Think ageing is inevitable? Think again. There’s a big difference between getting older and feeling, or looking, older. Here are nine proven ways you can age well
Today, age really is just a number. Models are still hitting the catwalk in their 80s, while actors perform well into their later years and Olympians are still competing at peak performance in middle age.
Scientists now believe we can slow the ageing process by looking after our telomeres, the protective tips at the end of our DNA that work like the plastic caps on shoelaces. Dr Elizabeth Blackburn, co-author of The Telomere Effect, says, “The foods you eat, your response to emotional challenges, the amount of exercise you get… all these factors and more appear to influence your telomeres and can prevent premature ageing at a cellular level.”
So, that’s the science part. Here are nine simple tweaks you can make to your lifestyle today to help you age happily and healthily.
1. Forget about poor memory
Many of us worry about losing our memory as we get older, but it’s not something we have to accept as a normal part of ageing. In fact, a long-running US study on memory and ageing revealed that the over-60s who believed they would have memory problems actually suffered a 30% decline in their memory performance compared with those who didn’t think a poor memory was inevitable. One way to keep your memory sharp is by learning a second language – a University of Edinburgh study shows this can actively slow brain ageing. Muy bien!
2. Schedule in exercise
Keeping fit can ward off conditions including stroke and osteoporosis, but certain types of exercise can actually turn back your body clock. New research published in the journal of Preventative Medicine found that high intensity exercise – 30 to 40 minutes of jogging five days a week – can keep your cells nine years younger than your actual age. High intensity exercise helps protect your telomeres, so lace up your trainers to improve your cell’s ‘shoelaces’.
3. Eat your vitamins to beat ageing
Improving your diet to age well doesn’t mean eating lots of different foods. There are so many nutrients that are relevant to visual anti-ageing – like beating wrinkles – that are also good for helping to prevent degenerative conditions,” says nutritionist Kim Pearson. She recommends omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish, which help plump up skin cells and calm down inflammation linked to cardiovascular diseases, plus vitamin C. “Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and essential for collagen synthesis, so the less you have, the more your collagen degenerates,” says Kim. The richest sources are red peppers, citrus fruits and broccoli.
4. Think positively about ageing
Having a positive attitude about getting older has some science-backed health benefits. The Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging And Retirement discovered those who were ‘pro-ageing’ – continuing to feel valued and happy – lived seven and a half years longer than their less upbeat friends. Who knew looking forward to later life means you get to enjoy more of it?
5. Try mindfulness
“There is high-quality evidence that meditation, chanting and other mindfulness practices can reduce stress, stimulate telomerase – the enzyme that replenishes telomeres – and perhaps even help your telomeres to grow,” says Dr Blackburn. It’s thought mindfulness can help stop particular negative thought patterns, such as replaying events over in your mind, that shorten telomeres. Get practising today with an app like Calm or Buddhify.
6. Cut down on sugar
Cutting out sugar is not just good for your waistline, fighting obesity and diabetes – it can beat crow’s feet too. Pearson says, “Glycation is a major cause of skin ageing – this is when sugar molecules in the blood bind to protein structures in the skin so they become stiff and weaken. This causes collagen to break down, triggering wrinkles.” Check your food labels to make sure you’re not eating too much – more than 22.5g sugar per 100g is high.
7. Pull your weight
Cardiovascular exercise like swimming and cycling is vital, but strength or resistance training is just as important. We lose muscle mass as we age, but a study published in the US National Library Of Medicine revealed that not only can strength training improve your muscles, it could also reverse ageing in your muscle cells, while another study found using weights could give older people better muscle strength than younger people who did no resistance training at all. Time to invest in some dumbbells.
8. Sip on a collagen drink
We don’t mean a magical margarita, but a healthy drink that contains collagen. Collagen is the ‘elastic’ protein in our skin that keeps it firm. Expert dermatologists found that drinking collagen can improve skin hydration and collagen density, smoothing out fine lines. Collagen is also found in your joints, ligaments and bones, so fighting wrinkles could ease your aching knees too.
9. Ageing is an attitude
Dame Helen Mirren believes that getting older means being more confident in your own skin. “The weird thing is, you get more comfortable in yourself, even as time is giving you less reason for it,” she says. “When you’re young and beautiful, you’re paranoid and miserable. I think the great advantage of getting older is letting go of certain things.”
Want to learn more about eating to live healthier? Read our guide to transforming your eating habits for good.