6 Super easy tips to reverse symptoms of feeling old

Ilona Madden - RightFood4U - Nutrition Programmes - Bray Wicklow Dublin

Written by Ilona Madden

June 14, 2024

Are those people who get old and stay fit and mentally alert just lucky or have good genes?

Or can we influence how we feel, how fit we are and how mentally sharp we stay as we get older?

Many people blame symptoms such as lack of energy, weight gain, becoming forgetful and out of breath quicker on getting older.

Many people assume that health issues and losing independence are inevitable.

Nobody wants to grow old and be sick. Everyone would love to keep feeling you while getting older.

While we know that people are getting older, it seems that the actual quality of life in the last 20-30 years of many people has been drastically reduced.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be 85 and still be able to climb up onto Errigal or play an 18-hole round of golf on a hilly course?

Is it a case that while we know that our diet and lifestyle have some influence on how we age, that we don’t really believe it and therefore don’t do enough?

Or is the instant gratification so strong that we struggle to implement guidelines while we still feel well?

Can we influence how old we feel with our thoughts and mindset?

Why is it so hard to do something now that might have some benefit in the future? Especially, the younger you are now, the harder it is to visualise yourself in retirement age. And yet, it is known, how you treat your body in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s will determine directly how healthy you are in your 60’s and longer.

The good news though, while it’s better to start early, it’s never too late.

Before sharing my lifestyle and nutrition tips on how to slow down the ageing process, let’s have a look at what people actually worry about most when it comes to getting older.

A survey commissioned by social care marketplace provider cloudBuy in the UK a few years ago, found that people only really start worrying about old age once they turn 50! (1)

Top 20 worries:

  1. Health issues
  2. Serious illness
  3. My mind failing me
  4. Becoming forgetful
  5. Losing my independence
  6. Losing my sight
  7. Being a burden to others
  8. My body failing me, but my mind being completely fit
  9. Money
  10. Having to go into a nursing/care home
  11. My partner getting seriously ill
  12. Dying
  13. My partner dying before me
  14. Being lonely
  15. Having to move out of my home
  16. Not being able to drive
  17. Being bed-ridden
  18. Losing my hearing
  19. My looks and appearance
  20. Not being able to continue with my hobbies

Which one would you be most concerned with?

I’m surprised that “not being able to continue with my hobbies” ranked so far down, as this would be my major concern. I want to be able to do the things I love doing for as long as possible and this is my main driver to keep up my exercise regime and why I eat a healthy diet.

But I also keep up my exercise regime and eat well, because I do see an immediate effect, i.e. if I don’t eat well for a couple of days only, I feel “off”, don’t have the energy and become irritable more easily.

However, I can’t say that I am eating healthy because I’m worried I might get cancer or a stroke.

Looking at this list though, most of the worries are in fact worries about health.

1 and 2 Health issues and serious illness is clear, 3 and 4 are concerns about mental or brain health,

Losing independence, being a burden, having to go to a nursing home, body failing, not being able to drive, being bed-ridden  – these would all be results of health issues.

Worries about losing sight and hearing are probably the ones where you don’t have too much control over, but hopefully with glasses and hearing aids can mitigate some.

Worries about your partner getting ill or dying before you, is something you might not have much control over either. But hopefully, your partner will follow some of the healthy lifestyle tips together with you.

As most relate to health issues, have a look at this Meta-study from 2002, which is a summary of 92 published studies, that came up with the conclusion:

“Among U.S. adults, more than 90 percent of type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of CAD (Coronary Artery Disease), 70 percent of stroke, and 70 percent of colon cancer are potentially preventable by a combination of non-smoking, avoidance of overweight, moderate physical activity, healthy diet, and moderate alcohol consumption (2).”

There is no drug in the world that can prevent all these diseases and none that can cure them! All current drugs can do is extend your life.

All of these diseases are attributed to ageing, however, what if it’s not ageing that causes these, but simply a much longer exposure to toxins, over-eating and lack of movement?

