Lifestyle

Watch Out for These 15 Sneaky Factors That Will Age You Prematurely

We look much younger than our parents did when they were our age, which means that we must be doing a few things right and possibly… Simi - December 24, 2017

We look much younger than our parents did when they were our age, which means that we must be doing a few things right and possibly have even learned a thing or two. We are very fortunate these days to be able to look forward to a retirement which promises to be decades long and to be able to enjoy it with health and vitality. No rocking chair for us!

If you ask anyone how to stay younger for longer most people can list ten things without too much effort: Don’t smoke; limit your alcohol; maximise your water intake; minimise your alcohol intake, get a good night’s sleep; take care of your skin and your body; eat wisely and exercise regularly. Alright, that’s only nine items, but you and I can both make ten points out of “eating wisely” alone.

We also know that, apart from making us age quickly, an unhealthy lifestyle can make us more susceptible to life-threatening illnesses such as diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol and even cancer. Yes, most of us are aware of the most important factors which can make us age prematurely and possibly even shorten our lives. And yet, how many of us actually do any of those things?

How does one make the transition from the couch potato lifestyle to a healthier one? Some people have the discipline to rise to this challenge. They will be running marathons within six months. The rest of us will more likely succeed through simple, incremental activities. In this article, we will try and tease out the small wins that can slowly help us become healthier, fitter, younger.

Sitting

Just when you think you are getting to an age when you have earned a chance to do a little sitting down, it turns out it’s bad for you. And as we get older we tend to spend more time sitting down, whether at the office, in the car or at home. We can easily sit for 12 hours in a day, if not more. And yes, lying down does count as “sitting” in this context!

More than 40 scientific studies have confirmed that sitting for prolonged periods of time is bad for our health. The act of sitting reduces the work done by the largest muscles in our bodies – in the thighs and rear – and reduces our metabolic activity. This affects our ability to manage the insulin and fats in our bodies. In a sense, the body “shuts down” while seated. Sitting materially shortens our lives.

While there have been some fear-mongering articles in the press, such as “Sitting is the new smoking”, there is enough evidence to recommend regular breaks if you have been sitting for more than 30 minutes. Let’s not forget about all those bad things which also happen while sitting down for any length of time: poor posture, eye strain, snacking – all combine to make the situation even worse.

Take a five-minute break from sitting down every half hour – set an alarm on your phone or watch to remind you. Try to make these breaks worthwhile and not just a toilet break: Walk around briskly, get outside if you can, find something healthy to eat and drink, talk to real people, lift your head and pull your spine straight. There you go. That’s better, isn’t it?

Exercise

We all know that exercise is good for us, but it’s so hard to find time in our busy lives to fit in all physical activity we should be doing. If you struggle with this, just try to achieve some small, short-term gains. Use a smartwatch or GPS tracker to work out your average daily step-count over a week or so. Then try adding an extra 500 steps each day or week – remember to make the goals achievable.

Small changes in your daily routine will make all the difference: Take the stairs instead of the lift, park your car further away from the entrance, don’t email your colleague if you can walk over to them and discuss it face to face, use your breaks to move around the office or take a brisk walk – that sort of thing. After you’ve met your initial goals for a reasonable period of time, add another 500 steps.

Once you begin to run out of ways to add more steps, try speeding things up. Walk faster, add a little vim and vigor to every physical activity you do. Consciously work at getting that heart rate up, holding your core and stomach in, tightening your butt, and increasing your stride. That way you gain some extra health points without taking extra time out of your day for exercise.

We tend to overestimate the impact that exercise will have on our lives. It is only recently that we have learned that while exercise can get you fit, it won’t help you lose much weight. So, watch out for those treats to reward yourself after gym. Don’t believe yourself when you tell yourself you’ve earned that slice of cake. You have probably burnt off a forkful at best. If you need help and advice, ask for it (and take it when given). Enjoy! Oh, and have more sex – it can make you look 10 years younger!

Inside Air

More and more, being inside means living in an artificial atmosphere. Offices are usually sealed atmospheres, we are often in sealed air-conditioned or heated vehicles, and most of us live in urban settings where air pollution is simply a fact of life. We talk about “sick building syndrome” where germs circulate and air quality is low. Even at home, harsh cleaning products can mean the air we breathe contains toxic fumes.

