Have sex, plus 10 other wellness tips to age gracefully

Aside from the lotions, pills and potions that promise to slow down the ageing process, research is also discovering other ways to help us stay youthful....READ FULL ARTICLE

We take a look at some of these research findings.

Slow down the tell-tale signs of ageing on your neck by keeping your head up, says US dermatologist Francesca Fusco. She predicts that as more people text and stare at screens, ageing will show up in a lined neck. “Every time you put your chin down, you’re creating a crease,” she says. So, keep your chin up, and when you are texting, hold your phone at eye level.

Gotu kola is an ancient medicinal plant, also called Centella asiatica, that is known as the “fountain of life” in China. Gotu kola has been used to relieve inflammation, speed up wound healing and stimulate the growth of new cells.

Some cosmetic companies are starting to incorporate this herb in their anti-ageing creams, and you can also take the dried leaves as a tea or in capsules. Do consult a GP or herbal specialist first, t hough.

Regular tai chi sessions can increase the number of an important type of cell in the body that plays a role in slowing ageing. A Taiwanese study compared the levels of a cell called CD34+ in people who either practised tai chi, went for brisk walks, or did no exercise at all.

CD34+ cells help in the self-renewal of cells, and these levels were higher in people who did tai chi. Those who walked briskly also did well. “Brisk Walking requires a larger space or more equipment, so tai chi appears to be an easier and more convenient choice for anti-ageing exercise,” the authors of the report said.

If women want to age more happily, a fulfilling sex life is part of the equation, and it’s the quality, not the quantity, that matters. A US study found that 70% of women aged 60 to 69 who were in an intimate relationship and had sex in the past six months, felt more positive.

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“Many adults retain their ability to enjoy sex well into old age,” says Dr Wesley Thompson of the Stein Institute for Research on Ageing in the US. “Satisfaction with sex life – regardless of the level of sexual activity – is closely related to perceived quality of life,” he explains. Don’t underestimate the importance of physical intimacy – even cuddling releases feel good endorphins that give us an emotional lift.

The traditional Japanese diet contains a lot of green tea, which explains the longevity of Japanese people. A study of more than 40 000 men and women found that those who drank at least five cups of green tea a day had a 26 percent lower risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke than those who drank less tea. Research suggests that heart disease, strokes and cancer are caused by free radicals–harmful cells found in the body that kill or damage cells around them.

This damage can change the DNA in a cell and lead to disease. Antioxidants fight this damage, and tea is a rich source. Professor Clare Collins, a lecturer in nutrition and dietetics at the University of Newcastle, NSW, says: “Tea is rich in antioxidants, and we know that people who consume high levels of antioxidants have a lower risk of many diet-related cancers.”

Associate Professor John Kwok, from Neuroscience Research Australia, says, “The amount of exercise you give your brain can have an impact on healthy brain ageing.” His research looked at a gene that causes dementia and the type of cognitive activity that can mitigate its effects.

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“Strenuous activity – for example, learning a second language–turns down this bad gene,” he says. But you need to change activities when they become too easy and give your brain a good workout at least once a week. Apart from learning another language, play chess or bridge, and do difficult crossword puzzles.

Too much sugar can make you look older. Dutch researchers found that people aged 50 to 70 with high blood sugar levels looked older than peers who had lower levels. The building blocks of skin, such as collagen and elastin, are proteins, and according to endocrinologist Dr Sophie Chan, a high-sugar diet leads to a build-up of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which damage proteins and tissues and thus lead to wrinkles.

“Increased sugar consumption usually means a decrease in fresh foods,” says Dr Chan. “And we know that increased consumption of fruits and vegetables promotes the anti-aging process and overall health.”

In Japan, this idea is summed up by a saying: hara hachi bu – which means “eat until you are 80% full” or stop eating before you become uncomfortable. Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) are investigating why eating less could help us age better.

It could be that when we do, our bodies recycle and reuse nutrients in our cells. This seems to lead to both less cellular deterioration and less disease. “A better understanding of these cellular recycling mechanisms could promise a longer, healthier life for humans,” says Dr Margo Adler, an evolutionary biologist at UNSW.

The hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which are released in our bodies when we feel stressed, contribute to age-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. Adrenaline is the fast-acting stress hormone that gets us going, while cortisol is the stress-recovery hormone that increases our appetite, explains Dr Shawn Talbott, a nutritional biochemistry specialist in the U.S.

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“These days, we are exposed to constant stress, so our cortisol levels keep rising, which increases both our appetite and our fat storage,” he says. “Too much cortisol in our bodies can give rise to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, memory problems and osteoporosis. Stress makes us sick.” Listen to music, exercise, take a warm shower, meet friends, read, or have a massage. Find a way to relax that works for you so that stress hormones don’t flood your body.

“People who are isolated are at risk of loneliness, depression and dementia,” says Dr Liz Cyarto from the National Ageing Research Institute in Melbourne. “So stay socially engaged, join groups, and have people you can rely on.

” A US study found that people who often felt excluded and had few friends had a 45% higher risk of dying earlier than those who took time to talk to friends, joined groups to make new contacts, and used technology to stay in touch.

Lifting weights protects you from metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health problems such as excess belly fat, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and higher than average blood sugar levels. AUS study found that the risk of metabolic syndrome decreased by 37 percent in people who exercised with weights three times a week.

“To have the best quality of life, you need to keep your body active and make good dietary choices,” says Dr Cyarto. Include weights in your exercise programme three times a week. Join a gym and get advice on which exercises are best for you....READ FULL ARTICLE

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