From the minute we’re born, we’re aging. Constant exposure to our environment, thethings we eat, and stresses from both insideand outside our bodies all cause us to ageover time. Aging is highly complex, but scientists arestarting to understand what happens at thecellular and molecular levels. For example, healthy cells are damaged overtime when our immune systems shift from reactingto short-term problems like injuries and infections,to gradually producing chronic inflammationthroughout the body. Time also gradually shortens the telomeresthat act as protective caps for our DNA-containingchromosomes. These and other changes make our bodies lessand less able to deal with stress from insideand outside of our body, so when damage reachesa critical level, our cells, tissues, andorgans may no longer perform normally andour health starts to decline. The changes associated with aging start tohappen on some level at day one. We begin to experience their effects earlyin life. For example, we lose the ability to hear certainhigh-frequency sounds as teenagers, our cognitionand memory slowly decline after they peakin our mid-20s, the strength of our bonesstarts to decrease in our 30s, female fertilitysharply declines after 35, age-related near-sightednessbegins in our mid-40s, and our hair startsto gray and thin as early as our 30s and 40s. After the age of 50, the changes of agingbecome increasingly noticeable, and becauseaging is the biggest risk factor for mostof the diseases that affect us as adults,the older we get, the higher our risk of chronicdisease becomes. While scientists have not yet found a wayto stop these processes of aging, they arelearning more and more about how to maintainhealth throughout our lives. Some aspects of aging are out of our control–likeour genetics and our family history–but wecan educate ourselves about moderate riskfactors and do our best to reduce them throughhealthy lifestyle and diet choices. Most of us can be healthy and active wellinto our later years, if we take care of ourselves. It’s no surprise that regular physical activitycan help maintain a healthy weight, improvemoods and sleep habits, and boost overallhealth. And it’s clear that a well-balanced diet fullor nutritious foods, is critical to good health. But when it comes to understanding which foodsare the best choices, much nutrition researchhas focused on how certain foods or nutrientsmay have a negative effect on health, or evenplay a role in disease development. More recently, scientists have begun to exploreand understand how nutrition may play a rolein promoting healthy aging throughout of alllife’s stages. We are rapidly learning about what foods andnutrients should be emphasized in our diets,and how they can enhance our health. Diets full of fruits and veggies, whole grains,legumes, nuts, and lean meats, have provenhealth benefits like lowering blood pressure,improving glucose control in diabetes, weightloss, improving arthritis, and reducing therisk of cancer and cardiovascular events,to name a few. And we are learning more about the specificnutrients that can impact health. For example, plant pigments found in brightorange and red fruits and vegetables may preventand slow the progression of eye diseases. Calcium helps to keep bones strong. B vitamins play a role in maintaining brainhealth. And flavanoids from many plants may improvethe health of our cardiovascular systems. The bottom line is that YOU have the powerto maintain and improve your health, add vitalityto your years, and reduce your risk of disease. And it’s never too late to make a change. To learn more about the nutrients that arecritical to your health, and how to safelyturn to supplements if you aren’t gettingenough of these nutrients in your diet, watchHealthy Aging With Nutrition at www. agingresearch. org/nutrition.