All these factors contribute to wrinkles, age spots, eczema, allergies as well as heart disease, diabetes, mental health problems and many other issues. Where possible, find ways to bring more fresh air into your day. Try to exercise outside early in the morning when air quality is best. If you must be inside, try and make it a more active, energetic environment – cooking, board games, gardening are all positive life choices.

Indoor plants can “scrub” the air of toxins while replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. Different plants will combat specific toxins, help to lower stress, increase your positivity and ensure you have to get up to water them – all while looking decorative. If you live in a dry climate, get yourself a humidifier. Not only will it help lubricate your sinuses and help you breathe more easily, but it’s good for plumping out your skin.

Go through your house and look for things like mold, mildew, dust, standing water, damp, dirty heating/air-conditioning units – deal with them. Minimise the use of pesticides and harsh chemicals. Make a point of opening the windows, even if just a little. And don’t forget; do your best to help reduce pollution and protect our environment – this will also make you feel good which will make you look younger too!

Too Little Sun

Another symptom of our increasingly indoor lifestyle is a reduction in how much sunshine we enjoy. While we know that too much sun exposure will damage our skin, we also know that sunshine is our main source of Vitamin D and that a deficiency may cause depression, muscle or bone weakness. Doctors in colder countries see an increase in “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (or SAD) in wintertime.

Even people living in countries with plenty of sunshine suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. People in some Middle Eastern countries spend nearly all their time in air conditioning and when they step outside, their flowing robes reflect nearly all the sunlight. In other sunny countries like Australia, fear of skin cancer has meant that people protect themselves from sun exposure to the point where they may experience a Vitamin D deficiency.

With some sensible precautions, there is still much to recommend an afternoon of sun, fresh air and exercise. You can still enjoy and appreciate nature from the shade of a tree, or go out in the early morning or evening when the sun isn’t too harsh. In wintertime, it is even more important to enjoy what sun there is. But don’t forget the sunscreen, no matter what the weather is like.

There are also other ways of obtaining Vitamin D, such as oily fish, liver, cheese and egg yolks. Some products like bread and cereal may be fortified with it, and there are always Vitamin D supplements, fish oil capsules, and multivitamins. Just be careful, Vitamin D is one of the few vitamins one can overdose on, so get a doctor’s advice before taking Vitamin D supplements.

Technology

While computers, smartphones, and other technology offers many benefits, chiropractors and physiotherapists see a stream of patients with aches and pains caused by hunching over screens for excessive periods of time. You may have already experienced “forward head posture”, where craning forward for long periods to read your screen has produced a constant tilt to your head.

Expect to hear more people talking about “text neck” or the “smartphone slump”. Not only is bad posture aging and unflattering, but deep wrinkles around the neck are unattractive. So make an effort to raise your arms until your cellphone is at eye level, rather than dipping your head down towards it. Alternatively, lie on your back and raise your cellphone to eye level. Stretch.

Ask your physiotherapist for appropriate stretches and exercises to rescue your shoulders and neck. Meanwhile, here’s something that can help with “forward head posture”: Stand with your back to a wall and make sure the back of your head touches the wall behind you, your heels pressed against the wall, hold it for five minutes. Learn how that feels and try and maintain that posture afterward.

Also take care of the skin on your neck – use a firming neck moisturiser daily to keep the skin more elastic – and do some facial exercises: grin as hard as you can while saying “iiiiiixxxxx” (you should feel your neck lifting and tightening), then pout your mouth into a kiss while saying “ooohhhhh” (again, tighten those muscles until you feel your neck lifting).  You’ll probably feel sore initially but it’s worth it.

Nostalgia

Isn’t it incredible that your youth (whenever that was) coincided with a blossoming of the greatest music, literature, and culture ever? All those things had a great impact on our formative selves and we will always love the music, the movies and the books we grew up with, but don’t define yourself by your past experiences alone. Don’t prematurely age yourself with constant references to a bygone time.

Everyone has heard their parents tell them that “they don’t make music like they used to anymore.” No-one ever enjoyed a story that started with “I remember when I was young…”. Don’t be that person.  There is still great music being made in any style you can imagine. There are still great books being published. You don’t need to enjoy everything just because it’s new, but keep the adventure alive.

