A new Harvard study says that “higher fruit and vegetable intake is associated with lower mortality” – so take 5 fruits and vegetables a day to live longer. But how can you look younger doing this? Instead of chasing the fountain of youth, just avoid the pitfalls of aging. “You can’t change what you’ve been genetically given, but you can control other factors that help you stay young,” says Dr. Eugene D. Elliott of MemorialCare.
1. The sun
Tanning makes you look young and cool, but it can have disastrous effects and lead to wrinkles or worse. “The sun’s rays can have a damaging effect on your skin. In the short term, that can mean dealing with a burning sunburn,” Yale Medicine reports, “but it can also have long-term consequences for your skin, even if you don’t suffer a burn. The sun causes skin to age prematurely. This is called photoaging and can lead to skin cancer. The signs of photoaging include:
- Pigmentary changes such as age spots, liver spots (sun spots) and freckles
- Loss of skin tone (decreased elasticity)
- Rough and uneven skin texture
- Broken capillaries (spider veins), mostly in the nose and chest area
Redness and rosacea”
“My favorite sunscreens are mechanical, contain zinc and/or titanium dioxide, and block harmful UVA rays very effectively with frequent use,” says Dr. Elliott.
It’s true that drinking sugary soda can age your cells. “Consumption of sugary sodas may promote disease independent of its role in obesity, according to UC San Francisco researchers who found in a new study that consumption of sugary drinks is linked to cellular aging,” according to a notable study reported by Science Daily. “Regular consumption of sugary sodas could influence the development of metabolic diseases by accelerating cellular aging,” the study authors write in their conclusion. “The extremely high dose of sugar that we can put into our bodies in seconds by drinking sugary drinks is uniquely toxic to metabolism.” The same goes for sugary foods.
3. Lack of exercise
“Imagine a 90-year-old,” writes the Wellspring School of Allied Health. “They’re almost always sitting on the floor, right? Well, a lot of that comes from limited spinal flexibility and support in their younger years. Lack of flexibility in your 20s and 30s can lead to problems later on, especially joint or muscle pain and an overall slouched appearance. There are certain types of exercises that can help make your muscles and joints more flexible, such as yoga or Pilates. However, you can also improve your flexibility even if you only like cardio or weight lifting. Just make sure you start and end with warm-up exercises, and focus on stretching before and after each exercise.”
4. Restless sleep
People with sleep apnea can actually age faster than the rest of us; if you suffer from it, see a doctor. “Increased severity of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) and sleep disturbance was associated with epigenetic acceleration of aging, independent of measured confounders. These associations were stronger in women than in men, suggesting that women may be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of sleep-disordered breathing. Future work should examine whether treatment reduces epigenetic acceleration of aging in people with SAD,” according to a recent study. “A good night’s rest can do wonders for your youthful appearance, and as your face relaxes during sleep, it can also help reduce fine facial lines,” says Dr. Andrea Paul. It’s recommended that you get eight hours of sleep a night.
Don’t stress too much, but stress will make you look older. “Telomeres are the ends of chromosomes – the structures within each cell that contain genes,” Harvard Health reports. “Over time, telomeres shorten. When they get short enough, the cell dies. Chronic stress causes telomeres to shorten. And people with shorter telomeres are at higher risk for several serious diseases, including heart disease and some forms of cancer. All the more reason to reduce the amount of chronic stress in our lives. It’s really not good for us.
Eight years ago, a groundbreaking study proved that smoking can make you look older. “In what may be the best detail of the study, the researchers used the annual Twins Days festival in Twinsburg, Ohio (the ‘largest annual gathering of twins in the world!’) to gather the 79 identical pairs they included in the report. A panel of three plastic surgery specialists compared the faces of the twins, “one of whom had smoked at least five years longer than the other,” the Today show reported at the time. “They identified some major areas of accelerated aging on the smoking twins’ faces: the smokers’ upper eyelids sagged while their lower eyelids drooped, and they had more wrinkles around their mouths. The smokers also had more jowls, according to the study, published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.”
7. Not doing it can make you look older
“I think the most important thing you can do to look younger is to smile. It reduces the number of wrinkles that appear on your face over time,” says Dr. Leann Poston. “Smiling makes you happier and gives you more energy. A positive attitude encourages better eating habits and more exercise!”