Secrets from the Fountain of Youth
Ageing refers to the physiological changes we experience over time. It’s going to happen. Your body is going to age, and one day your skin will show it.
One of the effects of ageing is the decrease in production of collagen and elastin, eventually leading to the skin thinning and drying out as fat pads diminish and wrinkle. These are the things you can’t control, but there are a number of things you can influence to slow down how your skin ages.
First, it is beneficial to understand the different types of ageing and their influencing factors.
Causes of Ageing
Ageing is broken down into two categories, intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic ageing is generally a naturally occurring, predetermined process, while Extrinsic ageing is the result of external factors, such as living conditions, stress levels and lifestyle choices.
Cellular ageing is normally the result of intrinsic factors. It is related to the biological ageing of cells, which function as the basic building blocks of the body.
Basically, cells divide and multiply to perform basic biological functions, but the more they divide and multiply, the older they get. Eventually, cells lose their ability to function properly. Cellular damage also increases with age, causing the failure of biological processes and the onset of the visual effects of ageing.
Damage-related and environmental ageing is related to extrinsic factors. It refers to how our surroundings and lifestyle affect how we age. This may include factors like:
- Geographic location. Factors such as air pollution and the overall quality of life directly influence the speed of the ageing process
- A sedentary lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity to ageing-related diseases and premature death. Inactivity may diminish life expectancy, not only by predisposing to ageing-related diseases, but also because it may influence the ageing process itself.
- Smoking habits. Studies have shown that nicotine and inhalation of tobacco smoke rapidly increase the onset of the effects of ageing
- Alcohol consumption. Regular consumption of alcohol, or consumption of alcohol in large quantities are proven to accelerate the ageing process
- Malnutrition. Without a balanced diet, including vitamins, minerals and protein, our bodies are unable to facilitate cell production and repair, causing the skin to lose elasticity and the soft feel
- Naughty dietary habits. Unhealthy eating habits, including regular consumption of fried foods, refined sugars and other processed carbohydrates, is known to accelerate the effects of ageing
- Rest and relaxation habits. A study done by UCLA researchers discovered that just a single night of insufficient sleep can make an older adults’ cells age faster, increasing the risk of diseases such as, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and cancer
- Ultraviolet radiation (UV) exposure. Regular or prolonged exposure to UV rays is known to cause irreversible damage to the skin, expediting the ageing process
Everyone experiences both types of ageing, but the effects vary from person to person, explaining why we age in different ways. Over time, the above factors will damage cells and accelerate ageing.
Slowing the effects of ageing
Ageing may be inevitable, but did you know that there are numerous natural remedies for slowing the effects of ageing? Incorporate any or all of the healthy lifestyle options below to help combat the ageing process:
- Eat the right food. The word diet comes from the Greek root word, diaita, which means to live one’s life, and also from the Latin root word, diaeta, meaning a manner of living. Your diet is the root of your energy and a huge influence on the overall quality of your life. Focus on fresh, whole foods and ensure you are consuming sources of essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A & C.
Eating well is the first step towards a longer and better quality of life.
- Avoid the wrong food. Research has shown that regular consumption of sugar and other processed carbohydrates can accelerate the affects of ageing, while also heightening the risk of countless health complications. A reduced intake of processed foods will slow the ageing process and improve your quality of life.
Find out where to start.
- Keep active. Exercise significantly reduces they physical and mental effects of ageing. Aim for 20 minutes of light exercise each day, which can be as simple as walking, cycling, swimming or stretching. They say your body only starts to die when you stop using it, so keep active to slow the ageing process. Have a look at some of the exercises you can do at home without equipment.
