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Aging is a complicated process because it involves the slow breakdown of all your body’s systems. The process of slowing down aging is not entirely complicated, but does require a few precautionary measures.
While no one can slow aging completely, there are proven methods to improve overall quality of life.
Since everything in your body and mind are interconnected, there are a few basic keys to slowing it down:
People sometimes ask me how I made it to 47 without a wrinkle, and I usually say it’s because my father is a dermatologist.
But really, there’s no big dermatologist secret that he let me in on; the most important thing he did was instill proper respect for sunshine.
Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays breaks down the collagen that plumps up your skin, leaving it wrinkled and leathery. It can also damage your eyes, making glaucoma more likely, so wearing sunglasses in bright light is important along with sunscreen.
The UV rays in tanning beds do the same thing exactly, so I’m afraid that’s not the proper escape route.
Another tip from dad: a lot of men hate sunscreen. They haven't become used to stuff on their skin the way most women are, and if they’re hairy, it can turn into a gunky mess.
Fortunately, sunscreen makers know about this problem and in recent years have been developing ultra-light spray-on versions of their products.
You probably knew that already, but there’s more than one kind of exercise, and they slow aging in different ways.
Being up and about can also help you maintain your balance and prevent falls as you get older.
Even if you have a reasonable activity level, you still might need to build up your muscle mass.
Like a lot of women, cardio exercise seemed easier at a younger age. But weightlifting was more of a guy thing. How much upper body strength does one blogger really need?
It turns out that desk jockeys need strength exercises more than anybody else. As aging continues, what seemed like minor pain may have developed into full-blown chronic pain and inflammation. A common condition among the aging population, this pain is often a sign of weak postural muscles, which hold your body upright whether you’re standing or sitting.
Weak postural muscles combined with hours spent hunched over a laptop can massively mess up your body as you age. And your muscles naturally lose mass as you age, so you have to work to keep them up.
Strong muscles also help support your joints which invariably deteriorate as we get older.
This reaction is because stress actually attacks your DNA, therefore affecting pretty much all the cells in your body.
It also tends to prevent you from getting enough sleep, and that’s important to your health.
In our stressed-out society, there are lots of ways that people seek calm – meditation, prayer, yoga, punching bags, lighting candles, playing games, and so on – so it depends on what works for you.
But you do need to be careful about things that can relax you in the short term, as they can stress your body in the long run.
Heavy drinking and smoking are good examples; people use them to relax, but they provoke an inflammatory response in the body – even though moderate alcohol use is probably good for you.
The quest to de-stress is a major factor driving the boom in natural alternatives for anxiety these days.
It’s well-known in the medical world that good relationships are good for your health, whether they’re with family members, friends or lovers.
The reasons aren’t completely clear, but since we are social animals, it’s likely that solitude causes stress. Such relationships also might help people keep healthy habits, provided that your friends also have them.
But sometimes, making new connections and finding friends is easier said than done.
The loners out there were often driven to that state by life circumstances, such as an abusive family or marriage, mental or physical disabilities, or unstable employment that keeps them moving around.
If going out and meeting strangers causes undue stress, it might be best to take smaller steps.
Getting a pet is correlated with better health and longer life, probably for similarly relational reasons, and animals are generally less complicated to deal with than people.
Also, though I know that the Internet can be a jungle, a select and well-curated online community can still be a conduit to making friends.
When I was blogging back in the early, unpaid years of the medium, I met several other bloggers in real life whose friendship was, and continues to be, very important to me.
The main thing is just not to let yourself get sucked into the “Someone is wrong on the Internet” syndrome, which will only further put you off of other people.
Finally, it can help to find something you’re passionate about doing and learn how you can do it with other people, so you’re more focused on the activity than on your social worries. Considerable research shows that people who do volunteer work live longer than those who don’t.
Again, the precise reasons are difficult to tease out, but one interesting study showed that motive matters: people who volunteered for “other-oriented” reasons got more benefit than people who volunteered for “self-oriented” reasons.
Perhaps this means that, paradoxically, it’s better for your health to not worry about your health so much.
A lot of people think it’s inevitable that you’re going to get more “senior moments” as you get older, but research says otherwise. Neurological conditions do often crop up in older age, but there are preventive measures.
People who’ve spent their lives reading, writing, and doing other sorts of brain work show less memory loss than those who didn’t, according to a couple different studies. Both past and present activity can help, so it’s never too late to start.
Curiously enough, another way to avoid going senile is simply to refuse to believe that you are.
A study looking at different cultural attitudes towards aging found that elderly people living with a more positive view of aging showed less memory loss than mainstream Americans, who, on a global scale, have an unusually negative view of getting old.
So while you can do many things to slow down aging, it may also help to see the positive side of seniorhood. As the actress Ingrid Bergman put it: “Getting old is like climbing a mountain. You get a little out of breath, but the view is so much better!”
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