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Your Checklist for Ageing Gracefully

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 26 May 2010 | comments*Discuss
Ageing Gracefully Age Exercise Skin

While medical advances may have provided us with a raft of methods to cosmetically reverse the effects of ageing and fashion now has few rules for dressing according to age, many of us would still prefer more natural ways to preserve our youthful looks and vitality – ie. to “age gracefully”.

But is it possible to still look and feel your best without resorting to plastic surgery and other artificial methods? Definitely. While these techniques may not achieve the same results as plastic surgery, there are many who would prefer this to the improbably youthful – and often unrealistic – appearance of artificial enhancement. So read on for your checklist to ageing gracefully:

1) Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise!

It really cannot be repeated enough but one of the key reasons for skin looking older is dehydration, which causes wrinkles, dullness, flakiness, fine lines, sagging, loss of elasticity and other signs of ageing. Look for a good moisturiser which contains vitamins A, C, E which are good for nourishing your skin; moisturisers with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s) will also help to “exfoliate” your skin and reveal the new layer underneath, leading to a more youthful appearance (although beware some people with sensitive skin may not be suitable for using products with AHA’s). In that case, it may be better to use “mechanical” exfoliation from gentle facial scrubs, which will help to not only slough off dead skin but also improve circulation and give you that “youthful glow”

2) Protect!

Sun damage can cause more ageing than almost any other factor. No matter how much you love the sun, if you value clear, unblemished, line-free skin and want to remain looking young and attractive for as long as possible, then make sure you always wear sun sunscreen with at least SPF 15, even in winter. Prevention is always more effective than cure and it seems silly to pay for very expensive skin treatments and creams – which can never fully remove the signs of ageing – when a simple habit can avoid all that trouble and provide better results.

3) Purge the toxins!

Research shows that in addition to sun exposure, toxins from habits like smoking can cause loss of elastin and collagen, which leads to skin sagging and wrinkles and dullness – all the signs of a “haggard” old look. While ingesting foods high in anti-oxidants will help to counteract some of this damage, the best thing is to avoid these stressors completely. Your smoking habit will age you faster than the most expensive skin creams can reverse it!

4) Brighten your smile!

One of the signs of youth and vitality is a dazzling smile and a mouth full of dull, yellowing teeth with red inflamed gums from gum diseases – or worse, missing teeth! - can age you faster than anything. With good care, teeth should last a lifetime so just like the other parts of the body, a little time put into taking care of your teeth can reap you huge rewards. Brush regularly to prevent staining from foods and beverages, as well as plaque and tartar accumulation and floss regularly to prevent gum disease and bad breath. Visit the dentist for cleaning twice a year, including a yearly check-up for gum disease. Finally, whitening toothpastes or even just rubbing with baking soda and water can help remove stains and whiten teeth.

5) Watch your tone!

Keeping your figure as you age involves more than just watching your weight. Youthful looks come not only from being thin but also more importantly, from being toned and flexible. Liposuction and other cosmetic procedures may remove fat but they will not build muscle tone and flexibility. From the age of 30 onwards, you will start losing muscle strength and muscle mass, as well as flexibility and balance, if you do not make an active effort to maintain these things. Muscles do not just disappear automatically with age – with the right training, you can maintain muscle strength and flexibility until well into your 90’s but for most people, a sedentary lifestyle takes its toll well before that.

Ensuring that you do regular workouts with resistant moves and engaging in some fast dynamic exercise (eg. dance, tennis, volleyball – anything which makes you move fast in different directions) can do wonders for maintaining muscle tone, while activities like yoga and other balancing exercises (eg. standing on one foot while doing the dishes!) will help to strengthen your core.

6) Use it or lose it!

So many of us focus on outside appearances that we forget about what’s inside that counts as well. Appearing young is not only about looking good but also acting good – in other words, it is no use having line-free skin and a firm body if you totter around in a forgetful daze like a classic “doddery old man or woman”! So don’t forget to take care of your brain – it really is a case of use it or lose it. Challenge yourself mentally – keep trying to memorise things, do puzzles, try doing everyday activities with a different hand, learn a new skill – anything to keep your brain active. Research has also shown that regular exercise – even just 10mins a day – may lower your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.

7) Check your attitude!

Finally – and perhaps most important – ageing gracefully is all about your attitude. Regardless of what marketing may promise, it is impossible to stop ageing. As long as you are alive and breathing, you are ageing. Therefore, it is best to look in the mirror, face reality and accept that. Then see that it is still possible to age and be attractive, vital and capable. You can still be sexy without needing to dress like you did at 20 (or like your daughter!). You can still be attractive even if you do not have a plump, line-free, unblemished face. You can still take part in activities even if you may not have as much stamina as previously. You can still enjoy yourself even if you do not frequent the same haunts and hang-outs that you did in your teens and twenties. In fact, it can be even more fun to grow up and act your age!

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