Let’s face it, staying young-ish is something we all want as we grow older.
But why do we desire youth so much? Do we want to go back to the awkward 20-year-old who knew nothing about life? The young adult who made SO many mistakes, got her heart broken by so many equally young and foolish boys?
No, probably not.
Age isn’t the problem. After all, wisdom comes with age. So does the freedom to be ourselves and express our opinions. Most of us don’t really want to be young again. We want to be happy, healthy, and mobile as we grow older. We want to add more quality years to our lives.
Well, science has some excellent news for you. It IS possible to look and feel younger as you grow older. Here are eight science-backed tips that will help you stay youthful in body, mind, and spirit.
Consume More Healthy Fats
Remember the days when fats were harmful to your health? It turns out the science was incorrect. The right dietary fats are good for you, and they don’t make you fat, either!
Research shows that the best healthy fats are omega-3 fatty acids. Fortunately, a wide variety of foods contain omega-3s, including:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
Try to eat a couple of servings of these foods each day for a youthful brain, body, and skin!
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Research suggests that widespread systemic inflammation may be the underlying cause of most chronic diseases. It can also accelerate the aging process.
According to a 2017 study published in the Experimental Gerontology journal:
“Longitudinal studies have shown that with aging most individuals tend to develop a chronic low-grade pro-inflammatory state and that such a state is a strong risk factor for multimorbidity, physical and cognitive disability, frailty and death.” (1)
In addition, there is scientific evidence that brain inflammation contributes to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
While environmental factors can certainly play a pro-inflammatory role, diet is likely the most significant contributor to bodily inflammation. For example, refined grains and sugar consumption is associated with chronic inflammation. (2, 3) Given the current state of the standard American diet, it’s probably not a coincidence that the rates of the most common chronic diseases have skyrocketed in the past few decades.
Consume more anti-inflammatory foods, including:
- Green leafy vegetables, i.e., spinach, kale
- Blueberries and other fruits
- Fatty fish, i.e., salmon, tuna
- Olive oil
- Nuts, i.e., almonds, walnuts
Eat fewer inflammatory foods, including:
- Red meats, i.e., hamburger, steak
- Processed meats, i.e., hotdogs, bologna
- Sugar-sweetened beverages
- Refined carbohydrates, i.e., chips, white bread
- Dairy, i.e., milk, cheese
Eating an anti-inflammatory diet, like the SANE eating plan, is one of the most important things you can do to stay youthful as you age.
Exercise Your Brain
The well-known term “Use it or lose it” is generally used in the context of physical function. But it also applies to brain health.
Research consistently shows that exercising the brain may prevent cognitive decline. Why? Well, if you don’t regularly use certain mental functions, your brain will eliminate or “prune” connections between applicable brain cells. Pruning allows the brain to remove connections that are no longer needed.
Conversely, exercising your brain strengthens connections between brain cells. Plus, research suggests that learning something new “rewires” the brain, creating new neural connections, which can slow mental decline.
Of course, you can’t exercise the brain like you exercise the body. Instead, you need to challenge yourself mentally. Here are a few mental activities you can do today to help keep your brain sharp and youthful.
- Do crossword puzzles.
- Do number puzzles, i.e., Sudoku
- Assemble jigsaw puzzles
- Play card games e.g., poker, or alone, e.g., solitaire
- Play the word game Scrabble
- Learn new dance moves
- Play or learn a musical instrument
- Learn a new skill
- Practice meditation
- Learn a foreign language
Multiple research studies show that chronic stress can accelerate aging and impair the immune system. It can also increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression, dementia, age spots, premature skin aging, and shorten life expectancy. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
Most of these negative health effects may be due to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol circulating in your bloodstream.
But it’s never too late to reverse the damaging effects of stress. Here are a few common methods used for stress-relief:
- Seated mediation
- Mindfulness training
- Breathing exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Playing fetch with your dog
- Walking around the block
- Listening to calming music
- Having a massage
- Spending time in nature
Start a Meditation Practice
Though meditation has been around for thousands of years, it is a relatively recent practice in the West. However, in the past couple of decades, its popularity has increased due to its positive effect on health. Yes, meditation is a great stress-reliever, and it does relax the mind and body. But it has also been shown to support overall health, reduce the risk of various diseases, and contribute to healthy aging.
