Article updated on:
December 13, 2022
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Aging is part of life – and with it comes wisdom and experience. Unfortunately, it also comes with weakening organs and tissue, leading to a degraded quality of life. Regardless, who wouldn’t like to slow down the clock a bit?
Don’t we all want to know how to slow down aging? Your actions can either accelerate or put the brakes on many aspects of aging.
Take the following steps to help you age gracefully – inside and out. Can you stop aging or reverse aging? Likely no, but here are some great habits to help ease the natural aging process.
1) Engage in physical activity
If you want to slow down the signs of aging and help your body function optimally, regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do. People can age slower and live healthier, more active lives if they are regularly active. According to the Harvard Alumni Study, men who exercise regularly may gain up to two hours of life expectancy for each hour of exercise. That amounts to about two extra years over the course of a lifetime. While regular exercise is optimal, it doesn’t mean a trip to the gym every day. On the other hand, thirty minutes of brisk walking every day will significantly impact your health. (1)
Even people who are overweight can slow down aging by moving their bodies. A study of older adults revealed that a moderate exercise program – the equivalent of walking at least three times per week – led to increased blood flow throughout the body, improved muscle and joint function, and reduced inflammation, which can accelerate aging. Additionally, physical activity can help you sleep better, improve your mood and lower your risk of severe illness and disease, all of which can help you look and feel younger longer.
2) Follow an Anti-inflammatory Diet
The foods you eat can either accelerate or slow down the aging process. What you eat can impact your skin, hair, and joints and help prevent or slow down signs of aging. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins and minerals include anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and vegetables and high-quality proteins like fish and eggs.
What foods are anti-inflammatory?
An anti-inflammatory diet is high in fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. It helps reduce your intake of saturated fats and food additives. If followed correctly, an anti-inflammatory diet can help slow down the process of aging and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Epidemiological research and clinical trials have demonstrated that healthy dietary patterns can help reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cardiovascular disease and cancer. For these healthy nutritional and lifestyle choices to become a part of daily living in communities worldwide, healthy eating must be made accessible, achievable, and sustainable. You can learn more about diet recommendations here.
Example of a healthy diet
The Mediterranean diet is a great place to start when looking for a guideline for a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet consists mainly of unrefined whole-grain bread, pasta, couscous, and other whole grains, which are rich in fiber and include a diversity of fruits and vegetables rich in micronutrients, fiber, and phytochemicals. Dairy products, preferably low-fat yogurt, cheese, or other fermented dairy products, should be eaten daily in small amounts to provide calcium for bone and heart health. Olive oil is the primary source of dietary lipids, and olives, nuts, and seeds are used to supplement it. Water (1.5-2.0 L/day or ~8 glasses) is the primary source of hydration, whereas moderate amounts of wine and other fermented alcoholic beverages are allowed with meals, to be consumed with meals. White meat, fish, and eggs are the primary protein sources, while red meat and processed meat are consumed less frequently and in smaller portions. (2)
3) Reduce stress
Stress is a normal part of life, but too much can speed up aging, particularly in the skin. The skin reflects the whole body’s health, and stress impacts almost all the body’s systems, including the nervous and endocrine systems. The effects of stress on the skin include increased production of the hormone cortisol, which can lead to the deterioration of collagen, the protein that gives skin its elasticity. As people age, cortisol levels increase, which can accelerate aging and make the skin look older.
How can you reduce stress?
Stress is a normal response to a difficult situation. However, stress can have adverse effects on your mental and physical health. Some of the ways you can reduce stress include:
- When faced with stressful situations, try to handle some of them at a time. Take one thing at a time and break down the tasks into small manageable steps.
- Reduce your daily stressors. Avoid things that make you tense or anxious, such as caffeine, alcohol, and exercise before bedtime.
- Get enough sleep every night. Sleep helps your body relax and restore itself after a long day.
- Do something nice for yourself every day, whether taking a walk, reading a book, or eating an ice cream cone. It will help you feel better about yourself and motivate you to keep going!
4) Follow ideal sleeping habits
While sleep is not the same as aging, sleep quality declines as we age, beginning as early as our 30s. So, sleeping well and often is an excellent anti-aging habit for those of all ages. Frequent sleep – 7 hours a night – is essential for good health.
Sleep is essential for many reasons, from maintaining our circadian rhythms to improving our immune system and overall mood. Getting enough restful sleep can help us feel more alert and energetic throughout the day, while poor-quality sleep can lead to increased stress and anxiety.
You can improve your sleep quality in many ways, including avoiding caffeine after noon, going to bed at the same time each night, and ensuring your bedroom is dark and quiet. You could also use an eye mask or earplugs to block out light and noise. For those who struggle with insomnia, some medications can help. However, if you’re not getting enough sleep, you should talk to your doctor before making any changes.
The key to slowing down the aging process or preventing aging is combining various healthy habits and staying consistent with healthy lifestyle changes. Eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and managing stress are essential. These habits don’t just help you look younger; they can also help you feel younger and increase energy levels and overall quality of life.
(1) Exercise and aging: Can you walk away from father time. Harvard Health. (2014, March 9). Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercise-and-aging-can-you-walk-away-from-father-time#:~:text=Regular%20exercise%20helps%20people%20age,for%20each%20hour%20of%20exercise.
(2) Cena, H., & Calder, P. C. (2020, January 27). Defining a healthy diet: Evidence for the role of contemporary dietary patterns in health and disease. Nutrients. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7071223/