We seem to simply assume that as we age, we are getting sicker.

We seem to simply assume that as we age, we are putting on weight.

We seem to simply assume that as we age, our memory goes.

And yet, there are so many studies and observations that show that 90% of diseases could be prevented through lifestyle and diet. There are many studies on the way that also show that Alzheimers, dementia and mental illness can be prevented through lifestyle and nutrition.

So, if all this can be prevented, there’s no need to worry anymore about 12 out of the 20 items (1.,2.,3.,4.,5.,7.,8.,10.,16., 17., 19.,20.)! And I’ll cover the others in my tips as well.

The current medicine model focuses on “fixing” things. Prevention is not high on the agenda. Lifestyle Medicine though is looking at prevention, and the good news is that you see results straight away, and that implementing the lifestyle suggestions will help you immediately in your daily life NOW. You see an improvement in energy in your body and in your mind very quickly and this will give you the energy and mental strength to keep at it. But you need to start as soon as possible. You do not need to start with a lot, just start with something. Anything is better than nothing.

We seem to try to do EVERYTHING 100% and then often end up doing NOTHING.

6 Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine are nutrition, movement, sleep, stress reduction, avoiding harmful substances, social connection. And I can highly recommend a series of webinars that have been created by the RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons Ireland) on “Health & Happiness as we age” The Science of Health and Happiness as We Age – Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (

However, to get started, I’d like to focus on just 6 things that I’d recommend you to start with.

  1. Nutrition

Obviously, nutrition is my main area of expertise, and of course, it’s a huge field in itself. But if you could start with these few tips, you are already a winner!

  • Eat more fresh, organic, home-grown or locally grown vegetables: they are not only packed with vitamins and minerals and important nutrients for body and mind, they also feed the gut bacteria which influence the immune system and which communicate with your brain. Damage to the immune system causes disease.

Every extra piece of vegetable you eat, you are bringing your body into a healthier state.

  • Avoid any processed foods, anything that contains a long list of ingredients, esp those that you would not have in your store cupboard at home. Your body does not recognise these foods, they damage the cell structure over time, they damage your gut bacteria and gut lining and they put your body under immense stress.

Every little bit of those type of foods that you DO NOT eat brings you closer to better health, away from the nursing home, or being a burden to others. It makes it more likely that your mind will be sharp and your body fully functional!

  • Eat plenty of oily fish or take a good quality Omega 3 supplement (always check with your health care provider if you are on medication in which case some supplements can interfere), eat a daily dose of healthy fats such as olive oils, avocado, nuts & seeds. These help your brain not only in the future, but it helps you get a calmer and better look at your live now.
  • Make sure to get plenty of the B-Vitamins, which you will find in food such as green leafy vegetables, beans, lentils, beansprouts, wholegrains, mushrooms, nuts

Remember, healthy eating is NOT about restrictions and deprivation, more often than not, it’s actually about what we include as much as what we don’t include. Healthy eating can bring so much joy and pleasure. Healthy eating does not just benefit you in later years, it also helps you enjoy your life more now.

  1. Create a vision

I know following healthy eating guidelines might not always be easy with so much temptation around. But every time you are tempted, remind yourself: “How do I want to feel like in a couple of hours and in the next 10/20/30 years?”

Paint a picture of what you want your life to look like, as if there was no ageing involved. A lot of people hold themselves back from doing things, because they think there’s no point anymore. “Now that I’m old, what’s the point in starting to learn to play the piano, or take up golfing, hiking, dancing, etc.”

Dream big. The only thing that might actually be holding you back is that you don’t dream big enough. Stop being “realistic”, write down and describe in as much detail as possible, what you want your life to look like when you are 90.

Studies have shown that people who feel old, actually age quicker. They have done tests of cells and determined how a body ages, and looked at age-related diseases and compared all that data to the attitude of those people. If you think you will get stiff joints and pains as you age, you seem to get them! If you feel your energy is going down because you age, your energy will decrease. If you believe that it’s unavoidable that your memory goes, it will go.

