TURN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS INTO A QUEST FOR YOUTHFUL SKIN, BODY AND MIND WITH OUR EXPERT EVERYDAY TIPS
Growing older might be inevitable, but reports suggest that 70% of ageing problems are related to lifestyle choices, and as little as 30% are genetically determined. This means that we have the power to make a huge difference to how we age – and even slow the process. Supermodel Elle Macpherson admitted in a recent interview: “When I was younger, I was able to rely on genetics. Today, at 52, I need to make conscious choices that support my body for optimum health, vitality and beauty from the inside out.” While many diets and products claim to have the secret to eternal youth, it’s the culmination of small changes, maintained for the long haul, that have the biggest impact. Make choices to slow the clock today, and you’ll reap the benefits in the years to come
Nutritional therapist Eve Kalinik’s mantra is “What you put in is what you get out,” and she stresses the importance of vitamins A, C and E when it comes to anti-ageing. “Vitamin A is one of the most recognised nutrients for skin health, helping to reduce the breakdown of collagen. It can be found in sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, butter and eggs. Vitamin C is also crucial for the stability and plumpness of the skin, while E helps to prevent premature ageing and cell damage.” Eve also suggests increasing your intake of essential omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish and nuts: ‘They help to keep cells fluid, flexible and supple, and protect skin from damaging environmental factors.” Sugary treats top the list of the most ageing foods – as well as adding pounds to your waistline, they may add years to your face. “Sugar consumption leads to a process called glycation, which prematurely ages the skin.” Eve warns. Since there are 56 names for sugar, it’s not always easy to spot in an ingredients list – look for anything described as ‘syrup’ or ending in ‘ose’, such as fructose or glucose. It’s worth being label aware as sugar is linked to the acceleration of under-eye circles, a loss of radiance and an increase in fine lines, and it’s found in more products than you think, including low-fat fruit yogurts, sauces and cereals.
Not only does regular exercise assist in preventing health issues such as high blood pressure, but it also helps you live longer, according to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Participants who exercised for 150 minutes or more each week lived around five years longer than an inactive group. Harkirat Garcha, CEO at personal training network Motivate PT, says that gentle exercise can work wonders: “Try walking anywhere that can be reached in less than 30 minutes. This ensures you exercise daily, getting your heart beating and boosting your cardio levels.” Alternatively, find an active hobby that gives you pleasure: “This can be a sport, such as tennis, or something recreational, like gardening,” says Harkirat. Not only does this release mood-boosting endorphins, but it can also help to anti-age your brain. A study by the University of Miami found the brains of those who exercised appeared 10 years younger than those who didn’t, with improved memory and better cognitive skills. Our muscles also weaken over time. Weight training has been shown to keep us stronger for longer, and is particularly important for the core, as weakening muscles around the middle contribute to back pain, poor balance and a weakened spine. Yoga, Pilates, resistance training and weight lifting are all good preventative exercises.
LEARN A NEW SKILL
While learning to play an instrument or speaking a new language may not sound anti-ageing, the effect it has on your mind can be. Stretching your brain is as important as stretching your body, and learning new skills helps to improve memory and focus. Dr Jenny Brockis, author of Future Brain (Wiley-Blackwell, £14.95), explains: “We are lifelong learners, always capable of adapting to change, encoding new memory, laying down new habits and patterns of thinking. Broaden the mental stretch with a variety of different activities, and keep raising the bar. The more we use our brain, the better it gets.”
Experiencing high levels of stress for long periods increases the risk of mental illness and depression, which can lead to cognitive decline. Studies suggest that as we get older, it can also affect our immune system and trigger the release of free radicals, the unstable molecules that damage cells and are responsible for ageing. Dr Brockis recommends that you find ways to counteract stress as soon as you recognise the signs: “These can range from soaking in a bath to having a massage, exercising and more sleep. Mindfulness has become popular recently, too, and studies show that 10-minute meditation sessions lead to a calmer mind, more capable of dealing with some of life’s curveballs.”
BE SKINCARE SAVVY
Crow’s feet, wrinkles, dark circles and age spots are all signs of ageing we may wish to avoid, but establishing the right skincare routine can be difficult. UV rays are the number one cause of ageing skin. “I’m evangelical about using daily sunscreen on the face,” explains Harley Street dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. She recommends extending it right down to your décolletage: “I’m amazed at how the texture and brightness of my neck has improved through this simple step. “Hands are another neglected area,” she adds, “but they respond fantastically to a bit of TLC.” Invest in a nourishing hand cream that contains niacinamide to boost the barrier function of your skin. When all else fails? “A smoothie of coconut water, spinach, flaxseeds, avocado and berries is skin health in a snack.” Well, if it’s good enough for an A-list dermatologist…