Friday 24 March 2023
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Age-proof your body


Want to live longer, feel stronger and look much younger than you really are? Here’s 15 ways to do just that



OK, let’s start with the basics. ‘Ageing is a natural process, but it can be accelerated by inflammation, which causes damage to tissues and cells,’ explains Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, director and GP at Your Doctor. ‘Bad habits such as smoking, excess alcohol and poor diet can all speed up a process called telomere- shortening. Telomeres are the caps at the end of each strand of DNA that protect our chromosomes, like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Without telomeres, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job properly. Take steps to cut out those unhealthy habits, however, and it’s possible to significantly reduce the speed of telomere-shortening.’


Choosing a good, antioxidant-rich anti-ageing night cream is only half the battle. ‘Without realising it, many of us hold tension in our jaw, between the brows and along the hairline – which can make us look much older,’ says Natalie Hart from Titanic Spa. ‘When applying your evening moisturiser, spend at least five minutes massaging your face. This will help release excess tension and clear your mind, ready for a night of replenishing sleep.’


Pollution can take a toll on your looks. ‘Studies show that components of air pollution can damage DNA in cells and contribute to premature skin ageing such as wrinkling and pigmentation spots,’ says Dr Anjali Mahto, spokesperson for the British Skin Foundation. Use an antioxidant serum, then a moisturiser with SPF, she says.


A healthy work-life balance is key to looking and feeling youthful – so switch off (literally) at the end of the working day. More than half of workers in high-pressure jobs suffer dangerous levels of stress at home and increased risk of heart disease, partly as a result of being constantly connected via smartphones, laptops and tablets, says a recent study in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.


Yes, reading helps you live longer. That’s according to researchers at Yale University, who tracked the reading habits of more than 3,500 older people across a 12-year period. Regardless of their gender, health, wealth or education, book-lovers were 20 per cent less likely to die during the course of the study. One theory is that reading about other people’s lives boosts empathy and social skills, both of which have been linked to longevity.


Want a product that will really make your skin glow? Get picky in the fruit and veg aisle. ‘Consuming the right food has a huge impact on skin health, including the 80 per cent of skin that topical products can’t reach,’ says dermatologist Dr Howard Murad. ‘Diet provides the necessary nutrients to build strong, healthy new cells, and antioxidants that neutralise cell-damaging free radicals. Carrots, sweet potatoes and oranges are packed with vitamins A and C, which help restore damaged collagen.’


The best way to age-proof your body is to get to know it. Recognise what’s normal – and what’s not – for you, and don’t delay before getting any new symptoms or concerns checked out. ‘This applies even if you’re young and otherwise healthy,’ days Dr Di Cuffa. ‘Many health conditions start with vague and general symptoms, but ignoring them could be delaying a serious diagnosis and preventing early intervention or treatment.’ Likewise, it’s so important to attend screening and routine checks. For example, around one in four UK women ignores cervical screening invitations, according to Jo’s Trust, so don’t overlook those reminders!


No, you can’t get away with yoga alone. Are you getting your quota of cardio exercise? ‘If you really want to slow down the rate at which you age, high-intensity training is the most effective option,’ insists personal trainer Zana Morris. ‘It’s the best way to increase muscle mass and blood flow, lose fat and minimise protein loss. ‘But it’s also important to note that over-exercising can be very ageing, too: any moderate to high-intensity exercise beyond 45 minutes will eat into your protein levels and speed up the ageing process,’ says Morris. So a 15-minute burst is the optimum.’


Bone broth is rich in collagen, the protein needed to keep your skin, hair and nails looking young. Your body’s production of collagen falls as you age and some nutrition scientists now believe that getting collagen through diet can help boost the body’s supply. ‘Consuming bone broth is one of the best ways to replenish collagen in your body so your hair regains lustre and your nails, joints and teeth strengthen,’ says Dr Sara Gottfried. You can use beef, chicken or fish bones. The slow cooking breaks the collagen down into gelatin,’ says Gottfried. ‘Drink a warm cup daily.’


A quarter of UK adults admit they haven’t seen a dentist in the past two years, according to the Oral Health Foundation. Guilty as charged? Book that appointment now. ‘Nothing ages you more than unhealthy, stained teeth,’ says sports psychologist and fitness trainer Melinda Nicci. ‘Keep them white between check-ups by cutting down on caffeine and red wine, and eating foods that promote pearly whites. Strawberries are great for this because they contain malic acid, a natural enamel whitener.’


It’s easy to let your social life slip when you’re busy with work and family commitments – but doing so can make you age quicker, warns Dr Emer MacSweeney, medical director and CEO of Re:Cognition Health ( ‘Being in an active and sociable environment, conversing with others and solving problems is a good way to stimulate the brain, keeping it agile, active and young,’ she says. Need more persuading to meet pals tonight? Having a wide circle of friends can reduce your chances of developing dementia, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, which looked at the lives of 2,200 older women in the US. Those with large social networks were 26 per cent less likely to develop dementia than those who had just a few pals.


Yoga increases flexibility, improves balance and helps manage stress – all of which can help slow the ageing process. So the findings of a recent study at the University of the Sunshine Coast Australia should really come as no surprise: yoga turns back the clock. ‘Yoga increases the blood flow from your heart to your head, sending more oxygen to your face, rejuvenating your skin,’ says Steve Tansey, head of research and development at Les Mills UK, who commissioned the study analysing the effects of twice-weekly yoga classes on a group of over-55s. ‘It increases your strength, particularly that of the spinal erector muscles, so can make you feel younger when you stand, sit and move around throughout the day.’


Can’t quit the coffee habit? Make sure your morning fix benefits your skin by swapping to a collagen latte. Dr Gottfried has been starting her mornings with this creamy drink for several years. Collagen is a protein that improves skin, hair and nails. As you age, levels of collagen in the body start to fall, but it’s now thought that taking it as a supplement can help slow down the process as you age. ‘Once a collagen latte became my morning ritual, my skin started to glow,’ says Dr Gottfried. ‘Place 250ml of low-toxin decaffeinated coffee or tea in a blender with 1-2 teaspoons of collagen powder. You can also add 1tbsp of coconut oil. Blend for up to 15 seconds until frothy like a latte.’


We all know that working out gives us a healthy glow. But did you know exercise may even turn around the visible signs of skin ageing, such as sagging? ‘With age, the outer layer of our skin thickens and becomes more dry and flaky while the innermost layer, the dermis, starts to thin,’ says Dr Gottfried. ‘But if you exercise, your outer layer of skin doesn’t thicken as early and your inner layer doesn’t become thin. It’s due to proteins called myokines that are released by working muscles and increase after exercise. ‘Your skin uses myokines, and the more provided, the younger it stays,’ says Gottfied. In a study at McMaster University in the USA, a group of people aged 20 to 86 exercised for 30 minutes, twice a week at 65 per cent of their maximum heart rate. After three months, the skin composition of the older subjects looked like that of the twenty-to-forty-year olds.


When all else fails, stick a sheet over your face! One of this year’s hottest anti-ageing trends, sheet masks, first hit the beauty headlines in South Korea before attracting a cult following in the Western world over recent months, too. Saturated in skin-saving ingredients, the masks work their magic while you lie back and relax for 15 minutes.

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