Health

Six essential anti-aging tips for a younger mind and body

Reverse (or prevent) the signs of aging with these suggestions for your skin, brain, bones and organs

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If you are not aging well on the outside, chances are your insides aren’t either. Ultimately, this affects not only the way you look, but your natural body processes, as well as your risk for diseases like cancer, diabetes or heart disease. Taking the necessary steps to prevent premature aging is crucial – not only because of your appearance, but also for your bones, your brain and your vital organs.

Check out these simple tips to become a more youthful you:

1. Laugh, dance and de-stress. Although it may come as no surprise, recent research has shown that stress speeds the aging process by harming DNA. Japanese researchers determined that while cells have ways to repair themselves, they can be damaged irreversibly by excessive stress. The solution to stay young may be to act young. Crank up your tunes when you feel you need a stress release, mood boost, or just for fun. Even better, dance! Dancing elevates endorphins, raises serotonin and balances the sympathetic nervous system by lowering cortisol and dopamine. A December 2005 study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience proved that 12 weeks of dance sessions raised serotonin and lowered dopamine (which is often high when we are stressed). Moving to your favourite tunes is a great way to have some fun, burn a few calories and lower your cortisol levels.

2. Work up a sweat. Research shows that muscle strength declines by 15 percent per decade after age 50, and 30 percent after age 70. Scientists have found that people lose strength and muscle tissue not because they grow older, but because they stop doing activities that use muscle power. The combination of reduced strength and lower activity levels can lead to an increased incidence of falls and decreased walking ability. Plenty of research shows that regular workouts boost mood, build bone density, reduce cancer risks, help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, can perk up libido and so much more. Studies show that the absence of exercise is as much of a health risk as smoking. While I do agree that excessive strenuous cardiovascular exercise can actually do more harm than good, a sensible workout program that includes strength training is a definite must for successful, lasting youth. Strength training is the secret that guarantees your metabolism stays revving for the rest of your life.

3. Freshen your skin with a sugar-free diet. Insulin is the hormone which allows sugars to enter your cells to be used as fuel or stored as fat, if they are not burned off. Sugar and carbohydrates cause an increase in insulin. High levels of sugar and insulin results in “carmelization” of body tissues, known as glycation, and accelerates the formation of wrinkles. Sugar forms cross-links in the collagen in your skin, making it less supple and impeding circulation. By reducing your intake of sugar (including starchy carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and potatoes), you will not only have an easier time shedding the pounds, but you will look younger, longer.

Instead of a sweet snack, go for a serving of carb-free foods: Greek yogurt (I love the Liberté brand – it contains only 6 grams of carbs along with 20 grams of protein), a handful of almonds, a boiled egg, tomatoes with balsamic dressing and a piece of goat cheese, or hummus with veggie sticks combined with one serving of 4 percent Allégro cheese. Extra protein will help promote collagen in your skin and keep your blood sugar levels stable. You might also want to consider supporting younger-looking skin with a supplement of Resveratrol each morning on an empty stomach.

4. Moisturize with omega-3s. Essential fatty acid supplements keep your skin supple and reduce signs of inflammation like redness. The optimal dose is one teaspoon per day or two capsules twice a day with meals.

5. Hydrate to reverse signs of aging. Dehydrated skin looks older. With insufficient water intake, joints stiffen up. Internally, constipation related to dehydration will only make you more toxic and appear congested. Drinking adequate amounts of water also lowers the concentration of sugar in the bloodstream and reduces the glycation process that we mentioned above. The best water to consume is reverse osmosis or spring water, not distilled. Keep a 1.5 L bottle of water on your desk and fill it each morning, keeping in mind that you should finish it by the end of the day. Fill a thermos or a teapot with hot water; put in three or four green tea bags and let it steep. Drink the tea throughout the day in addition to your water, but not in lieu of. Be sure to steep your green tea to allow the active ingredients to reach full potency.

6. Gently exfoliate. To gently exfoliate and brighten facial skin, try using Naturopathica‘s environmental defense mask or Juice Beauty’s green apple peel twice a week, after cleansing. These products contain natural, fruit-based acids such as lactic acid or alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) to lift off dead skin cells without any abrasive action. Contrary to prominent marketing messages, we should avoid using abrasive, scratchy products or brushes to exfoliate our skin. If you really like the feeling you get from such products, make sure the exfoliating ingredient consist of fine particles that won’t scratch or damage your skin. Note that you can still over-exfoliate, even with these milder fruit acids. Years of artificially increasing cellular turnover in your skin may accelerate the aging of your skin later on. If you do choose a mildly grainy exfoliating compound for your body, it should contain natural oils and be free of additives. Alba Botanica sugar cane body polish is a good choice that’s available at most health food stores. The sunflower oil base and added macadamia oil, vitamin E, and honey make it a treat for dry, flaky winter skin.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a Toronto-based naturopathic doctor and founder of the Clear Medicine wellness boutique. She is also the author of the bestselling book The Hormone Diet.