Plastic surgeons can help people look younger, but they are the first to tell you what really turns back the clock happens on the inside — and you can change it. Genetics only account for 20-30 percent of our longevity and health. Lifestyle factors are the most critical drivers of how long and well we live. Diet, exercise, social interaction, and outlook can help you stave off disease, look younger and stay mobile well into your older years.
For starters, incorporate three healthy habits into each decade of your life:
In Your 20s
Exposure to ultraviolet rays — from the sun and tanning bed bulbs — ages the skin prematurely and increases your risk of skin cancer. If you must attain a summer glow, opt for topical self-tanner instead.
Establish an Active Lifestyle
Put down the video games and get into a regular exercise habit. Cardiovascular exercise lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise a week.
Quit (or don’t start) Smoking
The chemicals in cigarettes are known carcinogens that can dramatically shorten your lifespan and cause premature aging.
In Your 30s
Dial Into a Healthier Diet
The Mediterranean diet is best for promoting health and lowering heart disease risk. It’s high in plant-based foods, healthy monounsaturated fat and fish, and low in processed foods, saturated fat, and sweets. A high sugar intake has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack, obesity, and possibly even wrinkles.
Get a Handle on Stress
Besides releasing hormones that cause you to gain dangerous belly fat, stress may shorten microscopic structures called telomeres, the tiny caps on the ends of your DNA. Shorter telomeres are a biomarker for faster aging. Calming activities like meditation can protect telomeres and make it easier to handle daily pressure.
Establish a Sleep Routine
Lack of ZZZs can lead to obesity, depression, poor memory, heart attack, diabetes, stroke, and older-looking skin. Try to log seven to eight hours a night, make the bedroom a technology-free zone, and create calming pre-snooze strategies.
In Your 40s
Include Resistance Training
Because of hormonal changes, this is the decade when you start to lose muscle mass and strength. That can lead to frailty as you age. Your defense? Add resistance training to your workout two or three times a week.
Schedule Cancer Screenings
Recommendations for mammograms, colonoscopies, and prostate cancer screening are in flux, so it’s important to ask your doctor what you need and when, based on your history and other risk factors.
Keep an Eye on Cholesterol, Blood Sugar and Your Waistline
These are factors that make up metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The American Heart Association has found that if you can avoid metabolic syndrome by age 50 (often through diet and exercise), you have a lower chance of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
In Your 50s
Seek Help for Depression
Midlife depression is a major problem, especially in women, and it can increase your risk of disease, disability, and death. The cause could be hormonal, situational or diet-related, so see your doctor if you have symptoms.
Bolster Your Bones
A drop in estrogen triggers menopause and speeds up bone loss. Osteoporosis increases the risk of fractures, which can lead to disability. Get regular bone density tests starting at age 50. Add strength training to your regimen if you haven’t already, and get sufficient calcium and vitamin D.
Develop a Balance and Other Functional Skills
While strength is key, balance, agility, motor control, proprioception (the ability to know where your body s in space without looking at it) and flexibility become more important as we get older. These skills help you climb stairs, navigate uneven terrain, avoid falls and accomplish other essential, daily tasks. Yoga is an excellent way to improve balance and flexibility, and a personal trainer can help you evaluate and strengthen weak areas.
In Your 60s And Beyond
Challenge Your Brain
Exercise your noggin’s neurons by learning a new language, doing puzzles, volunteering and socializing. It helps keep your brain sharp and reduces the risk of mild cognitiive impairment, a type of pre-dementia.
It’s never too late to start moving, but it doesn’t have to involve the gym or jogging arodn the block. Swimming, yoga, walking, tai chi, dancing, and yard work are all easy on the joints and can be less intimidating.
Keep a Lid On Blood Pressure
Two-thirds of adults age 65 and older have hypertension, which increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most doctors check it as every office visit, but you can buy a cuff to measure it at home as well. Exercise, along with a healthy, low-sodium diet, can keep it under control.
Develop Your Anti-Aging Action Plan
Make an appointment with your doctor to discuss which preventive tests, screenings and lifestyle changes are right for you. Start by taking a free assessment and discussing the results with your doctor. Visit FindYourHealth.com for an extensive list of Health Risk Assessments.