Age is Just a Number
It seems like everyone is obsessed with looking young these days. And hey, who can blame them? We all want to look young for our age. But the truth is, there’s only one thing better than looking young: feeling young and living young longer.
Consider this: 61% of men describe their current energy level as lower than their energy level 5 years ago, and 65% of men say that they experience brain fog and think their mind is not as sharp as it used to be.
Once thought to be hard-wired after early childhood, the brain actually has a remarkable ability to change and heal itself. Known as neuroplasticity, this remodeling due to our environment, behavior, and feelings happen throughout our lives. Given the flexibility of your brain, how will you rewire it to help you live younger longer?
Here are ways you can keep your mind, spirit, and body youthful regardless of your age.
When it comes to keeping you young, meditation has been shown to actually change the brain. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, conducted studies involving brain scans of meditators. She found that people who had been meditating for a long time had increased grey matter in the auditory and sensory cortex, which she attributes to the mindful attention paid to breathing, sounds, and other stimuli during meditation. She also discovered more grey matter in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with memory and decision making.
According to Lazar, meditators in their fifties had the same amount of gray matter in one part of the prefrontal cortex as people in their twenties in spite of the fact that the cortex is known to shrink as we age. Why not incorporate this brain-boosting practice into your life?
Have you seen ads for brain-training games and wondered if they were legit? According to recent research, the answer is yes. A new study found cognitive training increased the energy efficiency of participants’ brains. In the randomized clinical trial, adults aged 56 to 71 were either given twelve weeks of cognitive training or assigned to one of two control groups. Measuring brain activity, researchers found those in the cognitive training group showed a significant increase in the association between reaction time and frontal lobe activity compared to the control groups, meaning their brains didn’t have to work as hard to perform tasks. The study’s authors hope their findings pave the way for further research that attempts to harness the potential of the aging brain.
According to Dr. Oz, having loving sex a couple of times a week increases testosterone in men and can reduce your “real age” by nearly three years. Even if you’re not romantically involved, spending time with friends and family keeps you from isolating yourself as you get older. Volunteering, too, can be a nice way to ward off loneliness while helping your community. The website volunteermatch.org can help you figure out where your skills can best be put to use.
Stretch it Out
Flexibility decreases as we age, but the National Academy of Sports Medicine says following a systematic and progressive flexibility program can help keep you limber. Even a few minutes of light stretching every morning can make a difference.
It’s probably a given that loneliness takes a toll on your mental health, but did you know it can actually affect your genes—and maybe even shorten your life? Research suggests being lonely can have a negative impact on telomeres, the segments of DNA at the end of our chromosomes that shorten each time a cell divides and may indicate how long we’ll live. Longer telomeres are associated with slower aging, fewer age-related diseases, and generally greater life spans. In a study of African grey parrots in captivity, those who were housed alone had shorter telomeres compared to those who lived with a companion bird. This finding supports a growing body of evidence showing that social isolation and other stressors can be detrimental to our telomeres.
Loneliness can also increase your risk of depression, cognitive decline, heart disease, and other serious conditions in ways similar to obesity and smoking. Schedule a dinner with a buddy you haven’t seen in a while or take your spouse out for a night on the town. You could also consider volunteering in your community, which gives you a chance to help others while you interact with them.
Not only does exercise benefit your body and mind, but research shows it could also keep your muscles young by stopping or even reversing the decline in their cellular health that comes with aging.
A balanced diet high in whole foods provides your body with the nutrients it needs to stay in top form. Avoid refined sugar, which causes inflammation linked to diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Unsure what to eat? Check out livestrong.com’s list of anti-aging foods here.
According to a survey by Vault Health, 41% of men get 6 hours or less of sleep on an average night. It’s common for sleep patterns to shift as we age. Taking steps like cutting caffeine intake and putting your devices down well before bed can help you get the rest you need. And while it might be tempting to exercise in an attempt to wear yourself out, don’t work out too close to bedtime or you’ll have a hard time winding down.
If left unchecked, chronic stress can lead to depression, heart disease, and other serious conditions, potentially shaving years off your life. Try a relaxation technique like yoga or meditation, both scientifically proven to lower stress levels. Or consider tai chi, a practice that may improve balance and stability in older people while reducing anxiety.
Even if you eat well you’re probably lacking nutrients important for healthy aging. And many supplements have been shown to protect the body from disease—fish oil, for example, is associated with the prevention of heart disease and stroke.
Care for Your Skin
Science shows the condition of your skin has a big impact on how old people think you are. To keep wrinkles and sunspots at bay, wear sunscreen, use a moisturizer with antioxidants, and drink plenty of water. If you still smoke, quit! Among other negative effects, it makes you look A LOT older.
“You’re only as old as you feel.” While something of a cliché, this expression’s general idea—that you have control over the ways your body is affected by the aging process—is absolutely true. By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can keep yourself feeling strong and vital well into old age.
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