Of course, it could also be a case that because of that belief, people don’t actually do things anymore to mitigate symptoms.

In younger years, you might have taken action if your energy levels reduced.

If you believe that you won’t be able to improve your golf anymore, you might simply not go out and practise as much as a young person does who is only starting out.

If you believe that you will gain weight as you get older, you might simply not do enough to avoid weight gain or avoid seeking help from a professional. As a Nutritional Therapist, I am trained to spot nutritional deficiencies, and give advice accordingly. But I’m also trained to gently coach you and help overcome obstacles that might be holding you back from following advice. As I specialise in helping people age better, I know of the many challenges you and others go through. We are talking things through and figure out how what works best for you, so you can be at your very best in older years.

My tip: Get a nice notebook or use a journal you already have. And write down everything that comes to your mind of how you want your life to be like in future. Also, write down your concerns. Try figure out if that’s just old belief, or if there is anything you can do about it.

Also, write down why you want to be like this. What does it give you? What joy does this bring you? What sense of achievement? As Steve Jobs said: “If you know your WHY, you will figure out the HOW”

The stronger your vision is, the more likely you are going to be to tackle anything. If you want to learn the piano at 80, you will do it! If you want your handicap to come down by another 10 shots, you will go out and practise. And if you want to climb mountains, you will go out on a regular basis, join a club and train in the gym to become strong.

  1. Move

I have mentioned movement in previous tips and I would say movement is equally as important as what you eat. It is how we are designed to be. And our bodies are designed to be well able to move into high age. This myth that our bodies are like cars and just fall apart the older they are is simply not true. We need to adapt, that’s correct, but the moment we stop moving and stop building muscles, that’s when things go downhill. More and more studies find out about the importance of muscle mass in older people. It’s even been linked to memory loss, i.e. the fewer muscle mass you have, the more likely you are to develop dementia. Use it or lose it!

My tip is to keeping moving as much as possible during the day. Get your steps in, but also get your heart racing a couple of times during the day. Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. For example, when you work at a desk, get up every 30minutes and do a few squats. Go to a gym or get weights for at home and set time aside in your diary to do strength training at least 3x per week.

Do something for flexibility and for balance. Yoga or Pilates would be great for this. It’s been shown that once you easily lose balance, you are also more likely to lose your memory. Keeping your body flexible is so important, and seems to be linked to a flexible mind. Stand on one leg for a couple of minutes each day and balance your body. Stretch first thing when you get up in the morning. Watch what your dog does. They stretch every time they get up.

  1. Connect and get involved

The best thing to keep moving is of course in a club and with other people. This will make it easy to apply tip 4. Connection to other people has also been proven to be connected to longevity and to a long and happy, fulfilled life. It’s in our human nature that we want to be around people, even if you sometimes might feel you want to get away from all. You don’t need to become a party animal, but simple acts of connection, like saying good morning to the people you meet on your morning walk, is a connection. But the more people you meaningful engage with the better.

And to give your life a purpose, being involved in your community or your club, is not only fulfilling for you and makes you feel better, it’s also better for your health and seems a factor for living longer.

So, join a club, join a committee, find a charity project you can get involved in, so many place are looking for volunteers. Just go out and find something you enjoy and you will find opportunities to get involved. Don’t be shy about it. If you are naturally shy, pull all your strength together and you’d be surprise afterwards how easy it was. People acknowledge that it can be hard to make the first step and will acknowledge this and value you for it.

  1. Drink more water and less alcohol

Socialising unfortunately, is often associated with alcohol. And alcohol and substance abuse is unfortunately not conducive to a healthy older life. Avoiding substance abuse is one of the 6 Pillars of Lifestyle Medicine as it is such a big subject in itself. Alcohol is a very tricky one as it is one that is associated with a good night out. And it is hard to find the line between enjoying a drink here or there, and becoming addicted to alcohol. Can you go out and have an enjoyable evening without a drink? Or would you rather stay at home then going to a pub and not drinking? Has the weekend glasses of wine and pints become a norm?

