Slowing down the aging process

oldmanwithredwineIn 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed in Florida, allegedly in search of the fabled fountain of youth. While he did not find such a fountain, and there are doubts whether he was actually looking for it, people throughout the centuries have sought ways to slow down the clock.

Modern advances in nutrition and medical science have dramatically extended lifespans and quality of life for many people. Although eternal life is just a myth so far, there are some proven ways you can look and feel younger in middle age and beyond.

1. Keep on the sunscreen. Sunlight, specifically ultraviolet exposure, can account for four-fifths of visible signs of aging on the face, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. Long-term exposure to UV can produce wrinkles, fine lines, spots, and even skin cancer. So remember the sunscreen, even if you’re in the shade. Apply it before going out and every couple of hours after that. Sunlight coming in through the windows can also have damaging effects.

To minimize lines, wrinkles, and dark spots,  lemon juice has become a popular and inexpensive home skin treatment. It can also brighten your skin. Just remember, lemon juice contains acid, so thoroughly wash it off before going out in the sun to avoid painful burns.

2. Keep your skin well nourished and moisturized. Applying lotions containing antioxidants and vitamins B3 and C can help keep your skin looking brighter, avoid wrinkles, and avoid blotches and dark spots.

3. Keep a youthful attitude. People who think of themselves as young tend to stay younger longer, according to research by the Institute of Biocognitive Psychology. Learning new things, exercise, and a more carefree attitude can go a long way to keeping your mind and body youthful. Mental stimulation and a feeling of being useful are also crucial. One way to achieve these are continued work: a study found that people who work part-time in retirement tend to be in better health than those who are idle.

4. Get enough sleep. Sleep is important for the body to repair itself and build its immune system. Insufficient sleep is associated with diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Chronic sleepiness also makes you look and feel older. A study found that healthy men who slept five or fewer hours per night had shorter telomeres than those who slept seven or more hours (telomeres are a component of DNA in cells and their length is an indicator of biological age). Another study found similar results in women.

5. Don’t be too thin. While obesity has been linked to a variety of diseases and shortened lifespan, researchers in Japan have found that being too thin also can have detrimental health effects. Thinner people had the shortest life expectancies among those studied. Very thin people also had higher risk of heart disease and other health complications as they aged.

Researchers in Denmark likewise found that people with thin thighs measuring 23 inches or less in circumference tended to have higher rates of heart disease and premature death. Interestingly, overweight people had the highest life expectancies, with normal-weight people close behind.

The researchers cautioned against gaining too much weight, however. “It’s better that thin people try to gain normal weight, but we doubt it’s good for people of normal physique to put on more fat,” said one of the Japanese scientists. The researchers suspected that the study participants who were thin tended to smoke more and were more susceptible to contagious diseases.

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