5 ways to help you look younger
We may all be guilty of looking through our social media feeds and being a little surprised by how our old school friends look. Some seem to be aging quickly, while others hold on to their youth. What we know is that it’s not simply down to lady luck. It is now widely agreed that our biological age - based on key biomarkers for age-related chronic diseases – can vary drastically from our calendar age. The big question is why? Genetics plays a part, but there’s plenty more going on, including lifestyle factors that are within our power to control.
1. Avoid toxins
The biggest favour you can do is to cut out alcohol and tobacco. Too much alcohol can cause facial blood vessels to dilate, leading to red blotches and spidery veins. It also plays havoc with iron levels, which may be connected to some forms of hair loss. Alcohol also damages the liver, leading to skin discolouration and shallow, pasty features.
The litany of serious medical conditions caused by smoking is well documented, but even on the surface, the harmful effects of smoking are obvious. It cuts the flow of blood to your skin and also reduces the level of oxygen in the blood. This dual attack takes away your skin’s healthy glow and speeds up the onset of wrinkles, sagging and rosacea (ruddiness).
Smoking also releases free radicals in the body, which impair the production of collagen and break down proteins, both of which contribute to a smooth, youthful complexion.
2. Replenish your hormones
Hormone therapies are becoming a popular way to stay looking and feeling young. Unfortunately, it is not simply a case of pumping yourself full of hormones like some sort of elixir of eternal youth. First you need to determine through testing whether your hormone levels are out of kilter and, if so, your physician will prescribe the best course of treatment.
Why does this give you a more youthful appearance? Because our hormones – as well as impacting on our mood, cognition, weight and much more – also have a huge part to play in the aging process.
A good example is DHEA, which plays a key role in the production of collagen. While often dismissed as part and parcel of the aging process, there is, in fact, plenty of evidence to suggest that replacing lost DHEA is an effective way to reverse visible aging. DHEA is one of many hormones that can be replaced – along with testosterone, oestrogen, human growth hormone and melatonin, among others – to bring about potential anti-aging effects.
3. Eat well
There’s no disputing the fact that fresh, natural foods help to keep us looking younger. However, just as important are the foods you don’t eat. Refined sugar can latch itself to collagen, killing your skin’s elasticity and inducing wrinkles. Excessive salt dehydrates the skin, causing a flaky, pasty appearance. Then there are the silent assassins: Wheat and grains. These can cause inflammation, leading to a host of serious diseases such as leaky gut syndrome, which triggers the release of free radicals throughout the body, kick-starting a chain of events that includes increased levels of hormones and enzymes that eat away at collagen and elastin fibres, causing the skin to thin and wrinkle.
Physical activity and the increased blood flow that comes with it slows skin aging. However, some exercises could exacerbate the aging process. Dr Gerald Imber, a leading American plastic surgeon, thinks the constant bouncing up and down of the skin on your face while jogging may cause the elastic tissue under the skin to wear away. There is also a school of thought that cardiovascular exercise leads to premature aging because it triggers the release of free radicals. I would never want to put anyone off cardio exercise, but if you are worried about this, maybe swap out a few days of that for some weight training instead.
When you sleep, your body works to replace dead and damaged cells. When you don’t get enough sleep, the opposite effect occurs. Also, without sufficient sleep, your antioxidant production starts to drop, which impedes the skin’s ability to protect itself from the aging effects of UV rays.
To conclude, the desire to remain looking young goes all the way back to Cleopatra and beyond. You don’t need to go to the lengths of bathing in milk but these few recommended lifestyle adjustments can help you to look after your appearance and ensure you always appear younger than your years.
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Dr. Mark Janowski (MD, USA) is a fully licensed internal medicine specialist at Intelligent Health a preventive medical centre located in Jumeirah, Dubai. The opinions in the column are not necessarily those held by Esquire.