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10 things you can do to age gracefully

Everyone ages, but can effects like muscle loss, wrinkles and cognitive decline be reduced? Science says yes

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Older people can — and should — incorporate exercise into their routines.

Everyone ages, but effects like muscle loss, wrinkles and cognitive decline be reduced? Science says yes.

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Why do we age? As time passes, the structures and functions within our cells naturally diminish due to getting old, damage and environmental factors, according to Healthline.

Though completely natural, the common side effects such as gray hair, hearing loss, cataracts, osteoarthritis, diabetes, depression, dementia and wrinkles are often unwanted. As people age, several of these conditions are experienced at the same time, per the World Health Organization.

While we can’t prevent aging, there are different ways to limit or reduce side effects. Here are 10 things that might help you look and feel younger.

How can I reduce my aging naturally?

1. Stay away from smoke

Smoking a cigarette can worsen physical appearances such as premature skin aging, wrinkles, stained teeth and psoriasis risk. Tobacco itself, with more than 7,000 chemicals found it its smoke, further damages every organ in the body, according to Action on Smoking and Health.

Vaping also causes a number of problems similar to a cigarette such as wrinkles and stained teeth, per the National Emphysema Foundation.

Though smoking and vaping are known for their aging effects, wildfire smoke has also been shown to be damaging, according to The New York Times.

In a study published by the National Library of Medicine, short-term exposure to air pollution from wildfires was associated with an increase in number of medical visits for itching and dermatitis.

Another study published by PubMed Central found outdoor and indoor pollution, which includes smoke, intensified skin aging with wrinkles and reduction of skin moisture.

2. Eat healthy

The common saying “you are what you eat,” might be a good motto to take to heart. During the aging process, your diet plays a major role.

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, using information from the National Geographic Society on cultural longevity hotspots, put together a list of foods to add to your diet.

  • Plant-based meals: Contains nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Whole, unprocessed foods: Can be raw, cooked or fermented but not in a pill or commercial drink.
  • Nuts: Has omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Calcium and fiber: Maintains bone strength and reduces risk of heart disease.

While aging, the metabolism slows. Individuals are to be mindful while eating, getting their recommended number of calories a day as suggested by a doctor.

Eating too much and too little are both problematic. Adult females should get at least 1,600 calories a day and adult males should get at least 2,200 calories a day. Anything less may deprive an individual of needed nutrients and speed the aging process, per Verywell Health and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

3. Drink water

In a study published by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, staying well hydrated slowed down the aging process and reduced the risk of chronic disease.

Water also helps bodies regulate temperature, lubricate joints, protect sensitive tissues and gets rid of waste. Often, fluids can come through foods. However, water is the easiest and quickest way to stay hydrated, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.

For adult men, the recommended is 13 cups. For women, only nine cups are needed, according to Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

4. Reduce stress

Stress is a natural and normal process that a body goes through. However, long-term stress is not and burdens the body’s cells, speeding up the aging process, per Healthline.

Mayo Clinic offers some tips and tricks to reduce stress.

  • Meditate: Find guided meditation on YouTube or an app on your phone.
  • Laugh: Read jokes, tell jokes, watch a comedy or hang out with funny friends.
  • Assert yourself: Learn to say no and find your healthy boundaries. Everyone has a limit.
  • Keep a journal: Writing down thoughts and feelings can help you release stress.
  • Get moving: Listen to music while enjoying a hobby. It helps to focus on other things.
  • Seek counseling: Sometimes we need some extra help. Professional counselors and therapists can help us understand triggers and find ways to cope.

5. Get enough sleep

Adults who get insufficient sleep have cells that age quicker, resulting in multiple sclerosis, heart disease and cancer, according to Sleep Education.

Insufficient sleep, meaning less than seven hours a night, further promotes biological aging as skin stressors, such as blemishes or sunburns, recover slower, per Duxiana.

Making sure it is dark, removing electronic devices and avoiding large meals and caffeine before bedtime can help improve sleep health, according to the CDC.

6. Exercise regularly

Exercising helps to preserve muscle mass, increase bone health and reduce blood pressure, all of which help slow down the aging process, according to a study published by the National Library of Medicine.

Regular exercise also has a positive effect on the brain, improving thinking, learning and judgement skills, per Health.

Though exercise is recommended, excessive exercise prevents the body from recovery and leads to health problems. Finding balance allows muscles to tear and repair healthily, according to Medline Plus.

7. Start a skin care routine

Skin is the largest organ in the body and typically the most visible. Taking care of it can help reduce physical aging.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are many anti-aging products on the market. Though many provide good results, they recommend adding certain products into your routine.

  • Sunscreen: Choose a broad spectrum, SPF 30 or higher and water resistant sunscreen.
  • Moisturizer: Anti-aging or regular moisturizer are both useful to minimize fine lines.
  • Product to treat your worst aging concern (then pick another concern after the product is finished): Focusing on one concern at a time, such as dark spots or wrinkles, allows for the best results.

8. Clean your teeth

Even if someone does not have poor dental hygiene, yellow teeth ages the appearance. Staying away from colored drinks, like coffee and soda, and tobacco products are natural ways to reduce teeth discoloration. Furthermore, using teeth whitening products or visiting a professional can help limit discoloration, per All Pro Dental.

Poor oral health and increase of plaque on teeth can also lead to cavities, gingivitis and periodontitis, all of which can result in the loss of teeth. Brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist regularly can prevent tooth decay, according to Healthline.

9. Stop heat styling

Hair can age because of heat damage from styling tools like hair dryers, curling irons and straighteners. The high temperature strips moisture, causing the loss of natural shine and smooth texture, while also becoming prone to breakage and split ends, per Shopping on Champagne.

Batiste, the dry shampoo company, shares some tips on how to get healthier hair.

  • Wash your hair less often.
  • Apply the right conditioner to the middle and ends of your hair.
  • Use a hair mask once a week only if needed.
  • Use heat protectant when styling.
  • Minimize hair processing such as dyes, perms and relaxers.
  • Protect hair in the sun and when swimming.
  • Detangle hair before washing.
  • After a shower, brush hair when it is almost dry. If you’re not wanting to wait, use a wide tooth comb.
  • Dry hair by squeezing it in a towel. Do not rub your hair.
  • Moisturize your scalp.
  • Wear hair in a loose braid or a sleep cap for bed.
  • Trim hair regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet and drink water.

10. Improve brain health

As people get older, the brain shrinks, blood flow to the brain decreases and communication between neurons may be less effective. These changes affect mental function in older adults, per the National Institute on Aging.

Taking care of your brain can help reduce the risk of dementia. Taking time to exercise, stay socially active and managing health conditions as they come are lifestyle choices to consider, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.

The prospect of declining health may seem daunting, but there are proactive steps we can take to mitigate its effects and promote healthy aging.