From colouring your hair to whitening your teeth, there's a wide array of cosmetic options to make you look more youthful. But there's also a range of solutions that have been shown to slow or even reverse the ageing process.
The difference between lifestyle habits and treatments to reverse ageing and those that boost general health and therefore lengthen the lifespan can be a little confusing. That said, here are some practical, low-cost and affordable age-reversing habits that are effective.
Retinoid lotions work at the cell level to boost collagen production, resulting in firmer, healthy-looking skin. They also stimulate the production of blood vessels, improving skin tone, and accelerate the rate at which skin cells shed and are replaced with new ones. Retinoids are an effective acne treatment and also lighten the dark spots caused by sun exposure.
Never forget to apply sunscreen: it's one of the most valuable age-reversing habits to acquire. Both UVA and UVB rays damage the skin, causing wrinkles, age spots and many skin cancers. And if you're using a retinol lotion (see above), sunscreen is even more critical as retinoids increase the risk of sunburn.
You probably already know the benefits of exercise for both our physical and mental health. But there's one type of activity that may help reverse the effects of ageing. HIIT (high-intensity interval training) involves alternating moderate and higher intensity exercise.
Elizabeth Blackburn, a Nobel prize-winning molecular biologist, discovered the part telomeres - the "caps" at the end of DNA strands - play in cellular ageing. HIIT training appears to increase the length of telomeres. Stress, whether from an unhealthy lifestyle or traumatic events, can shorten telomeres, and this causes cells to stop dividing. So activities that lengthen telomeres seem to reverse the effects of ageing.
Muscle strength declines as we age and a loss of muscle can eventually lead to an inability to carry out daily tasks, falls and maybe even a loss of independence. But whatever your age or level of fitness, you can reverse lost muscle strength with a resistance or weight lifting exercise programme. You can use resistance bands, machines or weights to restore lost muscle strength.
Being deprived of sleep soon takes its toll, with baggy eyes and dark circles making you look older. But researchers also found that getting less than six hours sleep a night is linked to shorter telomeres. Getting enough sleep rejuvenates the body's cells by lengthening the telomeres. The exact amount you need depends on your age, but sleep experts generally recommend seven to nine hours of sleep a night.
Ageing often results in a deterioration of eyesight, so it's vital to have regular checks with your optician to correct any changes. They will also pick up conditions such as cataracts, that can be fixed by a simple operation to restore your youthful vision.
Meditation is believed to counteract cognitive decline and can even help to increase our cognition and power of memory. The brain atrophies as we age, but some researchers found that meditation can slow or even reverse the natural shrinkage of grey matter in the PFC (prefrontal cortex). And practising meditation for just eight weeks can help to reduce stress and improve memory.
Sex seems to be associated with longer telomeres. A study of over 100 women found that those who had sex regularly with a long term partner had more teleromase (the enzyme that triggers telomere growth) and longer telomeres than those who didn't. If you want to reignite the spark in your relationship, Bach Flower Mix 41 can reduce stress and stimulate your libido.
Long term research by Harvard scientists shows that maintaining good social relationships is beneficial for physical and mental health and increases longevity. Why is this? Supportive, safe relationships help lower our stress hormones and mean reduced wear and tear on the body and brain.
We all face the challenges of ageing sooner or later, and people differ in their responses. Some accept the process of growing older and take each day as it comes, while others focus on staying open to new ideas. Concentrate on habits that promote good health, both physical and mental, and stay connected with family and friends. There's no magic potion for eternal youth, but there are plenty of choices you can make that will promote a longer, happier life.
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