We all know that aging is a natural process that affects our bodies over time. But this is only half the definition. Aging is basically the changes in the human body that occur due to a variety of biological, environmental, and lifestyle factors.
Whatever the causes are, the effects of aging are multi-faceted. From the changes in one’s appearance and decline in the functioning of various organs and senses, to the reduced immunity and increased risks of developing certain diseases – aging can affect every part of the human body.
How Aging Affects Our Body?
Put simply, aging occurs on multiple levels, which then produce different effects. These include:
The process of cellular aging depends upon the number of times a cell has been replicated. Cell replication is a natural process that begins when a cell gets damaged. The more damage done to cells, the more they need to replicate. However, a cell can only replicate 50 times in its life. After 50 times, the genetic material cannot be copied accurately due to shortened telomeres. This ultimately leads to cellular aging, damage and death.
While the shortening of telomeres is a natural process that occurs as we age, several lifestyle factors can also contribute to the process. Some factors known for contributing to the shortening of telomeres are stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, and obesity.
|What are Telomeres?|
Ever noticed the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces that protect the laces from becoming frayed?
Telomeres are just like that. They are small caps on the tips of chromosomes and protect cells from damage.
As cells divide and replicate over time, telomeres continue to shorten. Eventually, the protective caps get too short to do their job. As a result, the functioning of cells gets affected and our cells age and die.
· Hormonal Aging
According to the hormone theory of aging, hormones play a key role in how fast or how slow a person ages.
According to the theory, the decreased efficiency of our endocrine system can contribute to aging. This finding led some scientists to believe that since reduced production of certain hormones can cause aging, they could work like an anti-aging elixir if their levels are maintained.
For example, it has been found that human growth hormone (HGH), produced by the pituitary gland, can help to maintain healthy tissues and organs. The proponents of this theory are hopeful that synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) has the potential to prevent the decline in tissue growth that occurs due to aging.
However, there are some contradictory findings as well – some scientists have found that growth hormone also stimulates the production of IGF-1, which can augment the aging process.
While some doctors may prescribe HGH for anti-aging, scientific research does not support the use due to conflicting findings. So, if a doctor is suggesting you HGH for anti-aging, it’s time to find another doctor.
· Accumulated Damage
Accumulated damage is the external damage to the human body that occurs when body tissues are damaged due to external factors. When the damages continue to occur, there comes a time when our body is no longer able to repair.
Some factors that can contribute to this process are harmful foods, smoking, excessive exposure to sun and toxins, and pollution.
Can We Stop Aging?
The simple answer is – No!
The quest to stay young and beautiful is as old as humans. But unfortunately, no one has been able to find the magic elixir for eternal youth.
Aging is a natural process that cannot be stopped. Rather than trying to find a magic potion that can put a stop to this phenomenon, we should focus on maintaining our health and fitness with increasing age.
Aging and Physical Appearance
The aging process not only affects our internal organs but also causes changes in our physical appearance. Wrinkles, fine lines, dryness, age spots, thinning of the skin, loss of plumpness due to decreasing collagen are all signs of aging.
Skin aging is the result of a combination of factors. There are certain factors that we cannot change because they are a part of the natural aging process and are controlled by our genetic combinations. For example, we cannot completely prevent the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and the loss of collagen. This is called ‘intrinsic aging’.
The factors that contribute to ‘extrinsic aging’ can be controlled. There are a number of environmental and lifestyle factors that can lead to premature skin aging. This type of aging can be slowed down by taking some preventive measures.
Common Factors That Contribute to Premature Aging
Some lifestyle and environmental factors that can speed up the aging process include:
· Smoking and Drinking
We all know the adverse effects of smoking and drinking and how these habits can affect our organs and cause certain chronic diseases. They can even deplete some essential nutrients from our body.
But, this is not it!
Smoking and drinking can take away your youthful glow and healthy skin much earlier. Smoking results in reducing the level of oxygen in our body. This leads to the appearance of fine lines around the mouth and forehead wrinkles.
Drinking, on the other hand, can lead to skin discoloration.
These are just a few effects of smoking and drinking on our physical appearance. And let’s not forget the countless health issues they can pose, which further deteriorate one’s skin health and physical appearance.
No matter how much you love basking in the sun rays, you should not forget the fact that excessive sun exposure can damage our skin and can even cause many skin diseases. The harmful UV rays can cause discoloration and age spots.
Since sunlight is critical for bone health, as it kicks off the Vitamin D production in our body, completely avoiding sunlight is also harmful.
The trick is to spend 10 to 15 minutes in the sun, early morning, to get the benefits. Remember, once you pass the 20-minute mark, the skin damage caused by UV rays counteract the sunlight benefits.
