How old are you, really?
The answer might be more complicated than the actual number of candles on your birthday cake. Everyday habits can either add or subtract years from your life and looks, so kudos for quitting the cigarettes and slathering on sunscreen daily. But if you are attempting to slow down (or maybe even knock a few years off) your clock, don’t neglect these other saboteurs that might be rendering your efforts null.
YOU CARRY STRESS AROUND
You don’t feel good when you feel all stressed-out, be it from work piling up, problems with the kids, squabbles with a colleague, etc. But nothing can make you feel or act older like mental decline. Studies show that emotional stress may negatively impact cognitive function by shrinking areas of your brain involved in learning and memory; and letting go of stress and grudges can help you keep your mind young. Moreover, stress can elevate blood pressure, suppress immunity, delay healing and harden your arteries. While life’s stressors will never go away, how you manage everyday challenges or diffuse their effects (e.g. through relaxation techniques like meditation or exercise) will keep your emotions and hormones on a more even keel.
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YOU ARE SWALLOWING AGE-ACCELERATING FOODS
Soda, in essence, is bad news for your body and face. A study of 5,309 adults in the American Journal of Public Health found that a daily 20-ounce serving of soda was associated with 4.6 more years of ageing. To put things in perspective, that’s the same ageing effect linked to smoking! Diet soda is no less harmful: Research shows that sipping in all that artificial sweeteners daily is associated with a 67% greater risk of type 2 diabetes, and can increase sugar cravings, too. And not only will a sugar-packed diet take its toll on your waistline and health, the sweet poison ages your skin through a process called glycation to make you look more sallow and wrinkled than your actual years, too.
If you think you’re doing yourself service by slashing all carbs and wolfing down the meat, think again. High intake of animal proteins, especially red meat, has long been associated with shorten lifespans. A recent study in Cell Metabolism found that middle age adults who derived more than 20 percent of their calories from animal protein – mainly meat or dairy products – had a 4-fold increased risk of death from cancer or diabetes. And they had a nearly 2-fold increased risk of death from any cause over the next 18 years, compared to those on low protein diets. Even those who consumed only “moderate” levels of animal protein had a 3-fold increased risk of death from cancer. This increased mortality is not observed in those who ate a diet high in protein sourced mainly from plants. In an interesting twist to this study, researchers found that eating lots of animal protein in old age might actually do the opposite. The good news: Including resistant starch (a good carb that aids fat-burning) in your diet can reduce the ageing effect of red meat. So fill up on foods such as bananas and lentils, while cutting down on steaks.
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YOU SHUN ALL FATS IN YOUR DIET
Minimising intake of artery-clogging saturated and trans fats is a heart-healthy move. But remember that not all fat is inherently evil and some play important roles in when it comes to maintaining your waistline, health and youthful vitality. Omega-3 fatty acids found in cold water fish and nuts, is the ultimate anti-ageing fat, essential for protecting your brain, heart, bones, joints, skin, and more. Another kind, monounsaturated fat, found in olive oil can lower bad LDL cholesterol, raise cardio-protective HDL cholesterol, and decrease your risk of atherosclerosis. Plus, studies suggest that a higher intake of these fats may contribute to longer life expectancy. 20 to 35% of your total daily calories should come from fat, and mainly from these healthy sources.
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YOU EAT FRUITS & VEGETABLES – BUT NOT EVERYDAY
Of course you know that antioxidant-packed fruits and veggies will spring in your step and glow in your skin. The vital point you might be missing, however, is those heroic antioxidants that are protecting your body and skin from constant free radical damage only remain active for a few hours, and need to be continually replenished throughout the day to stave off tissue ageing effectively!
Instead of chowing down a big salad at lunch 3 times a week in hope to fulfil your green quota, graze on a rainbow variety of fresh produce each meal and nosh on nuts, berries and fruits of the season as snacks for maximum age-defying (and pound-paring) benefits.
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YOU LOVE TV MARATHONS
For every hour of television watched, adults cut their life expectancy by 22 minutes, according to a British Journal of Sports Medicine study of about 11,000 Australians aged 25 and older. People who watched an average of 6 hours of television a day lived 5 years less than those who don’t. When you sit for more than 30 minutes your body begins to deposit sugar into your cells, which makes it much more likely you’ll be overweight as well. Keeping those pretty terrifying statistics in mind, OD-ing on downloaded movies or Korean drama series lying in the couch doesn’t seem as tempting, does it? Why not maximise your time and life by enjoying your favourite TV show on your treadmill?
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YOU WEAR TOO MUCH MAKEUP
Without question, cosmetics are a godsend for concealing blemishes and enhancing beauty instantly. However, piling on makeup on a daily basis can take a negative toll on your skin in multiple ways. Many ingredients such as bismuth oxychloride and talc found in some mineral makeup can cause irritation, dryness and peeling, while occlusives like dimethicone can gradually build up on skin to cause comedones and breakouts. Harsh handling during makeup application and removal damages skin daily, predisposing your tortured skin to premature fine lines and rough, dull skin.
Furthermore, some cosmetic users believe that just because their foundation makeup has SPF 15 indicated on it, they are invisible to ageing UV rays. That false sense of security is going to cost you wrinkles and spots, since the amount of foundation used is typically way less than required amount to achieve SPF 15 (hence, the recommendation for daily use of a minimum SPF 30 product), the sun protection your makeup provides might not be broad-spectrum, and even the best sunscreen will not provide 100 percent protection, all day. So stay shaded, girlfriend!
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YOU AREN’T MEETING UP WITH YOUR FRIENDS REGULARLY
When it comes to living a long and happy life, social engagement is found to be as important as physical factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol. A meta-analysis that included data from 308,849 men and women found that individuals with adequate social connections have a 50 percent greater likelihood of longevity, and the overall effect was consistent across age groups and health status.
In between shuttling your kids to their get-togethers and running errands, do put in a little effort to carve out some time to catch up with your pals on a regular basis. One study found that satisfying friendships predicted longevity better than even close family ties, potentially protecting you against obesity, depression and heart disease. Even if your tight schedule doesn’t allow for frequent girls’ night-out, keeping in touch over Facebook or phone chats can help you feel closer.
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YOU SURVIVE ON LESS THAN 5 HRS OF SLEEP
Skimping on sleep not only causes you to look older than your actual age (think: dark circles, droopy brows, slackened skin, delayed skin healing and breakouts) – it has also been linked to a shorter lifespan. Research links it to high blood pressure, diabetes and weight gain. In fact, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have uncovered direct evidence that sleep deprivation causes healthy adults to pack on pounds by a jaw-dropping eight-fold! Like credit card debt, your sleep deprivation makes you pay high interests: Your metabolism plummets and ghrelin (the food-seeking hormone) levels rises to put you in food-scavenging, fat-storing mode, thus setting the stage up for extra pounds and serious health issues. Aim to clock an average of 6.5 to 7.5 hrs of zzz’s a night.
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– By Claudia Lin