Book Excerpt: Joan Collins on Staying Young

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Unfortunately, free radical damage to certain types of cells is irreversible. It's a fact, however, that although 98 percent of free radicals is burned up for energy, unfortunately that leaves 2 percent available for nonproductive harmful activity. Three types of cells -- heart, muscle, and nerve cells, which include brain cells and certain sensor cells of the immune system -- cannot be replaced. To ensure a long and healthy life, damage to these cells must be prevented. After years of free radical assault, millions of cells are lost from major organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver, and brain. Cell loss is a major cause of aging and free radicals have been linked to a wide range of conditions associated with it. They pose a greater problem in later life because as you get older, the body's ability to neutralize free radicals and repair the damage they cause goes into decline. As free radicals are a by-product of normal metabolic processes, you probably produce more when you are younger and more metabolically active. Their extremely reactive nature means they have considerable potential for oxidative cell damage, including damage to cell integrity, harmful changes to capillaries, and damage to the collagen and elastin in skin.

But diet alone cannot protect you and that's why vitamin supplements are essential. vitamin E is the number one for counteracting the effects of oxidation. I call it the magic vitamin after vitamin C. It has many other benefits. Combined with vitamin C, researchers have discovered that vitamin E can help counteract cataract formation, which is caused by the oxidation of eye lenses. Vitamin E also delays the progress and reduces the severity of Parkinson's Disease. It also boosts the immune system (the body's defense against infectious diseases). Beta-carotene, too, can help combat free radicals.

In fact, the power of vitamins should never be underestimated. Some time ago now the New York Times reported provocative new evidence from researchers, indicating that "vitamins influence the health and vibrancy of nearly every organ, and that these enigmatic chemicals may help forestall or even reverse many diseases of aging."

I for one am not too keen on taking drugs and pills. Sure, they can be used to ease the symptoms of diabetes and heart disease, but I don't want to get sick in the first place so I take preventative measures through eating good food and exercising. I can't stress the importance of this enough and most scientists do now believe that exercise and proper nutrition can help to stave off everything from heart disease to diabetes, osteoporosis, and aging.

Whatever you do, you can't prevent the inevitable natural changes that occur with getting older -- skin, bones, muscles, teeth, hair, eyes, heart, lungs, over time these all change, and to function properly, the body needs a constant and balanced amount of the right nutrients and vitamins.

Some gerontologists believe aging results from the accumulated damage done to cells throughout the years, usually caused by toxicity in the environment, pollution, and food preservatives. Others believe genetics determines aging -- if your parents looked good for their age, the chances are that you will, too. This is true, but only up to a point so you've still got to take care of yourself. Anyway, doesn't a not-so-attractive person who has aged well look better than an attractive one who hasn't paid attention to this?

Obesity is spreading (literally)

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