Book Excerpt: Joan Collins on Staying Young

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By the way, there is a difference between osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. The latter is a form of arthritis in which the cartilage of the joint and bone are worn away, due to an injury or wear and tear on the joints, often caused by sports injuries. My father suffered badly from osteoarthritis in both his hands. I've inherited it slightly -- luckily only in my thumbs -- but I'm able to keep it under control. When I learned that certain kinds of arthritis were hereditary, I started to take precautions. I take several vitamin E tablets a day plus Maxepa, a fish oil supplement, and MSM, a rich source of organic sulphur. In addition to this, I sometimes wear a copper bracelet on my wrist and if my thumbs start to hurt, I occasionally take a teaspoon of cider vinegar with honey in hot water. Another new method for treating arthritis is magnets. I have a set of armbands with small magnets inside and although no one knows why and how they work, they ease the pain. I first discovered them at an American sports injuries clinic and although I was dubious, they really help.

Fight free radicals

Some of the outward signs of aging -- wrinkles, liver spots, lack of elasticity in the skin -- are caused by disruption of the internal workings of the cells and also certain cellular proteins, such as collagen, between the cells. The reason for this is oxidization, a cell-damaging process caused by molecular fragments known as free radicals. Antioxidants help to neutralize them and the best way to get them is through your diet. Here's a list of foods that will help combat this insidious enemy. Make sure you eat at least one or two portions each day. The best of the best are:

• Apricots, broccoli, cantaloupes, carrots, dark leafy vegetables, spinach, mangos, peaches, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes.

Also beneficial are:

• Asparagus, brussels sprouts, green beans, peas, tomatoes, and watermelon.

So what are these free radicals that contribute so much to the aging process? They are tiny, highly reactive molecules created during normal metabolism and from our polluted world. They can inflict the kind of cellular damage that leads to heart disease, cancer, brain disorders, and other degenerative diseases including aging. And how can they hurt us? In their molecular structure, free radicals are unbalanced. They have an odd number of electrons in their outermost molecular ring and to be "satisfied" they either have to steal an electron, or give one up. This means forcibly snatching one from a nearby cell, or shooting an electron into a cell. While this satisfies the free radical, it also begins the destruction of the other cell and starts off a chain reaction. Each cell, in turn, gains or loses an unwanted electron. It's the same kind of reaction that occurs when butter becomes rancid. Can you imagine what happens to you when the fat in your body turns rancid? Chemical changes inside living cells can cause genetic mutation, alter the structure of important proteins, disable fatty molecules, and more. If the damage accumulates faster than the body repairs it, disease and premature aging can be the result. To survive, a cell needs a variety of defense mechanisms that will destroy the free radicals before they do any damage.

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