Experts share the precise steps you can take to stay sharp and looking great.
You already know the importance of applying sunscreen and moisturizing, but what else can you do to prevent those fine lines and dark circles? Hint: It's as easy as getting your body moving and soaking up some sunshine every day. These expert-approved tips are so simple to incorporate into your daily lifestyle and will leave you looking like an ageless beauty.
Genes inherited from your parents influence the way your body ages, although some other factors can impact the aging process. "Stress, environment, nutrition, lifestyle and immunity play an additional role," says Tom Kirkwood, director of the Institute for Aging and Health. The good news? According to the National Institute of Health, some of the most essential factors to aging well are within your control. To prolong your youth, make an effort to maintain a target blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, drink alcohol in moderation, and avoid smoking.
Despite popular belief, mental decline isn't an inevitable part of getting older. Studies show that regularly engaging in mentally stimulating activities, like meditation, can slow — and even reverse — age-related mental declines. "A lifetime of good mental habits pays off," says University of Alberta professor Dennis Foth, PhD. Plus, he adds, "It's never too late to start… even people in their 70s and 80s can see dramatic improvements." Slowing mental decline can be as simple as turning on the computer and sharing your life with family and friends. "Blogging is a great way to use your mind," says Ronni Bennett, retired radio producer and creator of TimeGoesBy.net. "It combines both passive and active thinking."
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According to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience, human levels of serotonin — the brain neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, sleep, and blood pressure — naturally decrease with age, often resulting in depression, anxiety and hardening of the arteries. Luckily, exercise is an excellent way to give serotonin levels a boost, as well as combat the effects of the stress hormone cortisol. Make it a habit to take a brisk walk or swim every day to keep your arteries healthy and lift feelings of sadness, self-doubt, and fatigue.
"Loving your work is the most important factor in aging well," says Debra Condren, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Ambition Is Not a Dirty Word: A Woman's Guide To Earning Her Worth and Achieving Her Dreams. "Small-business owners who love their work take 75 percent fewer vacations than people who dislike their jobs or who work just to pay the bills. When you love what you do, work is like play — so every day is like a vacation." Keep your career goals on track and your passion for work alive to feel young and vibrant no matter what age you are.
It's a well-known fact that vitamin D helps maintain a healthy immune system, regulates cell growth, promotes calcium absorption, and protects against certain types of cancer, WebMD reports. You can get the recommended 400-800 IU of vitamin D a day from eggs, fatty fish and fortified milk, but did you know that getting enough vitamin D may be as simple as taking a walk around the block? According to the this study, 20 minutes in the sun is all you need to meet your daily recommended requirements of vitamin D. We can't think of a better reason to step out for some fresh air during the workday.
"Aging is a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Walter Bortz, MD, Stanford University School of Medicine professor and author of Living Longer for Dummies and Dare to Be 100. According to Bortz, the single most important factor in healthy aging is cultivating a positive outlook. Research shows that your attitude, resilience, and ability to cope with stress may be better predictors of healthy aging than physical disease or disability. So how do you attain — and maintain — a good attitude? It's all about outlook. Begin by accepting that nothing in life is permanent, and try to look for the silver lining in every situation. A great attitude can help you enjoy getting older, instead of dreading or simply tolerating it.
What are your stereotypical beliefs about age? According to Vincent Giampapa, M.D., coauthor of The Gene Makeover, "Each generation is conditioned through television, books, movies, music and other aspects of culture about what people should act like, look like and even feel like as they grow older. We incorporate these beliefs into our subconscious and they become part of the factors that control how our genes work." The bottom line: If you think you're old, you may act and look old, too.
If you think folic acid is just for pregnant women, think again. Recently, David Mischoulon, M.D., Ph.D., assistant psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, conducted research that revealed an association between inadequate levels of folic acid and an increased risk of dementia and depression. To ensure you get enough folate in your diet, load up on foods like leafy green veggies, citrus fruits, dried peas, and beans. According to the National Institute of Health, some subtle signs of folate deficiency include digestive disorders, headaches, irritability, and forgetfulness.
Swedish researchers collected information from 300,000 golfers and found that their life expectancy is five years longer than the rest of the population, according to a study . "A round of golf means being outside for four or five hours, walking at a fast pace for six to seven kilometers," says Anders Ahlbom, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. "People play golf into old age, and there are also positive social and psychological aspects." Not a fan of golfing? Find other ways to stay active in the fresh air and sunshine with a companion, like group biking or light walking.
Make a point to reflect on the positives of aging, instead of focusing on the negative. "Your knowledge and experience mean you don't make as many mistakes as when you were younger. You stop comparing yourself to others, and that's a great psychic relief," Bennett says. "Most older people let go of the cultural insistence to do, do, do and accomplish, accomplish, accomplish. It's time to reflect on what's gone before, to get to know yourself and your world better. And, there's time to follow up on all those things you put off during midlife because you were too busy with your career and children."