- Look after your teeth. There is a direct link between a healthy mouth and healthy ageing. Research has also shown that poor dental health is linked to age-related problems, such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- Avoid tobacco and other toxins, such as BPA. The presence of Tobacco and other toxins within the blood speeds up ageing. Quitting is difficult, but the health benefits of a nicotine free life go far beyond a longer life.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, or cut it out altogether. Alcohol increases your risk of numerous health complications, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, obesity and digestive problems. There is also a studied link between alcohol consumption and cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum. Reduce your alcohol intake to help maintain the highest quality of life (you really don’t need it to have fun).
- Stay hydrated. Water is critical makes up about 60 percent of an adults’ body weight and it is needed by our bodies for important functions such as regulating body temperature, maintaining healthy skin and joints, digesting food, and removing waste. Not drinking enough H20 accelerates ageing, so think twice next time you are scanning the fridge for something sweet to quench your thirst.
- Get checked regularly. Routine checkups with a doctor are the best way to prevent or treat disease early. You can get almost all of the information you need from the occasional blood test.
- Keep your gut healthy. Research has found the collection of “good” bacteria in your intestines, called the gut microbiome, may be related to how your body ages. It may even protect you from some age-related diseases such as dementia.
- Know your family history. Know if your family has a history of age-related health complications, so your doctor can assist with prevention or early treatment.
- Engage your brain. A lack of activity in the brain leads to cognitive decay, so protect cognitive function by regularly exercising your brain. Read books, participate in a sport or physical activity, complete brain training exercises, or meditate.
- Reduce stress. Chronic stress causes a lot of problems, from wrecking your sleep to increasing your risk of heart disease. Regular meditation that focuses on breathing or spirituality, for as little as 15 minutes per day, can have profound effects on improving the concentration ability of the mind.
- Spend time outdoors. As little as 30 minutes in the sun is sufficient to stimulate the body’s production of Vitamin D. Getting out and about may also assist with exercise, mental stimulation, or relaxation.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen protects your skin from UV radiation, which is known to promote premature ageing. If you are spending a prolonged period in the heat or sun, be sure to give your body the occasional rest in the shade.
- Get enough Sleep. When you start sleeping, your body starts repairing cell damage. If you cut your sleep short, you can accelerate the internal and external signs of ageing. Wrinkles and bags under the eyes are evidence of this, but studies have also confirmed that poor sleep ages skin faster.
- Cleanse, exfoliate and moisturise. Looking after your skin helps it maintain elasticity and therefore, a youthful appearance. Regularly clean your skin, washing pores with warm water and gently removing dead skin through exfoliation. Moisturise after cleaning to prevent irritation and dryness.
- Use Wrinkle-Fighting Products, or a collagen-based cream. There are products which claim to reverse the effects of ageing, and there are products which can help keep your skin healthy. There is little you can do to reverse the visual effects of ageing, but skin care products containing collagen and vitamin A compounds have been known to promote healthy skin tissue.
- Take care of your mental health. There are numerous points on this list which contribute to achieving a healthy mind, but it must be said that maintaining optimal mental health greatly assists with healthy ageing.
- Always be positive. The power of positivity is greatly underestimated by most, but ‘forgetting your age’ is said to be one of the secrets to prolonged youth. Have a positive attitude about ageing and about life to help keep yourself young at heart. Life is short, but it is also beautiful, so make every moment count.
Having a positive attitude about ageing, maintaining a purpose, and staying socially engaged may help slow the physical and mental ageing process. One study revealed that people with a positive attitude lived 7.5 years longer than pessimists, regardless of health, while another found that negative thinking led to more drastic physical and cognitive declines.
Ageing is normal and should be accepted, but following a healthy lifestyle may help delay the onset of age related conditions. Habits like eating well, exercising regularly, and wearing sunscreen can reduce your risk of many health complications, while also drastically improving your quality of life.
About the Author: Harrison has more than a decade of experience on, and off, the rugby field as a player, junior coach and part-time referee. His passion for rugby led him to the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers where he studied the human body, exercise and nutrition, before being registered as a health and fitness professional with Fitness Australia and Fitness First Australia. Although the career path has changed, his passion for health, fitness, and Rugby will always remain.