Insights: Your body’s true age

Plant-based diet
One of the major determinants of biological age is the telomeres in our bodies.

Telomeres, the parts of chromosomes that control ageing, determine the speed at which cells age and die.

Studies show that older people have shorter telomeres, while younger people have longer ones. People with shorter telomeres have been found to be more susceptible to early death, getting cancer or developing a neurological disease.

A study at King’s College in London found that biological age was closely tied to risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis than chronological age.

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Another thought is that how you age is determined by of how much our bodies exert themselves energy-wise to continuously fix the problems that occur in our bodies’ DNA as our cells divide.

Can you delay biological ageing?

Is it possible to make your telomeres longer, or slowdown the rate at which they shorten? Genetics play a huge role in how you age, but for the most part, the answer is yes, you can. With biological age, the phrase, “You’re not growing any younger” does not always hold water.

If you feel older than your age and want to get a rein on your aging process, there are a few things you can do, all of which relate to your lifestyle.

1. Just 30 minutes of motion

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A London study on 2,400 twins showed that with each pair of twins, the ones who exercised more had longer telomeres, thus were biologically younger than the twin who did not exercise. It also just required 30 minutes of exercise a day for the more active twin to be biologically younger.

 A study from Korea yielded similar results, showing that people who exercised three hours a week had longer telomeres. Athletes in their 50s have also been found to have telomeres as long as of people in their 20s.

2. Plant-based diet

Studies show that foods high in fibre and vitamins are strongly related to longer telomeres, thus aging slower.

Moderating your intake of saturated fats, which are found in meat, eggs and milk has been shown to slow the aging process. Having most of your food helpings come from a plant-based diet is an almost sure bet to having longer telomeres.

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Researchers reviewing different studies on telomeres found that the Mediterranean diet (which MedicineNet says is mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, olive oil, grilled and steamed chicken and seafood (rather than red meat) resulted in longer telomeres.

3.  Relax

Stress can make you feel like you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, and the truth is, that is not too far from reality. Stress can not only make you look older, it actually does make you older.

A 2004 study done on women who had healthy children versus women who had chronically ill children showed that the women who were less-stressed about their children’s health had telomeres that were 10 years longer than those of the stressed out women, showing that they were biologically younger by 10 years.

Managing stress by seeing a therapist when you need to, getting enough sleep and rest, exercising, intentionally seeking out fun activities, laughing, among others can go a long way in making you (look) younger.

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4.  Get that pain checked out

It is great to put on a brave face when in pain, but pain that lasts longer than a few days should be seen usually as a sign that something is wrong in your body, so ignoring it may be straining your body to try and work as it should. Joint and muscle pain should especially be looked into by a physiotherapist who will help you do what you need to reduce it.

5.  Ensure brain health

If the biological age of your brain is older than your chronological age, the years will show up in the rest of your body. Researchers at Imperial College London found that such people had poorer lung function, slower walking speed and an increased risk of death. One of the best remedies to prevent your brain from ageing is to exercise, manage stress and avoid high cholesterol.

6.  Don’t overload the liver

The liver filters out toxins such as chemicals from drugs, byproducts of alcohol and even microorganisms that get into the bloodstream such. Overworking it can put a strain on the body, and some toxins may find their way into the heart. This leads to an overload of the immune system.

A good rule of thumb to help your liver work efficiently is to ensure that your meal consists of vegetables and fruits. The less processed foods, the better. Also ensuring that you drink enough water daily will ensure that your liver is efficient and reduce your biological age.

7.  Take care of your skin

The skin is one of the most obvious markers of advancement in age. Many people look a lot older or younger than they are simply because of what their skin looks like.

It is also a marker of health, as damaged skin is often a sign of poor health. Some of the ways you can reduce aging even on your skin is by reducing or eliminating sugar from your diet. Drinking lots of water keeps it hydrated and supple, while eating fruits and vegetables delivers the right nutrients to keep it healthy.

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