Ageing - it happens to us all, no matter how much we wish this was not the case. The good news is that we can take ownership of the process of growing older by looking after our bodies and minds. That isn't to say you can rustle up the fountain of youth in your kitchen. However, by living sensibly and with an understanding of your body's limits, it is possible to keep at bay the very worst ravages of time.
What's crucial is that you attend to your mental well-being no less than your physical health. Instinctively we all appreciate that inflicting too much punishment upon our bodies - smoking, an excess of boozy nights or morning fry-ups - is harmful. Less well understood is the fact that we have to look after our selves psychologically and emotionally also. Here lies the real secret to managing our ageing and ensuring our later years are meaningful and rewarding.
In today's go-go-go world, we are encouraged to pack our calendar until it is splitting at the seams. But by pushing too far, too fast, we're causing ourselves real damage - and accelerating the process of growing older.
That's because stress is proven to increase aging - as well as causing all manners of long-term health difficulties. The lesson, thus, is that we need to slow down - to learn to live in the present rather than constantly dashing towards the future.
Here are some tips to get you started. Bear in mind that, in isolation, they can only do so much. Most important is your outlook: if you decide to live each day as it comes, rather than inhabiting a pressure cooker of our own making, you'll find the onwards march of time easier to deal with.
1 Calm down
Stress is the ultimate ageing accelerator. That's because it brings about physical changes in the body that cause the process of ageing to speed up. Adrenaline surges and release of the cortisol hormone elevate blood pressure and cause the heart to beat faster. All of which speeds up the ageing process. How to fight stress? Well, there are many possible methods - but the problem is best looked at holistically, in that you need to address the lifestyle issues that are causing you to live constantly on the edge. Some experts recommend meditation - just 10 or 20 minutes a day has been show to meaningfully fight age-related alterations to the brain.
2 Eat fat (but make sure it's the right kind of fat)
Consuming foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids - such as salmon and seeds - will boost bone strength and reduce inflammation in the body (which can lead to visible ageing). Moreover, omega-3s help you convert fat stored around the hips into energy, so you lose weight too.
3 Build muscle
Obviously regular exercise helps keep you slim, and benefits mental health. However, it is also proven to assist older people in maintaining better brain power as they grow older. That's because exercise reduces stress, which can be toxic for the brain. Working out just three times a week can meaningfully assist in preserving mental faculties in later life. And the best exercise you can do is strength training. Muscle mass is the single biggest marker of longevity.
4 Drink red wine - in moderation
Studies on laboratory animals suggest that resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, can fight deterioration in the brain and also diminish the chances of a stroke. Separate research has found that grape-seed procanidins, again found in red wine, lower cholesterol levels. So drink up: but not to excess. It is recommended you stick to one or two glasses a day.
5 Go Super Fruity
"Super fruits" are a buzz word among health experts. Pomegranate (pictured) juice, for instance, has been shown to lower cholesterol and blood pressure while it has been theorised that it also reduces susceptibility to certain kinds of cancer. Meanwhile, the goji berry, from Tibet and available in specialty stores, is believed to stimulate production of human growth hormone, boosting memory, raising libido and making us look younger.
6 Give Your Brain A Work Out
Physical exercise is important - but regular mental workouts are arguably no less vital. The benefits of brain exercise can endure for years, say experts. Examples include Sudoku, crossword puzzles and online games from companies such as Lumosity, designed explicitly to put the left and right sides of your brain through their paces.
7 Eat Healthily
"Super foods" are enormously beneficial when it comes to combating the ageing process, and for your health, in general. Even if your local corner store doesn't stock obscure Tibetan mega-berries, you can make a conscious effort to eat fresh, non-processed foods. Too many of the above can raise production of cortisol which, as explained earlier, is believed to accelerate ageing. The same applies to caffeine, alcohol and sugar - in moderation they are acceptable. Over do it and you may end up wizened before your time.
8 Protect Your Skin
Ageing manifests in our skin before any other part of our body - as anyone in their 30s who has just discovered their first deep-set wrinkle will attest. To safeguard your skin from the ravages of the sun, you need to maintain your antioxidant levels, which means taking on board appropriate quantities of vitamins A, C, D and E - of which brightly coloured organic fruit and vegetables are a rich source.
9 Get Loved Up
You probably know this instinctively, but an active love life can make it feel as if the years are tumbling away. It raises self-esteem, improves the immune system and helps with cardiovascular health. Plus, a loving relationship, produces hormones such as oxytocin, which fight stress and anxiety.
10 Twist and Pout
Yoga helps forge closer links between mind and body. The deep breathing involved in the ritual is believed to oxygenate the cells, purging harmful toxins. By bringing equal benefit to body and mind, yoga strikes a sweet spot other forms of exercise rarely achieve.
11 Say Cheers To Green Tea
Is there no end to the benefits of green tea? It has been shown to lower incidence of breast cancer and to reduce the recurrence rates of lung and bladder cancer. Because it speeds the metabolism, it also helps you lose weight. Just one cup a day, furthermore, is said to help maintain mental faculties in later life. You can't say that about a Christmas latte!
12 Monitor Portion Size
We tend to eat until our plate is empty - regardless of how much food was slapped on to start with. However, research conducted in Okinawa in Japan, which has the highest worldwide proportion of citizens aged 100 or older, shows that most of those who made it past the century finished eating their meals when 80pc full. So there it is: stuffing your face can make you age.
13 Mind That Muffin Top
It's not exactly a bombshell that belly fat can lead to problems further along. New research shows a high rate of fat at the waist is not simply linked to heart disease - it can also triple the risk of dementia.
14 Veg Out
In studies of people reaching 100, it was proved that those who live longest tended to eat little meat but consumed high quantities of nuts, beans and soy. By all means remain a carnivore but be sure to make space for the green stuff also.
15 Don't Smoke
An oldie but a goodie: it is well- known that smoking causes you to look significantly older than your years. Oh, and it also lowers your lifespan by making you more susceptible to a variety of ailments, most notably lung cancer, of course.
Health & Living
Health & Wellbeing
Mindfulness is a new way of describing a very old concept. With our fast-paced lifestyles, sometimes it can seem the world is moving too quickly for us to keep up. Mindfulness is about learning to live in the moment - being present in, and conscious of, life as it happens.