Alcohol is affecting your brain health in the long-term. If you want your brain to remain sharp in old age, there is no way around to drastically reducing alcohol. Alcohol also has an affect on your liver. Your liver is busy detoxifying alcohol and can’t deal with all the other toxins that might be around, missing for example the opportunity to detox cancerous cells. (A lot of women are concerned about their risk for breast cancer when taking HRT, but alcohol and obesity are way higher risk factors for breast cancer that are often ignored). Also, anybody women who has had oestrogen related cancer might be cautious not to take any HRT or oestrogen in other forms, but forgets that the liver could possibly simply not detoxify oestrogen properly.

Contrary to the belief of many, alcohol is not good for sleep. While it helps some people fall asleep easier, the sleep is never as deep and as restorative when alcohol is involved. It also disrupts your overall sleep pattern.

My tip:

Watch your alcohol consumption, and become aware of whether you struggle with not having alcohol. Try a dry month where you don’t have any alcohol and see how you feel. If you go out drinking, make sure to always have plenty of water in between drinks. Slow down and really enjoy it. Don’t binge and overdo it. Avoid the really strong high alcohol spirits.

If you want to have a glass of wine to chill out with friends everynow and then, to wind down because you’ve had a real shitty week, there are certainly times, when it has a place. Which brings me to the next tip

  1. Chill out

Reducing stress is probably one of the best thing you can do for your health now and in later years. High cortisol levels are so detrimental to your immune system, to your brain and mental health and to your body like nothing else. The hormone cortisol is released when your body feels under stress. It is an ancient hormone that had the function to protect you should you meet a grizzly bear when you were a cave man or women. It mobilised everything to help you either fight or run away from the bear. But it also had an affect on your immune system, it ramped up everything that protected you from an infection should the bear scratch and injure you, but it depressed other parts of the immune system that protects you from viruses, from cancer cells and it causes a process called inflammation. All these activation mechanisms were there to protect you in the first place, but they were switched off once the threat was over and you went into a state of deep relaxation, freeze, where you would stay away from others and use the time to heal.

In today’s world we are constantly faced with stressors in our environment, stress being stuck in traffic, stress with the boss, with people at work, with the family, etc etc. We never get to switch off. On top of that our bodies are stressed because they have to deal with environmental toxins, with food that they might be sensitive to, with excess sugars and additives in the food. If we have an unbalanced blood sugar it is stress for the body.

The constant cortisol release, releases sugar into the bloodstream and you can become diabetic simply through continuous stress. The high blood sugar requires constant insulin release, and you can become insulin resistance. This also makes it harder for you to lose weight. I have come across many women who tried all sorts of diets, but only when they tackled their stress levels, were they able to shed the weight.

Take time to chill, take time to switch off by simply sitting for 10-20 minutes in complete stillness, just watching your breathing. Or look at Meditation apps, breathing exercises, yoga, etc. All of these practises will help bring down your cortisol. Of course, the best thing to do is to avoid stress in the first place. And often, whether you become stressed or not, comes down to your own attitude. And this again can be influenced by the foods you eat.

I know, once I changed my diet, the same situation that used to freak me out, left me completely cool. Simply because my overall health was better and my neurotransmitters weren’t in high alert state anymore.

So, in summary my main message to you is:

– You do not need to worry about your future as you age. Healthy ageing is possible!

– Start making some small changes towards healthier eating – Embrace it! Don’t fear it!

– Healthy eating is not a long-term project. You will reap the benefits of healthy eating and lifestyle pretty quickly after you start.

You can get old in a slim and toned body!

You can get old and keep your memory intact!

You can get old with tons of energy and vitality!

Get started now, though!

If you want to find out how I could help, please contact me to arrange a complimentary 20-min health & energy assessment.

(1)  Fear of old age becomes acute after 50, study finds (


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