Can You Slow or Prevent Age Related Hair Loss?
Age can and will take a toll on our hair. Because we know that diet and exercise can offset the effects of aging on our bodies and improve our well-being, can diet and/or supplements do the same for our hair? Lucky for us, they can.
Age Related Hair Loss & Its Causes
As a quick aside, you are unlikely to experience severe hair loss because of age alone. A genetic predisposition called androgenetic alopecia causes almost all cases of severe hair loss in men. In women who experience severe hair loss, researchers have traced about half of all cases to genetic factors. They’ve traced the other half to either specific diseases or changes in hormones. If you’re experiencing sudden (or gradual ) severe hair loss, you should see your doctor or a qualified hair loss medical specialist.
So exactly how does aging affect your hair? First, unlike your waist line, it thins your hair. Protein molecules form the foundation of human hair, and about 20 amino acids determine the specific properties of protein molecules. Almost all the amino acids we need comes from our diet. As we age, our digestive system becomes less efficient at absorbing the proteins we need. This results in the reduction of the diameter of a hair strand, i.e., our hair thins and appears less full. As the hair thins, it holds less pigment, so it also becomes lighter in color. Graying also happens at the same time, but for different reasons.
Second, your hair follicles take a hit. Hair follicles engineer our hair, and healthy hair follicles depend, in large part, on critical nutrients obtained from our diet. However, as we age, our ability to absorb these critical nutrients decreases.
Making Sure You Get Enough Protein to Avoid or Slow Hair Loss
You need protein in your diet to manufacture the essential amino acids you need for your health and hair. The protein you need on a daily basis comes in nuts, grains, soy, meat (lean), fish, eggs and dairy products.
Your hair requires two specific essential sulfur based amino acids: methionine & cysteine. Normally you can get the methionine you need from eggs, fish and lean meats. Cysteine plays a direct role in the health of hair follicles. You can find Cysteine in many of the same foods that contain methionine along with red peppers, onions, brussel sprouts, and broccoli.
Because it gets harder for our systems to manufacture the methionine & cysteine we need from natural sources of protein, if you think your suffering from age related hair loss, you can take supplements of methionine & cysteine with the following caveats:
Methionine & Cysteine Supplements
According to the NYU Langone Medical Center, you want to limit your supplement intake of methionine to between 800 & 1000 mg. Additionally you may want to include extra folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 to offset the increase in homocysteine, a byproduct of the metabolization of methionine, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For cysteine, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends 500 mg daily. Again, you may want to add extra B vitamins to offset any extra production of homocysteine.
If you’re currently at risk for heart disease, consult with your doctor before taking extra supplements of methionine & cysteine. Your doctor can check your current levels of homocysteine
Good Fats for a Healthy Scalp
In addition to the hair follicle, the health of your scalp also plays a significant role in the health of your hair, and the types of fat in your diet plays a big role in the health of your scalp. If you notice that your hair feels dry or if your scalp seems red and has flakes, it’s possible you’re not getting enough omega-3 & 6 in your diet. Supplementing with an unsaturated fat, such as fish or evening primrose oil should help.
Round Out Your Anti-Aging Hair Regimentation With a Good Multivitamin
Finally a good multivitamin that includes A, B-complex, C, & E will help round out the supplements you need to support healthy hair as you age, but remember – supplements cannot replace a healthy diet and active lifestyle, the two factors under your direct control that have the biggest impact on your health, including the health of your hair.