Magic doesn’t exist, and until it does, there’s no avoiding the fact that each day leaves you a little older than the one before it. Your approach to aging, however, is entirely within your control.
If you choose to adopt healthy habits for aging gracefully, you can keep yourself looking and feeling years younger than what your birth certificate shows. Incorporate some of these tips into your life, and the aging process will be back under your control.
Protect your Skin from the Sun
Few things impact your appearance as much as the time you spend outside, so protecting your skin from the sun is paramount for preventing signs of premature aging. The best way to keep your youthful glow is to cover up when you go outside, either through protective clothing or by wearing at least SPF 30. Take precautions by wearing extra sunscreen on your left side while driving, and note when your bottle expires, as most sunscreens will only last six months before they begin to lose their effectiveness.
That’s not to say you should hide from the sun altogether. Your body requires sunlight to metabolize vitamin D, a nutrient that’s essential for maintaining bone health and a healthy immune system. For optimal sun benefits without compromising your health, the National Institute on Aging recommends aiming for 20 minutes of daily sun exposure.
Without water, your body barely exists. It’s no surprise that staying hydrated helps you fight the signs of aging. Just like other organs, your skin is made of cells that require water for every metabolic process. Without it, skin starts looking dry, tight, and flaky. Live by the rule that you’re already dehydrated if you’re feeling thirsty, and aim to take in about 64 ounces a day (which includes the liquid in food).
The risk of your hair turning grey overnight might be a myth, but there’s no denying that a stressful life will age your face. Continuously furrowed brows lead to wrinkles, and stress-induced habits like smoking and drinking will degrade the collagen production process. Put a stop to the symptoms by finding better ways to relax, and you’ll age without showing every stressor on your face.
Wine with dinner might be your modus operandi, but any excess alcohol consumption can damage your appearance over time by keeping you dehydrated and agitating underlying skin issues. It’s best for men to stick to less than 14 alcohol units and women to drink fewer than 12 a week to make the aging process a little more graceful.
Laugh Hard and Often
The science is in: laughter relieves stress, improves your mood, and makes it easier for other people to approach you. It’s the perfect solution for enhancing your social relationships, keeping things in perspective, and leaving you excited about each new day. If that’s not an ideal way to age, we don’t know what is.
Get Plenty of Folate
Don’t assume that folic acid is only for pregnant women. A deficiency of this critical nutrient can increase your risk of developing dementia, digestive disorders, depression, and general cognitive decline. It’s best to keep your levels high by loading up on leafy greens, citrus fruits, and beans. (If you opt for a supplement, choose one that has active methyl folate, not folic acid — folate is the natural, bioactive form of the nutrient, so your body doesn’t have to convert it.)
Take Up Golf
It might sound like a retirement cliché, but the evidence shows that regular golf games might keep you young. Swedish researchers collected data on over a quarter million golfers and found that their average life expectancy was five years longer than the standard population.
Why? One theory is that a round of golf gives you an extra four hours spent outdoors, moving, and socializing during the day — three habits that are integral to keeping you young. In that case, it doesn’t even have to be golf — most sports should provide you with a similar age-defying benefit.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting seven hours a night might sound like a stretch, but without your beauty sleep, your skin will start to suffer. Night works as your body’s ‘reset time’ where it processes your day and builds and repairs skin cells. This means that depriving yourself of sleep can actually reduce cognitive functioning and interfere with the collagen formation process.
Aim to settle into bed at the same time each night, turn off your electronics an hour beforehand, and sleep in a cool, dark room. Follow these steps, and you’ll make strides towards maintaining your health through optimal sleep.
Eat Less Salt
Is your skin somehow looking both bloated and baggy? Your sodium consumption might be to blame. Salt causes the body to retain water, leading to a plumper appearance. As you age, you also become more susceptible to the effects of a salty diet, which includes hypertension, high blood pressure, and even strokes. Put away that salt shaker and stick to herbs for flavoring instead, and your skin will look better for it.
Maintain Quality Relationships
Loneliness raises your risk of death — literally. In fact, some research shows it’s a more significant threat to your life than obesity. Maintaining healthy social connections will help you live longer and even reduce the physical signs of aging.
Research shows that people with strong social ties have a 50 percent chance of living longer than those without them — so pick up the phone and plan a date with that long-neglected friend.
Turn Off the TV
You deserve to relax after the workday, but sitting in a stupor in front of the television is counterproductive for your health. An Australian study has revealed that, on average, every hour of TV watched after age 25 will cost you 22 minutes from your life expectancy. Fight the pressure to adopt a sedentary lifestyle and spend that time moving (preferably outdoors) instead.
Sit as Little as You Can
Sitting is the new smoking, studies report, and you’re harming your health if your office job keeps you behind a desk each day. Fight the trend by stretching and taking short walks every few hours, and you’ll stay limber long into your golden years.
Habits for Health, No Matter Your Age
Age might not be optional, but there are habits you can develop to slow down its signs. By incorporating these healthy habits into your life, you can ensure that the years ahead will be some of your best.