During meditation, practitioners typically focus attention on one thing, such as breathing. Then, each time a thought intrudes, they gently bring their attention back to their breaths. Though seemingly simple, meditation can help you stay young.
If you’re just starting, do 10-15 minutes of meditation at a time, gradually increasing the time as you become more proficient.
We all know that regular physical activity is good for our health. After all, exercise has been shown to help improve cardiovascular health, maintain bone strength, increase muscle mass, decrease muscle mass index, reduce fat, and decrease your risk of numerous health conditions. And because exercise increases blood flow to the brain, it can also boost mood, reduce the risk of dementia, and support mental health. It even improves memory and keeps your skin radiant!
In short, exercise can have you feeling young in no time. But not just any physical activity will do. Instead, research shows that the best anti-aging exercises are aerobic (cardio) and include:
- Brisk walking
- Jumping jacks
- Jumping rope
- Organized sports
For best results, try to exercise continuously at a steady rate for at least 20 minutes or alternate between moderate- and high-intensity exercises.
Be More Social
Some people tend to withdraw from social activities as they age, but studies show that this is harmful to your mental and physical health.
According to the National Institute on Aging:
“Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions: high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.” (14)
Conversely, having a social support group can help you stay young, reduce your disease risk, and increase your life expectancy.
Here are a few ways to develop and nurture relationships with others.
- Volunteer at a local organization
- Join a gym or fitness facility
- Make a point to visit or call friends and family more often
- Join a club
- Take the bus or subway occasionally. Public transport is a GREAT way to meet new people!
- Take your furry friend to a dog park. Let’s face it. Dogs make it easy to strike up a conversation with someone new!
- Visit a local museum
- Take yoga classes
- Register for a local trade school or community college class that attracts older adults, unless age is not important to you.
Improve Your Sleep Habits
Getting better sleep is essential for overall health. Research finds that chronic sleep deprivation not only promotes premature aging but it can also increase your risk of numerous health issues. (15)
Please speak with your doctor if you have sleep issues to rule out medical conditions. If your health provider gives you a clean bill of health, take steps to improve your sleep habits.
Here are a few methods shown to improve sleep habits.
- Adhere to a strict sleep schedule, even on the weekends
- Do not eat anything at least three hours before bedtime
- Relax before bed by reading a book, meditating, or practicing deep breathing exercises.
- Turn off your devices at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from your TV, smartphone, computer screen, and tablet interferes with your brain’s melatonin production.
- Limit your fluid intake, as frequent urination during the night can disrupt sleep.
- Make your bedroom sleep-friendly. A dark, quiet, and cool environment can help promote restful sleep.
Protect and Pamper Your Skin
As you age, the telomeres — proteins at the ends of linear chromosomes — shorten, which can leave DNA exposed to free radical damage that accelerates aging. DNA damage is responsible for the visual signs of aging, such as age spots, sagging skin, fine lines, wrinkles, and dry or itching skin.
Sleep deprivation, yo-yo dieting, cigarette smoking, consuming ultra-processed foods, chronic stress, and dehydration can damage your DNA, thus contributing to premature aging of the skin and the body.
Fortunately, you can do a few things to minimize this damage. Reducing stress, getting more sleep, and eating an anti-inflammatory diet have already been covered. In addition, there are a few steps you should take to protect and pamper your skin.
- Stay hydrated. Try to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of unsweetened liquid per day, preferably water.
- Use sunscreen. The sun’s UV rays accelerate skin aging, so you must use sunscreen when you go outside.
- Stop smoking. The nicotine in cigarettes restricts blood flow to the skin, which can cause dry skin and wrinkles.
- Apply moisturizer. Apply a high-quality anti-aging moisturizer to your skin as soon as you step out of the shower or bath, as this will seal moisture into your skin.
- Use a humidifier. The winter season can dry out your skin due to the extremely low humidity. That’s when you want to crank up a humidifier to add moisture to your home.
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