While many factors will determine your life span, research has identified some key lifestyle behaviours that can significantly improve your physiological age.

1. Maintain a healthy weight 

Carrying too much weight puts a strain on your joints and heart, but being too thin increases the risk of fractures as well as some cancers, so aim for a healthy weight.

 

2. Ensure a low alcohol intake

Although regularly consuming small amounts of alcohol seems to reduce the risk of heart disease and dementia, any amount of alcohol can increase inflammation and damage the liver. So if you enjoy a drink now and then, remember to have it with a meal and stick to just 1 or 2 drinks.

 

3. Quit smoking

Quitting smoking is difficult, but worth it: someone quitting at age 60 will immediately gain years in life expectancy, because tobacco smoking is the single largest preventable cause of premature death and disease. It is also a promoter of chronic inflammation and physical signs of ageing such as skin wrinkles.

 

4. Increase activity level and flexibility

Many of the age-related bodily changes result more from disuse than from simple ageing: that is, ‘use it or lose it’! Staying active is important if you want to control your weight and maintain your muscle strength, flexibility and bone density. Exercise is also good for the brain.

 

5. Improve your sleep

There is a good reason why we talk about ‘beauty sleep’–sleep is the time when all the cells in your body repair and recover, while your muscles relax. Get plenty of exercise and fresh air earlier in the day, and avoid late-night stress, smoking, heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol, which can all interfere with sleep.

 

6. Ensure adequate hydration 

The thirst response decreases with ageing, so older people are at higher risk of dehydration, particularly when taking medications that increase fluid requirements, or in hot weather. Drink water regularly.

 

7. Decrease stress 

Stress hormones promote weight gain and suppress the immune system, making you vulnerable to infections and accelerating the ageing process. Exercise can help the body to deal with stress; learning to relax is also helpful. Try meditating, yoga, visualisation exercises, deep breathing or relaxation techniques. You can read more about stress relief here. 

 

8. Look after your skin

Mature skin can become dry very quickly and can benefit from a hydrating moisturiser (make sure it contains sunscreen). Sun damage is the most powerful factor in skin ageing, so keeping out of the sun in the middle of the day is very important for youthful skin.

 

9. Take care with food safety 

The protection of our immune system is reduced as we get older, so it is important to wash hands well before handling food; minimise time that cooked foods are at room temperature; and throw out old food.

 

10. Keep your mind active

Mental health is as important to wellbeing as physical health: the mind and body are closely linked, so it is essential to look after both. A busy, socially connected life with plenty of close relationships and active interests is important in keeping you young.

For more anti-ageing pointers, read the Anti-Ageing Beauty Bible.

 

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