Science-Backed Ways To Stay Young Forever (Or As Long As Possible, Anyway)
We can’t stop aging completely like Blake Lively’s character in “The Age of Adeline,” but we can at least slow it down (to an extent). (Lakeshore Entertainment)
In the recently released trailer for “The Age of Adeline,” actress Blake Lively gets into a magical car accident in the year 1935 and never ages another day. She may look a youthful, radiant 29 years old forever — but it comes at a cost to her relationships and love life.
While the film is obviously fiction, there are scientifically backed actions you can take to fight aging and stay looking and feeling young. Try these strategies to slow the clock.
1. Consider sunscreen as important as brushing your teeth.
Sun exposure accounts for about 80 percent of visible signs of aging on the face, according to a 2013 study. The same study also found that people in their 40s who spend a lot of time in the sun look about five years older than shade-seekers, as judged by a panel of 30 impartial research volunteers.
The sun’s damaging UVA (ultraviolet A) rays lead to fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, and dilated pores, explains New-York based dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD. UVA rays account for about 95 percent of the radiation that hits the Earth’s surface, according to the National Skin Cancer Foundation, which is why wearing sunscreen daily is so important. Even the UVA rays that come in through your car or office window, as well as UVA rays you’re exposed to cumulatively over the years, “can do a lot of damage to the skin and tremendously increase the rate at which you age,” Bowe tells Yahoo Health.
Related: 8 Ways Dermatologists Change Their Own Skincare Routines for Winter
Applying sunscreen to your face once a day in the morning is sufficient in the winter months and if you work indoors, Bowe says. But whenever you’re outdoors, even in the shade, be sure to cover any exposed skin with SPF 15 or higher sunscreen, and reapply every two hours. Look for a product that says it has broad-spectrum protection, which means it guards against both UVA and UVB rays, Bowe recommends.
The tops of your hands — a hot spot for skin cancer — need extra attention, Bowe adds. Since we wash them regularly, which cleans off the SPF, she suggest applying sunscreen to your hands in the morning and at least once again in the middle of the day.
Blake Lively on set in Vancouver while filming “The Age of Adeline,” where she portrays a woman who remains 29 forever. (R Chiang/Splash News/Corbis)
2. Think and act young.
Neuropsychologist Mario E. Martinez, PhD, founder of the Biocognitive Science Institute and author of “The Mind-Body Code,” has spent most of his life studying people who thrive in old age. He is fascinated by what separates healthy centenarians from people who don’t age as well, and has researched the topic across numerous cultures and socioeconomic classes worldwide.
What he’s found: For people who look significantly younger than their age, “the main factor that separates them from people who look significantly older is that the people who look younger believe that middle age starts 15 years later.” They also have a certain pattern of beliefs and behaviors, including forgiving easily, using enjoyable rituals to buffer stress, and continuing to learn new skills.
And when it comes to aging well, continuing to do some form of work seems to be preferable to a retirement of idle leisure. In fact, a University of Maryland study discovered that people who work part-time after they retire have fewer chronic diseases and physical limitations. And recent French research shows that people who retire earlier have an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Related: People Who Feel Younger May Live Longer
3. Get enough sleep.
Florence Comite, MD, a leader in the field of personalized medicine, says that adequate sleep is “by far and away the number one thing that trumps everything else” when it comes to healthy aging. “We live in a society where it’s common to burn the candles at both ends, and we think it’s perfectly fine to have five or six hours of sleep and that’s enough,” she tells Yahoo Health. “But sleep is critical for health.” Sleep deprivation is associated with diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, and other conditions.
While we snooze, the immune system activates and the body restores its hormonal balance, Comite explains. “You’re in effect healed from the damages of the day,” she says.
People who sleep fewer than five or six hours a night also tend to age faster, research shows. In one study, older men who slept five hours per night or less had shorter telomeres (sections of DNA that indicate cellular aging) than men who snoozed for seven or more hours nightly. (Shorter telomeres are associated with accelerated aging.) Another study found that middle-aged women who averaged six or less hours of shut-eye had shorter telomeres than longer sleepers. The changes were the equivalent of being nine years older than their biological age.
4. Brighten your skin with science-backed products.
Free radicals are like tiny little missiles that damage the collagen and elastin that keep your skin firm and smooth, Bowe explains. UV rays, pollution, and cigarette smoke are the main sources of free radical damage to the skin. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, so Bowe recommends applying a skin serum with antioxidants underneath your sunscreen in the morning and again before bed.
Related: Do Part-Time Vegans Have Better Skin?
Niacinamide (vitamin B3), kojic acid, and vitamin C are other compounds added to some skin serums and lotions that have been shown to reduce dark spots and even out skin tone. “If you incorporate them into your skin routine over time, they can make your skin look lighter and brighter,” Bowe says.
5. Eat enough …
A number of studies in various animal species have shown that reducing calories to near-starvation levels increases lifespan. In a landmark study in the 1930s, mice fed half the normal amount of calories lived 50 percent longer, says Gil Blander, PhD, a researcher on the biology of aging formerly with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is currently the chief science officer of InsideTracker. The findings have inspired some people to try the strategy, following programs such as The Longevity Diet, in an attempt to live longer.
The catch: The approach is far from proven. Research studies on long-term calorie-restricted diets in monkeys have shown wildly conflicting results. A study on normal-weight humans following a calorie-restricted diet for two years, which will assess factors related to longevity, is currently underway.
6. … But not too much
“The most scientifically proven way to live longer and feel younger is to maintain a healthy body weight,” says weight-loss specialist Charlie Seltzer, MD. “This may seem simple, but no amount of antioxidants or vitamins or a super low-calorie diet will make up for carrying extra weight, especially around your belly.”
People who are overweight in middle age live an average of three fewer years than those at a healthy weight, according to a large study that has been tracking a group of American adults since 1948. And obesity shortens lifespan by a full six to seven years. “The effect of overweight and obesity in adulthood on life expectancy and premature death is striking,” the study authors write.
Obesity is closely related to heart disease and diabetes, which explains part of the decrease in lifespan. But new research is showing that extra fat itself may have destructive effects on the body. For example, a study released in November from Johns Hopkins Medicine discovered evidence of heart muscle damage even among people without heart disease, and even when researchers accounted for risk factors like high blood pressure.
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