Discover new things to enjoy and appreciate them. Technology and social media can help you find kindred spirits and discover new musicians and authors. Live in the present and you’ll be a happier, more attractive person which will automatically make you look and sound younger. Make some new stories with new friends. Live a little, risk a little, enjoy your life.

It is your absolute prerogative to put your stamp on your own life.  Go do needlepoint this evening and Crossfit tomorrow. Don’t always act your age. Or do, if you want to. Above all, remember this: If you have a choice between opening up or closing down, choose to open up every time. Talk to strangers, get lost, ask questions about everything and everything. Learn Discover. Invent. Wear purple.

Clothes

Many years ago, you found a look that suits you – well, it suited you at the time. You are not that person anymore. Our minds tend to lag behind our bodies – by about 15 years. Most older people simply don’t have a good handle on what they really look like or what suits them. Firstly, we’d rather not admit some hard truths. Secondly, we’re probably not that skilled at putting a whole new look together. Most of us didn’t do a great job the first time (there’s photographic proof) and we’re not likely to do a better job the second time around.

While we want to move away from the youthful look that no longer suits us, there is no reason to resign yourself to slippers and pullovers just yet. Neither do you want a style that shouts, “mid-life crisis” or “mutton dressed as lamb.” As a man, it is hard to get fashion advice from your friends except that your zip is down. Fortunately, there are many men’s fashion magazines these days that can offer advice.

Here’s what GQ says about the older man:  The secret to dressing to look younger is not to dress like younger men, but to dress well for your age. Find clothes with structure and good lines. In cooler climes, blazers will do the job for you. If you live in hot climates you can still find tee-shirts and shorts that are cut well and sit well on you.

As you get older, you’re happier with a smaller wardrobe of clothes than your younger self. You can spend a little more money on quality garments that are comfortable and which flatter you. This is your opportunity to show some class and style. Show some individuality. Make a statement that says: “casual authority.’ Own it!

Your Skin

With time, your skin becomes drier and doesn’t renew itself like it used to. It becomes thinner, particularly around your eyes. It doesn’t heal as quickly as it used to, and it’s more sensitive to the knocks of daily life.  Your skin will show your history but will also reflect how healthy your lifestyle is. Eat well and live an active lifestyle, your skin will show it.

Embrace the character in your face. Become what the comedian Billy Connolly calls “windswept and interesting”. However, let’s not become too windswept quite yet.  Use a good cleanser and moisturize regularly. Ditch the soap and get advice on the right products for you. Expect your skin to become more sensitive as it thins, so look for gentler products. They don’t have to be expensive to do a good job.

Here are some other simple tricks: Enzyme scrubs are gentler on aging skin than granular scrub, and serums can help pigmentation and age spots (evidence of too much sun in our youth). Get a good night’s sleep and do it on a silk pillowslip. Silk is a natural fiber which will not mark your face and will not make you sweat. Frown less – you’ll feel happier, look happier and have fewer wrinkles.

Don’t forget your décolleté (that bit between your neck and chest) – the skin there is very sensitive and thinner than the rest of your skin on your body. Take special care of it with rich firming moisturizers and plenty of sunscreen. And the same goes for your hands – exfoliate them regularly, moisturize and use sunscreen. Get a night mask for your neck and décolleté, while you’re at it use a hand one too.

Your Teeth

In the old days, teeth were the first thing to go with age, literally. These days we still have (most of) our teeth, but they might be showing their mileage. As we age, our teeth naturally turn more yellow, but staining from coffee, tea, wine, and cigarettes can make them look much worse. Also, your gums recede with age or due to disease, making your teeth look longer and even yellower and the gaps between them tend to widen.

Consider whitening them up a little. Professionals can do wonders, but perhaps just an occasional brushing with baking soda will do the trick. There are plenty of whitening products available nowadays, some more effective than others, but every little bit helps. Get work done if you need it and get a professional cleaning regularly. You’re way too old to fear a little dentistry.

Cut back on the things that cause staining and are probably not that good for you anyway. Reduce your sugar intake as well as salty savory snacks. The salt can damage your teeth as much as sugar can. Pay attention to your breath. Apart from the obvious anti-social implications of bad breath, it might also be a symptom of gum disease.  Brushing your tongue regularly is a simple way of keeping your breath smelling sweet.

