Thursday 8 December 2016

15 ways to stay younger

Ailin Quinlan

Published 22/03/2016 | 02:30

‘Red hair’ gene may double chance of melanoma
‘Red hair’ gene may double chance of melanoma
A positive outlook can help you remain younger for longer.

Remaining youthful for longer has more to do with a positive outlook and sensible self-care than with any magical fountain of youth. Ailin Quinlan gets the lowdown from the experts

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1 Travel

Travel ignites that youthful spark, says Aisling Grimley, founder of the My Second Spring (mysecondspring.ie) website, which provides information and suggestions for those who want to stay youthful.

And it doesn't necessarily have to be a trip to Machu Picchu. Take a bus or train to a different part of your county and go for a walk at a local beauty spot with a friend.

"Being in different surroundings can give you a whole new perspective on life," says Grimley.

And, of course, international travel is very exciting too: "I heard of an 89-year-old woman who recently fulfilled a lifelong ambition to visit Ethiopia. She didn't want to rely on other people's availability so she joined a travel group and headed off."

Take photos and re-live the adventures when you get home - then start to plan your next trip.

2 Make love more often

Have plenty of sex - this helps release oxytocin which is the happy hormone that makes you feel good, explains fitness trainer Pat Henry. "The more sex you have, the more oxytocin you produce so you'll feel happier, more youthful, and better about yourself."

Research bears this out - a 2013 study in the UK found that people in their 40s who looked younger reported having sex 50pc more, or three times a week as opposed to two, while research on heart disease in Wales in 1997 found the mortality risk was 50pc lower in the group of men with "high orgasmic frequency" (twice a week or more) than in the group with low frequency.

3 Stop moaning

The things we tell ourselves can have a big effect on how we think, and in turn, how we feel. "Our internal dialogue has a huge impact on how we age," says Grimley, who believes that moaning about life, complaining about aches and pains and focusing on worries about 'senior moments' is not going to make you feel good.

Spend time with the people who make you feel upbeat and young, and who inspire the best in you.

"Smile at people and look for fun, you'll surely find it," she says. After all, nothing will make you feel younger than having fun.

4 Find positive role models

Watch out for those who are doing a great job of ageing gracefully - and take notes, advises Grimley. "I keep a constant eye on my 85-year-old neighbour, a widow who has raised eight children.

"She travels widely, walks or buses everywhere listening to her iPod, dresses impeccably each day, cooks herself a full dinner every lunch-time and regularly plays bridge with a 95-year-old pal who is as sharp as a whistle."

5 Follow in grandmother's footsteps

Keep your skin looking young by cutting down on your sugar intake. Keep your food simple, wholesome and home-made and eat whole-foods as much as possible.

In other words, eat like granny did, because what you eat shows up on your skin, warns Dr Katherine Mulrooney, a cosmetic doctor and dermatology expert.

"When we eat a diet high in sugar, glycation occurs. This means sugars bind to the protein structures or collagen strands in the skin, making them stiffer, less flexible and more friable. As a result the collagen strands break more easily - they've become elastic.

"This results in more fine lines and wrinkles and will eventually result in faster ageing of the skin."

6 Lift weights

"Weight training is the best exercise to promote the release of the human growth hormone, which helps to keep us young," says Pat Henry.

"The level of that hormone in the body decreases after the age of 35, and the most effective exercise to stimulate its secretion is weight training."

Pat suggests three times a week in the gym doing resistance training using weights that you can comfortably do 15 repetitions with.

7 Stay connected

Try to meet new people of all different ages that have a wide range of interests, Grimley suggests. This adds excitement and meaning to life and ensures your brain stays healthy because you're constantly stimulating it by putting yourself in new situations and trying new things. Phone a friend you've lost touch with and arrange to meet up - you'll probably make each other's day.

8 Don't smoke

Smoking accelerates ageing and decreases cell repair, on top of which it is closely associated with cancer.

Smoking is unhealthy - it damages every part of your body - but, says Dr Mulrooney, smoking's most visible effect is often to be seen right there on your skin.

"Smoking promotes the oxidisation of the skin because it decreases the quality of the collagen in your skin, thereby accelerating the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

"Smoking compromises the blood supply to the skin, thereby promoting skin ageing," she adds. In other words if you want fresh, youthful-looking skin give up the cigs.

9 Use the stairs

"The more you strengthen and develop your legs the better your body can resist the stresses and strains of ageing, believes Pat Henry.

"The legs are the engine of the body. If the legs are strong it can help you withstand some of the problems of ageing."

So at work use the stairs instead of the lift and at home take the stairs two steps at a time, he says. "Make a point of putting your body under pressure because it's so important to have strong legs as we age. Strong legs provide good stability and help you feel stronger and more youthful."

10 Stay curious

Explore your passions. If you're curious about something, find out about it, and take the time to find activities that make you happy and engaged, advises Grimley.

"There's nothing to beat the feeling of being enthused about a project. You'll light up your own life and the lives of anyone who meets you. Spend time each day doing things that spark joy."

Finding a new hobby or doing something you enjoy helps keep your brain alert and youthful, she explains.

"For example, my dad has just started a sketching class at 83, because he's had to leave some other hobbies behind."

11 Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is very important for the repair and regulation of skin tissue, says Dr Katherine Mulrooney. "All of this repair occurs in the night-time, and if you're not sleeping well, lack of sleep tends to result in a spike of your stress hormone, cortisol.

"This affects the skin because it drives inflammation in the body, which in turn has an ageing effect on the skin and other organs." If you want youthful skin, institute a good healthy sleep routine - and make sure you get plenty of shut-eye to allow for that all-important nightly repair of the skin.

12 Walk

According to Pat Henry you should aim to walk three miles a day and at least four miles in one hour. "This is not about going for a stroll, it's about being out of breath by the end of the walk and feeling the challenge," says Henry, who also recommends consciously changing your stride, or the length of your steps every mile.

"Make your steps longer or shorter to change your stride. This takes the pressure off your hips."

All of this helps you get fit, lose weight and become healthier - which in turn contributes to your general sense of youthfulness.

13 Be independent

From the early 50s onwards it's a good idea to start thinking independently. "We feel more youthful and dynamic when we're independent and can look after ourselves in our day-to-day lives," says Grimley.

It's not rocket science, she points out: When you're able to do things for yourself, you don't feel helpless or left behind. "You feel much more dynamic if you can take care of yourself and be independent."

Know the details of your utility bills and how they're paid and ensure that you're on top of your banking arrangements. It's a good idea to upskill to acquire the necessary computer know-how to deal with essential household finances, she suggests.

14 Invest in a personal trainer

Even just one or two sessions with a personal trainer will pay off in spades, says Henry. You'll get a specific exercise programme designed especially for you and completely tailored for your needs.

"This helps you avoid wasting time in the gym doing exercises that are not appropriate."

Depending on where you live, a personal trainer costs anything between €30 and €65 an hour.

"It's a good investment," he says, because once you have that individualised programme you go to the gym and work on all the right things.

15 Search out meaning and purpose in life

Do things that are bigger than yourself to help others either in your community or your family - try volunteering in local organisations, suggests Grimley.

This helps you feel and stay more youthful because being active, engaged, involved and of real help to others makes you feel purposeful, useful and connected.

Usefulness and feelings of youthfulness are linked, she believes: "When we feel 'useless' we tend to feel that our lives are over, but when our lives are busy and purposeful we feel useful."

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