your brain sharp, while regular, gentle movement can help keep joints functioning optimally. To promote healthy eyes, take a break from TV, cell phone, and computer screens whenever possible. For optimal skin health, stick to natural products to mitigate your skin’s exposure to environmental toxins.

Encourage detoxification. You depend on your liver for many things, and one of the most important is the removal of toxic substances. When you support your liver, it can focus its attention on its many roles that help keep your body operating optimally. This includes filtering blood coming from the digestive tract, secreting bile to aid in the digestion of fat, detoxifying chemicals, metabolizing medications and other substances, and breaking down hormones.

The 5 Elements of Wellness that Support Healthful Aging

Eat a nourishing diet. A healthy diet is just as important as an adult as it was when you were young. To help encourage healthy aging, eat a nutrient-rich diet that’s low in or free from grain-derived processed foods and sugar, and instead reach for whole foods that our ancestors would recognize.

Manage your stress levels. Your body and mind need downtime to help you destress. Activities like meditating, reading, journaling, or engaging in any pastime that creates a sense of calm, can help lower your cortisol levels and promote healthy aging. Sleep is also essential: Every system in your body restores itself when you sleep, so getting 7-8 hours of restful sleep each night is an important part of overall health and healthful aging

Activate your lifestyle. Regular physical activity stimulates feel-good hormones in the brain, boosts the immune system, strengthens the heart and lungs, and helps promote a healthy weight. You naturally lose muscle and bone mass as you age, so including light weights or resistance training to your daily routine can help you stay strong and flexible for many years to come.

Purify your environment. Limit your exposure to toxins, environmental and otherwise. Also, strive to drink a couple of liters of water per day, as water naturally aids in the body’s detoxification processes.Managing your toxic load can help your body by keeping your immune system strong and giving it more time and energy to focus on the functions that contribute to healthful aging.

Defend against microbes. The microbes in your microbiome compete with your cells for resources and disrupt your immune system, both of which can speed the aging process and leave you susceptible to chronic illness and aging related symptoms. By incorporating the four other elements of wellness into your daily lifestyle along with the right herbs (see below), you can help keep your microbiome in a healthy balance, promote a healthy immune system, and support healthy aging.

Herbs and Natural Ingredients to Promote Healthful Aging

Key ingredients for maintaining a healthy vascular system and healthy heart function include hawthorn, resveratrol, and French maritime pine bark. The phytochemical compounds in these herbs also support healthy heart-muscle contractions, blood vessel integrity, and low blood viscosity. Krill oil is a good complement to this trio; it provides optimally-absorbed omega-3 fatty acids, as well as astaxanthin, one of the most potent antioxidants.

The skin and eyes are two parts of the body that often show accelerated signs of aging. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two of the most important carotenoids for healthy skin and eyes. In addition to offering cardiovascular support, French maritime pine bark also promotes healthy skin. And milk thistle promotes healthy liver function and stimulates the natural creation of new liver cells.

While all herbs offer some type of immune support, the phytochemicals in adaptogen herbs like cordyceps, reishi, and Chinese skullcap are especially known for their role in supporting the immune system. These herbs are immunomodulators, meaning they work to normalize immune activity, and they support the immune system’s ability to repair the damage that happens in the body each day and protect itself from microbial threats. Adaptogens also help the body deal with day-to-day stress by balancing central hormone pathways.

As you get older, your joints naturally lose moisture and mobility, so keeping them healthy, supple, and mobile allows you to keep doing all the activities you enjoy for as long as possible. Turmeric and boswellia not only provide optimal joint support, they also offer protection for other tissues, including the brain.

Aging is a natural part of life. But getting older doesn’t have to mean getting sick. By taking care of your body now, you can help ease the process and protect your eyesight, joints, muscles, and other parts of your body for years to come.

Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult a qualified healthcare provider before making changes to your healthcare regimen.