A healthy diet and regular exercise are of course the most important habits to maintain in order to feel as good as possible as the years go by. Dietary fads come and go, but a diet consisting primarily of fruits and vegetables (and avoidance of processed sugar) will always be important no matter what the current trend.
Keeping your body moving is also important not only for your physical health, but also for your mental health. Regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart pumping and makes you sweat, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning according to a study at the University of British Columbia. As we age, it’s also important to incorporate exercises that improve your balance. Walking is good. Cycling, rebounding, and Tai Chi are even better.
That being said, Dr. Shah believes that supplements can also play an important role in helping the brain and body adapt to stress and meet the challenges associated with aging. He takes a few supplements to be at his best physically and mentally with his busy life as a doctor and father of three. If you are interested in supplementation, you can pick and choose from the following categories if there are particular areas you’d like to focus on.
For overall health: A food based multivitamin/multimineral. Even if you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, typically the farm land on which they’ve been grown has been tilled for so many decades that it’s depleted of nutrients. Vitamins and minerals perform a wide range of functions in the body that encompass mood, metabolism, cardiac health, bone and skin health, and more. Vitamin C, for example, plays a role in collagen production in the skin to keep it looking firm. And unfortunately, unless you are preparing all your meals from your own garden, it is difficult to achieve optimum vitamin and mineral levels from the food you eat alone. People often have low levels of certain nutrients, commonly vitamin D and magnesium. A food based multi will contain a complex of nutrients that work together to increase absorption so Dr. Shah recommends them over cheaper multivitamins such as Centrum(TM).
Antioxidants: A multivitamin will contain the antioxidants vitamins C, E, and the mineral selenium. Antioxidants help to prevent oxidative damage to your cells that occurs naturally as by-products of normal body processes, from certain medications, and from air pollution. For even stronger anti-oxidant protection, Dr. Shah also takes astaxanthin. Astaxanthin has also been proven to improve eye health and reduce inflammation. (Buy only astaxanthin sourced from microalgae.) You can learn more about free radical damage, antioxidants, and astaxanthin HERE.
For brain health: Beginning an Omega-3 regimen as early in life as possible is helpful for optimizing brain function and preventing memory loss. Omega 3’s are also important for cardiac support and cell permeability to help the cells absorb nutrients. You can learn more about omega 3’s HERE. If you feel you need extra support with brain function or memory, a Lion’s Mane mushroom supplement is a great addition to an Omega-3 supplement.
For mood: Omega-3 supplements and the vitamin D and B vitamins found in a multi-vitamin are also helpful for mood. If you feel you need additional mood support for mild depression or anxiety, St. John’s wort has been shown to be effective for some people although it may take 1 – 3 months for it to take effect so be patient. St. John’s wort should not be taken with birth control pills, antidepressants, HIV medications, or blood thinners so if you are on any of these medications you should try 5-HTP instead.
Stress/adrenal health: Excess daily stress causes an ongoing “fight or flight” response whereby the stress hormones adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol can become elevated causing excess wear on the body and also causing the body to hold on to fat stores. Trouble sleeping through the night is another effect. If you feel you lead a particularly stressful life and could benefit from some extra adrenal support, you can try holy basil, rhodiola, or ashwaganda (or an adrenal formula containing one or more of these). Rhodiola is especially good to take before workouts to promote endurance or try holy basil if you suffer from anxiety or sleeplessness.
For high altitude locations such as here in Denver, Colorado, you may want to try a chlorophyll supplement to help oxygenate the blood. Especially if you feel fatigued or experience dizziness, sleeplessness, or headaches.
IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s important to always buy quality supplements. Buying from a reputable health food store is recommended as they have high quality standards that their suppliers must meet. Buying supplements from other retailers or online outlets may be cheaper but unfortunately can be risky in terms of the quality, potency, or even authenticity of product you may be getting.