Although we, unfortunately, cannot stop the signs of aging, we can certainly slow them so in this week’s blog we will provide you with 9 tips to slow the signs of aging. Many of these will probably be quite obvious to you, and you likely are already abiding by them if you are reading our series of blogs. By listing them all in one place, it can provide kind of a handy checklist to remind yourself of those tips that maybe you could improve upon in your daily routine. So let’s get right to it!
- Protect your skin from the sun. This phrase seems to turn up a lot in our blogs, typically in the context of vitamins C and E, antioxidants and use of sunscreens. Those nasty UV rays from the sun produce free radicals, which attack the cells in our bodies by stealing electrons from them, leaving them in a damaged condition and our body in a state of oxidative stress. This may lead to a wide variety of health problems, some of which may appear as or contribute to accelerated aging. Antioxidants are the defense mechanism against these free radicals, so make sure you are eating a diet rich in citrus fruits, berries and brightly colored vegetables to ensure healthy levels of antioxidants. And by using sunscreen, you can significantly reduce the generation of those free radicals in the first place. In other words sunscreen and antioxidants can help to slow the signs of aging.
- Eat healthy and include dietary supplements. I know we just said this, but there are so many other reasons other than fending off free radicals as to why you should eat a healthy and balanced diet, including dietary supplements if necessary. A recent survey found that only 12% of Americans met the recommended daily fruit intake, while just 10% the recommended daily vegetable intake. In other words, the great majority of us are not getting the proper vitamins and minerals we need to maintain optimum health, let alone beauty, which is why supplementation may be very helpful for many of us to help meet the recommended daily amounts of fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly. There are so many benefits of exercising regularly, from maintaining a healthy weight to improving our cardiovascular health and even improving our mental health. But probably the most important is maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight is more serious than the mental picture we have of ourselves that generally pertains to body image. A consequence of being overweight is that it puts our body in a constant state of low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress (there’s that word again) that have strong links to diabetes, metabolic disorders, hypertension, hardening of the arteries, and cancer.
- Do not drink or smoke. This is an obvious one and in fact one of our first blogs was devoted to all the nasty effects that alcohol can have on the skin and aging process. Just as a reminder, these included dehydration, production of free radicals, and blood vessel dilation which with prolonged alcohol use could eventually lead to angiomas and spider veins. Furthermore, long-term consumption can impede proper nutrient absorption by our body, leading to vitamin deficiencies. Smoking, in the rather alarming words of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “ leads to disease and disability and harms nearly every organ of the body”. And what is the largest organ in our body? Our skin. However, we seem to be getting the message as the CDC has also found that smoking has declined from 20.9% of the US adult population in 2005 to 12.5% in 2020. So slowly but surely the message is getting through.
Moisturize your skin. Retaining our youthful appearance is easier when we keep our skin hydrated. And there is much more to this than just applying moisturizer after a shower. It can begin with smaller steps. Drinking sufficient water throughout the day is the first thing you can do, just keep in mind it doesn’t go straight to your skin but has so many other important functions it must satisfy first. But also take a look around you at your environment. Do you live or work in a closed environment with central air conditioning or heating running 24/7 where humidity is probably low? Or do you work outside and are exposed to the sun on a daily basis? These factors can cause your skin to become dry and dehydrated. Taking baths and showers in water that is either hard or too hot or both can also sap the moisture from your skin. Other things you can do to help keep that moisture in is consume a diet with plenty of omega fatty acids or supplement if necessary. And if you are going to use a supplement, look for one containing hyaluronic acid. It is a carbohydrate with an extremely high affinity for water and will further help your skin maintain a youthful, moisturized appearance. And if you are one of those people who needs to spend considerable time outside in the sun, we can never overstress the importance of sunscreen.
Get plenty of sleep. There are many reasons why it is important for us to sleep, because even though we may not realize it, our body is still working to maintain our mental and physical health. But when it comes to maintaining a youthful appearance, what you may not know about sleep is the link it has with our metabolism. Evidence has shown that not getting enough sleep can lead to higher levels of leptin and ghrelin hormones, those that control hunger. There is a decrease in the ability of the body to respond to insulin, and an increased desire to consume food in general, but particularly sweet, fatty or salty foods. Those that don’t get sufficient sleep also tend not to engage in sufficient exercise and are more prone to metabolic syndrome. All of these factors point to conditions of being overweight. And that brings us back to a state of chronic low-level inflammation and the damage that can do to our general health and appearance. So, try to get between 7-9 hours sleep each night. To make it easier, make sure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow, keep your bedroom cool if possible, and avoid distractions such as computers, TVs, phones, bright lights or noisy environments. Trying to relax before bed may also help – read a book or listen to music (but keep the TV turned off) or take a warm bath.
- Stay hydrated. First and foremost, our bodies need to stay hydrated to function properly. That is why we can go weeks or months without food but only a few days without water. And as we age, we tend to “dry out” with a total water loss between the ages of 20 and 80 being around 6 litres for women. This means that as we age, it is easier to become dehydrated, which we know is not good for our body or our skin. Two other factors also come into play as we age. Our kidneys don’t function as well, so we lose more water to urine, and lastly our sensation of thirst decreases. Yet water is vital for regulating our body temperature, as a vehicle for transporting the proteins and nutrients from the foods we eat in the bloodstream and is an important mechanism by which we can flush toxins out of our system. So keep drinking that water, and if you find that hard, try adding fruits and vegetables with high water content to your diet (watermelon, honeydew melons, cantaloupe, pineapple, peaches, oranges, bell peppers, celery, broccoli).
- Reduce stress. Stress affects all systems of the body, including the cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, nervous, reproductive and respiratory systems. In small doses, our bodies are well equipped to respond to this stress and help us navigate the stressful environment. As part of this response, inflammatory mechanisms are often stimulated, which can serve protective functions in the short term, but chronic levels of stress will result in a sustained low-level inflammation which we now know can have severe long-term health consequences. There are many different ways you can reduce your stress levels, and so hopefully at least one of these will appeal to you. Physical activity, connecting with other people, religiously taking some “me time”, challenging yourself to learn something new or achieve some goal, helping other people, meditation and yoga, keeping a journal. All of these can help reduce stress levels. Why not try making your daily beauty regimen into a stress-reducing activity? A warm bath, pleasant aromas, maybe a facial mask. And one other thing you could do to help reduce stress is also our final tip to slow the signs of aging…
- Keep a positive mindset. Look for the positives in your day rather than the negatives. Over the course of a day each of us accomplishes something positive, but we tend to dwell more on the negatives. But in fact, one particular study of over 155,000 participants showed that a positive mindset can have a positive effect on the aging of our skin. Other factors that were found to be significant for reduced skin aging in this study included activity, energy levels and regular exercise, living in an urban area, eight or more hours of sleep a night, high self-rated health and multi-vitamin usage. All points that we have discussed in the previous eight tips.
Take away message
This was a bit of a longer blog so thank you for reading this far. Our goal was to provide you with 9 tips to slow the signs of aging which we have done in list form and outlined why they are important. So let’s have some fun now. Rather than 9 tips, let’s summarize in 9 words (try for yourself!): sunscreen, antioxidants, water, sleep, diet, stress, exercise, supplements and positivity.