Floss – it helps to prevent gum disease. If you don’t like ordinary floss or have sensitive gums, a water irrigator can be gentle but still effective. If you haven’t used an electric toothbrush before, give it a go.  A well-cared-for set of teeth will give you a youthful look, especially when combined with a nice big smile. It’s no coincidence that buyer checks a horse’s teeth to learn a lot about the animal.

Your Eyes

Your eyes may be the window to your soul, but the skin around your eyes is a dead giveaway when it comes to your age. It’s extremely thin and thins even more as we age, when we lose collagen and elastin. Blood vessels under the eyes become more visible causing dark circles. Bags start to form and look even worse thanks to the dark circles. Even the whites of your eyes might go a little yellow.

It’s worth spending some money on a good eye-cream –apply it twice a day with a gentle tapping motion which will also help to de-puff those tell-tale bags. Eye products that promote collagen and elastin are recommended as well as those that “fill” in the deeper wrinkles. Keep your eyebrows well-groomed and shaped to help frame your face and draw attention to your eyes, not the wrinkles.

Treat tired eyes to a cup of tea! Take a used teabag and wet it with iced water (better yet, keep some tea bags on hand in the fridge), then lie down with them on your closed eyes. Have a nap. 15 mins will perk up your eyes as well as your body!  No tea bags available? Put a couple of teaspoons in the fridge for a while, then lie down and press them against your eyes for a few minutes.

Your eye-sight will go through some changes as you grow older. You may need reading glasses and your normal prescription may change. Get regular check-ups and be aware if you find yourself squinting or struggling to read something. Use sunglasses outside and when driving. Spend some time and money on getting the right spectacle frame. They are going to spend a lot of time on your face.

Your Hair

If you’ve kept your hair (and not everyone has) you will find it changes with time. Apart from the loss of color, you may find it become a little coarser, drier, thinner and lacks volume. Take good care of it, nourish it and find a style that suits the changes. Being adventurous and experimenting is good for the soul, but do get honest advice from people you trust.

Men, if you have receding or grey hair, find an appropriate style that suits you – no, a comb-over will NOT work! Rather embrace the bald and make it your signature. You can even try experimenting with a beard or other facial hairstyles that might not have worked for you in your youth, but might look very good on you now. Visit a good barber or a specialist beard shop for a good cut and good advice.

If you want to color your hair, a lighter color will make it easier to hide the greys as well as make you look a bit younger. They are even shampoos just for grey hair that will bring out the sparkle. If your hair is a color not known in nature, defies gravity or requires special equipment to maintain, you are only emphasizing to others that your hair is your last source of pride.

Use deep conditioning treatments regularly. Avoid heat styling as much as possible as this dries the hair out even further. Never brush wet hair – rather comb through with a wide-toothed comb with blunt tips. By the way, pulling your hair tightly back from your face does not, in fact, give you a temporary “facelift”. It just emphasizes every line on your face. Keep it soft and natural.

Food

As you age, your metabolism slows down. Spicy or unhealthy foods that you could toss back in your youth may now be more difficult to digest. What you eat and drink these days has a bigger impact on how you feel and how you look than was the case in your youth. So, take some care about what fuel you choose. Making the right choices will also help to protect you against many illnesses and diseases.

Reduce your portions. You may not need as much as you used to eat and probably don’t need as much as you may think. Watch out for those snacks between meals. As a general rule, the easier is it is to get hold of a snack, the unhealthier it is. Better to find some snacks that you enjoy, but still tick the healthy boxes, and keep them on hand.  Try your favorite nuts or dried fruit (in moderation).

Cut back on the red meat and carbs and ramp up the fruit and veg. Eat more fish, particularly oily fish with healthy Omega oils. Be sensible about your alcohol intake. Cut out salty, sugary, processed, and fried foods – yes, that means take-out should not be a regular thing! Don’t cut out fat – the right fats are essential to your wellbeing. You might need certain supplements like Omega oil, perhaps calcium for your bones, and so on.

