What speeds up ageing?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Are you ageing too fast? Image: Getty

If there's one certainty in life, it's that everyone ages and everyone, well, grows old.

No matter how expensive the creams we religiously slather on or the extremities of new high-tech treatments we dabble in to turn back the hands of time, it is an inevitable fact of life. But ageing isn't just determined by the number of birthdays you clock up; it's about how you live your life day-in, day-out.

The dramatic ageing effects of hard partying are well documented and, with a healthy approach to life, easy to avoid. But what about the ageing factors that even the most body-conscious individual can fall prey to?

Your diet
Dramatically cutting your calorie intake may seem like a quick-fix way to drop kilos, but faddy diets that restrict nutrients are destined to age us at a fast rate. Why? Simply put, ageing is the imbalance between wear-and-tear of the body and the rate of tissue repair.

While wear-and-tear to some extent is out of our control, the rate of tissue repair is not. A healthy supply of calories is essential for rapid repair, but if your diet barely meets your basic metabolic needs, it stands to reason this repair will be slower.

To age slowly, you must have a balanced, non-restrictive diet that will feed your cells all the necessary energy to renew themselves.

Eating too little may fast-forward the hands of time, but a diet too fatty or cholesterol-filled is another enemy to be wary of. Consuming too much cholesterol can cause your heart's arteries to become clogged, increasing your blood pressure, and risking the chances of a heart attack.

For your own anti-ageing diet, be sure to target organic fruits, vegetables, green tea, and other foods that are high in vitamins and antioxidants.

Spot of sunshine
A dose of vitamin D from the sun's rays is vital for health, but overdo it and the skin will age rapidly. The power the sun has on the skin cannot be underestimated. According to medical experts, the radiation from sunlight causes 90 percent of skin ageing, and most of this has occurred by the time we're 20 years old.

Ultraviolet rays damage collagen fibres and create a build-up of abnormal elastin that causes tissue to stretch. This process of imperfect skin rebuilding occurs over and over during sunbathing and the final result: wrinkles.

Given the infinite choice of sun protection products on the market, protecting skin from damage is not a difficult measure. Levels of UV in Australia are some of the highest in the world, and cloud cover doesn't mean you don't have to bother with sunscreen. If you are outdoors during daylight hours, wear an SPF without fail, even on cloudy days.

Polluted environment
A good supply of oxygen is vital to keep skin supple and healthy. In highly polluted areas, this supply of oxygen is diminished, resulting in free-radical damage. The effect on skin is loss of elasticity, the emergence of fine lines and dark patches.

It's the same deal with smoky environments. Research has shown that exposure to cigarette smoke significantly increases wrinkles and dryness. Inhaling the fumes also depletes your body of vitamin C, which is a key ingredient for plump skin.

Keep damage to a minimum by wearing an antioxidant-infused base. Cleansing skin as soon as you arrive home will help prevent any further damage.

Lack of sleep
Skimping on your beauty sleep could have longer-lasting effects than merely a day of dark shadows under your eyes. Studies have found that the metabolic and hormonal changes that result from too little sleep mimic many of the hallmarks of ageing, from memory loss to diabetes. It also prevents the body from rejuvenating and repairing skin, and has been shown to increase stress-hormone levels, such as cortisol, that cause premature ageing.

It's generally accepted that the ideal length of shut-eye for adults is seven to eight hours. If you're not getting that amount, make a few changes to your routine:

  • avoid alcohol, nicotine or caffeine before bed
  • remove TV or other noise from the bedroom and make it as dark as possible
  • exercise regularly, early in the day
  • listen to soothing music, setting regular bed and wake times
  • do not drink too many liquids before sleeping
  • take a hot bath before bed
  • drink a small cup of camomile tea

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