Be sun savvy
The number one, easiest and most important factor you can influence when it comes to aging is sun exposure. Whilst getting enough sun is important in obtaining sufficient vitamin D for strong bones and possibly influence our mood, UV rays can cause skin damage even on a cloudy day. They can contribute to skin ageing (think wrinkles and pigmentation) and increase the risk of skin cancer. Getting 5-30 minutes (depending on time of day, season and latitude) of unprotected sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. twice a week is sufficient for topping up on vitamin D (Holick 2007); the rest of the time be sure to apply an SPF sunscreen to exposed skin.
Our nutrition has a massive role to play in how our bodies age. For example, there is some evidence to suggest antioxidant pigments such as lutein, beta-carotene and lycopene accumulate in our skin and provide protective effect against the sun (Evans & Johnson 2010).
Collagen is another thing to keep tabs on; this is one of the most abundant proteins found in the body and, among other functions, has a role in supporting skin structure. Our body’s ability to produce collagen naturally declines with age, so taking a collagen supplement as we get older may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles and keep skin’s elasticity (Borumand & Sibilla 2015). To naturally support its production, eat a combination of protein-rich foods, such as beef, chicken, fish, beans, eggs and dairy products. If you’re vegan, seek advice from a registered nutritionist. Collagen production in the body also requires vitamin C, so be sure to consume plenty of citrus fruits, berries and leafy greens.
Clear the smoke screen
Smoking can cause significant damage to our bodies; both internally and externally. For example, studies have shown smoking results in premature skin ageing (Morita 2007). Smoking also hinders our physical endurance, making workouts that much harder (Conway & Cronan 1992). Since exercise is another important component to looking and feeling our best as we age, you might want to consider quitting smoking. Contact your doctor or visit www.nhs.uk/smokefree for help.
With the above in mind, stress management is vital if we want to slow the effects of time. Some people find guided mediation, breathing exercises and stretching useful when dealing with stress. However, if you get restless after 30 seconds, going to the gym and working up a sweat can be equally valuable. Stress management is a very personal thing, so try out lots of ideas and find something that works for you.
We all know at least one person who looks so much younger than their age. This is likely due to a combination of genetics and lifestyle choices. Whilst we can’t change our genes, we can make tweaks to the way we live to potentially slow down how quickly our bodies age and support growing old gracefully.
Borumand, M. and Sibilla, S., 2015. Effects of a nutritional supplement containing collagen peptides on skin elasticity, hydration and wrinkles. Journal of Medical Nutrition and Nutraceuticals, 4(1), p.47.
Conway, T.L. and Cronan, T.A., 1992. Smoking, exercise, and physical fitness. Preventive medicine, 21(6), pp.723-734.
Evans, J.A. and Johnson, E.J., 2010. The role of phytonutrients in skin health. Nutrients, 2(8), pp.903-928.
Holick, M.F. 2007 Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine, 357(3), 266-281
Morita, A., 2007. Tobacco smoke causes premature skin aging. Journal of dermatological science, 48(3), pp.169-175.