You are what you eat – you must have heard this adage a zillion times since your childhood because it aptly describes the importance of eating right.
Every single thing that we eat has an effect on our body. It can be positive or negative. There are foods that negatively affect your health and also make you age faster. Similarly, there are things that can help you stay healthy and fit and help retain your beautiful, glowing skin for a longer period of time.
Foods That Can Make You Age Faster
Here are some foods that can speed up the aging process and negatively affect your skin:
- Sugar – Known for cross-linking with collagen, sugar can reduce the flexibility of the skin and cause dehydration. This ultimately leads to the appearance of wrinkles. So, if you want to slow down the aging process, sugar is the number one food you should remove from your diet.
- Processed Foods – Packed with salt, sugar, and preservatives, processed foods can trigger inflammation. Processed meats are even known to deplete vitamin C from our body, which is critical for the formation of collagen.
- Alcohol – Alcohol not only causes dehydration but also depletes vitamins (A, B, C), minerals (zinc and magnesium), and essential fatty acids. All of these are critical for skin health and for slowing down the aging process.
Foods That Can Delay Aging
Here are some foods that can help delay the signs of aging by providing essential nutrients to your body:
- Berries – packed with anti-oxidants, berries are great for slowing down the aging process.
The darker the color of a berry, the higher the amount of anti-oxidants it has.
- Broccoli – Loaded with chromium and many other anti-aging minerals and vitamins, broccoli not only slows down the aging process but also boosts brain functions.
- Freshwater Fish – Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and other non-farm raised fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to fight against many age-related diseases.
- Tomatoes – Grape, cherry, plum, and vine ripe tomatoes contain Lycopene, which is an anti-oxidant.
- Nuts – Packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, nuts help to regulate the production of collagen and elastin— compounds that keep skin young, supple and healthy.
Some other factors that also contribute to premature aging are:
- Poor lifestyle choices, like not working out, exposure to harsh chemicals and toxins, and medications
According to many scientists and healthcare professionals, chronic inflammation can trigger the symptoms of aging. Factors like poor diet, stress, and smoking can cause inflammation in different parts of the body and hence, contribute to aging. So, let go of things that are stressing you out, throw away the cigarettes, and start eating healthy, nutrient filled foods to slow down the aging clock.
Simple Ways to Reduce the Chances of Premature Skin Aging
Dermatologists recommend following these tips to protect your skin from premature aging:
- Apply Sunscreen – Protecting your skin from the harmful UV rays is critical for skin health. This is why skincare experts stress upon using sunscreen before going out. Whether you are at the beach or just running your errands, make sure you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30 – you may need a higher SPF depending on the weather of your city) every day on those parts of your body that are exposed to the sun.
- Exercise – In addition to the countless health benefits, exercise also helps in maintaining the youthful appearance of your skin. According to a few research studies, exercise promotes skin health by improving blood circulation and strengthening the immune system.
- Make Healthy Dietary Choices – This one is a no-brainer. Healthy foods, like fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and fish, can offer protection from skin damaging factors.
- Follow a Skincare Routine – In today’s world, we are constantly exposed to dust, dirt, and pollution. All these can clog pores and cause skin issues, like acne, blackheads, whiteheads, and large pores. To protect your skin from these problems, make sure you cleanse it regularly and properly. However, be careful not to over-cleanse or use extremely harsh chemicals on your face as it can be counter-productive.
The key is to use a gentle cleanser every day to remove the dirt, makeup, sweat and any other thing that might be clogging your pores. After cleaning, use a toner according to your skin type and then moisturize. Moisturizing is essential in all seasons. Many people think that it’s only needed in winters when your skin is dry, but that is a huge skincare mistake. Always moisturize your skin as it helps to keep it hydrated, healthy, and supple.
Exfoliation is also important to remove dead skin cells, but it should not be done every day because excessive scrubbing can irritate your skin. Depending on your skin type, exfoliate once or twice a week. If you are not sure how often you need to exfoliate, consult a skincare expert rather than experimenting.
It’s Never Too Late to Start
Ideally you should make all these changes as early in your life as possible, but if you still haven’t, it’s never too late to start.
Even if you have already started to notice the signs of premature skin aging, you can benefit by making these lifestyle changes and by taking care of your skin.
If you don’t know much about the skin issues you are facing or if they are becoming worse, consult a dermatologist as soon as possible. Thanks to the advancements in medical science, there are many anti-aging products and treatments available for skin tightening, reducing the appearance of wrinkles, treating age spots, dark circles, acne, and any other skin problem that you may be facing.
However, do not use any medicine unless prescribed by a registered dermatologist. The skin is the most delicate and sensitive organ of our body and it is already exposed to so many harmful things, so try to be as careful as possible when applying anything on your skin.