We have a lot more control over ageing gracefully than what we think. There are the usual common sense things like getting plenty of sleep, not smoking, protecting the skin against the sun and reducing stress. But there are many other things you can be doing to ensure the body keeps functioning optimally and to prevent those wrinkles creeping in early.
- by Dr Nick Fuller
1. Get Moving
COVID-19 has presented many challenges but also many opportunities. For example, the extra time saved from commuting to work each day can be directed towards structured exercise that may have been previously neglected. Not only is exercise great for stress management but also our heart health and our waistlines. This is even more important over the age of 40 to prevent the decline in muscle mass that comes with ageing.
Tip: Work towards including 30 minutes of structured activity every day and using a wearable device monitor your incidental movement, as being housebound can result in a significant decrease in activity.
2. Get Into Your B Vitamins
Anti-ageing and the food you put into your body are closely related. A particular biochemical process called methylation helps repair your DNA to prevent ageing, but this is dependent on optimum levels of B vitamins – B6, folate and B12 - and the nutrient, choline, to ensure this process happens smoothly. The richest sources of these vitamins and nutrients are green leafy vegetables, wholegrain breads and cereals, beans, eggs and fish.
Tip: If you are following a vegan diet, make sure to have your vitamin B12 level tested by your general practitioner as this vitamin is only found naturally in animal products.
3. Cut Back on Meat
Everyone seems to be talking about high protein diets these days, but a diet based on animal protein prevents the process of methylation from happening optimally and a high meat intake is another way to speed up the ageing process. We want homocysteine levels in the blood to be low – to allow methylation to occur - and a diet rich in meat and low in leafy greens, wholegrain breads and cereals can mean you’re missing out on your folate.
Tip: We don’t need meat at every meal. Try substituting some meat-based meals for legumes or eggs.
4. Quit The Diet
We all know that we should be following a healthy diet to prevent ageing. Unhealthy lifestyle choices like poor diet and lack of exercise result in weight gain, typically at the rate of 0.5-1.0 kg per year. We put our health down the bottom of the priority list and then look for the quick fix to shift the kilos for summer or an important event. But dieting and continual weight loss attempts are another sure way of ensuring those wrinkles creep in early. Dieting will only accelerate weight gain and someone that has dieted over their lifetime will always be fatter than someone who hasn’t dieted.
Tip: Research shows that when you lose weight in 4-week cycles with an Interval Weight Loss approach your body doesn’t fight itself and hence you prevent the weight regain that comes with diets.
5. Take Control of Your Health
Fruits and vegetables are a gold mine of longevity-enhancing compounds called antioxidants, which mop up molecules in the body called free radicals that damage our cells. So next time you reach for the slice of cake, say no, and reach for natures treats instead.
95% of the population don’t get enough fruit and vegetables. We have been brainwashed to believe that some fruits and vegetables are bad for our waistline because they contain too much sugar or too many carbs, but this is absolute nonsense. All fruits and vegetables should be part of your daily eating plan - they contain naturally occurring sugars and are packed full of nutrition.
Tip: Stop cutting certain foods and food groups out of your eating plan. This approach is not healthy and will only accelerate the ageing process rather than reversing it.