Grapes contain sorbitol which helps the skin absorb and retain moisture – so eat more but not too many as they are high in sugar – and do eat the seeds. Eat green and red veggies for vitamin K (helps reduce bruising) and lycopene (provides some UV protection) Moderation is the key to a healthy body and mind – enjoy your food, but be sensible. You know what is good for you!

Purpose

A purpose in life is a great source of satisfaction and happiness. We may find that things which used to give us a sense of purpose begin to wane over time. Children leave the nest and one’s career begins to wind down. Spouses may pass on, leaving you alone.  Depression can set in very easily which compounds the effects of aging in many ways – both physically and mentally.

There are many ways of renewing that sense of purpose and enjoying many years of fulfillment.  When retirement can span twenty or thirty years, no-one expects you to sit in an easy chair and stare into the sunset for all that time. Is there a hobby you have never had the time for?  Could you use your skills and experience to give back?  As paradoxical as it may seem, the more you give, the more you will get back.

Don’t be scared of technology. No matter how obscure your passion might be, technology can connect you to groups of like-minded people no matter where they are in the world. Find a way to do good in your community. If you work with children, they will give you energy in turn.  If you work with the disadvantaged, they will teach you charity, if you work with the aged, they will teach you wisdom.

As populations age in developed countries, the line between work and retirement is blurring. People often sacrifice a little salary late in their career to do something entirely new which offers more meaning to them. It’s called “The Third Age.” Seek out your own renewed purpose. It will repay you a thousand-fold. Even if you never find your purpose, the search for it may become the greatest journey of your life.

Happiness

If you must have wrinkles (and you will, whatever I said in the skincare section earlier), make sure they are laughter lines around your eyes and mouth. There is a reason we talk about grumpy old men (and women); unhappiness will age your face in no time and leave you friendless and alone. A smiling person is always more approachable and attractive. Be that person.

A whole science of happiness has sprung up in recent decades. Happiness is associated with living longer (so keep up that skin regimen) as well as having heaps of other positive side-effects. Being a generally happy person is associated with living a rich and fulfilling life, and who doesn’t want that? Being happy changes our whole view of the world in a very positive way.

Scientists point to two major influences on how positive you feel, and they don’t necessarily correlate with riches or material success. The first is Gratitude – Be grateful for everything and everyone that deserves it. Show it. Tell people. Write down at the end of each day everything you are grateful for. As small as this seems, people swear this is the miraculous ingredient to a happy life. Try it.

The second is to Live in the Moment – Think about the opposite for a moment; the person who says they’ll be happy when… they win the lottery, find Mr/Mrs Right and so on. We’ve all done this, and we know it never leads to happiness. Instead, appreciate what is right in front of you. Be present. Enjoy the people with you right now. Become part of something larger than you and find tasks that will challenge you. Take a little care, give a little thought to your appearance. These older years are the time you come into your own. Let your character and personality come through. Take care of yourself because you deserve it. Be honest council to your friends. Enjoy the Ride!

Makeup

As you age, looser facial skin and wrinkles don’t offer a good foundation for makeup. While your response to aging may be to double down on the concealer, it will only serve to make things look even worse. A lighter hand will do much more for you. Sometimes the very products you are using to look younger and hide the signs of aging can be causing skin issues which contribute to further signs of aging.

Keep your makeup clean and simple, neat and tidy, especially during the day. Which is not to say you shouldn’t have fun with your makeup on a night out – but if you do, watch out for shimmery products which just accentuate those wrinkles, thick foundation which sinks into the pores and outlines creases, and dark lipsticks which bring out the yellow in your teeth.

There are many simple things you can do yourself at home to keep you looking ageless. If you find errant hairs where there used to be none (whether you’re male or female), pluck them out.  Use products that moisturize as much as possible. Try a navy eyeliner instead of black – it brightens the whites of eyes which go yellower as you get older.  Use blusher sparingly on the cheeks and apply to your eyelids as well.

Keep those eyebrows shaped and tidy and fill them in with an eyebrow pencil if necessary. Use a BB cream (with sunscreen) instead of a foundation for a less caked, more natural, look.  Use a lipliner to define lips and a soft balm/gloss which will not sink into the fine lines around your lips. Check carefully for smudges and flakes of makeup when you’re done applying – they settle into the wrinkles you’re trying to hide!

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