How to stay young as you age


Sharing the skills and wisdom gained from your life experiences with the young is a good way of utlising your mental and emotional functions. — Photos: Filepic

Starting to feel the weight of your years bearing down on you?

While you can’t stop the clock from ticking, there are some things you can do to feel and stay young, without resorting to acting childish.

1. Have sex

Sex improves emotional intimacy with your partner, reduces stress and energises you.

A study done by the Psychology Today magazine found that the more active a person’s sex life is, the fitter and healthier they are.

Athletes in their 60s who were still competing, tended to have sex lives comparable to those 20 years younger.

Apparently, having sex increases your life span too.

In his best-selling book titled Real Age, American anaesthetist and internal medicine physician Dr Michael Roizen reported that women who are unsatisfied with the quality or quantity of their sexual relationships have a life expectancy half a year less than is average for their age.

Meanwhile, women who are satisfied with both the quality and quantity of their sexual relationships have a life expectancy one-and-a-half years longer than average.

He also reported that for men, having fewer than five orgasms a year shortens their life expectancy by two-and-a-half years.

In contrast, a man having more than 300 orgasms a year will add three years to his life expectancy.

2. Share your wisdom

When we reach what is defined as old age, we have a high level of what’s called “self-efficacy”, i.e. a combination of self-belief and confidence.

Researchers observed that the older centenarians become, the more they make decisions based on what they believe in, instead of based on what others expect.

Professor Albert Bandura, the Canadian-American psychologist who created the concept of self-efficacy, said that while many of our physical capacities decrease as we grow older, the gains in knowledge, skills and expertise compensate for them.

One great way of using your superior mental and emotional functions is by imparting skills and knowledge to others.

Gather your grandchildren or the neighbourhood children, and teach away (after the pandemic, of course).

Daily sun exposure accelerates the development of fine wrinkles, freckles and age spots, so do minimise your exposure and wear sunscreen whenever you go out. — TNSDaily sun exposure accelerates the development of fine wrinkles, freckles and age spots, so do minimise your exposure and wear sunscreen whenever you go out. — TNS

3. Eat less

Reducing one’s calorie intake has a tremendous effect on the risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, clogged arteries, heart attacks and strokes – not to mention, prolonging your life!

A study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, United States, put 25 volunteers aged 41 to 65 on a daily dietary intake of between 1,400 and 2,000 calories for over six years and reported convincing results.

Heart function, blood pressure and inflammatory markers were compared against 25 control subjects, who had a calorie intake of between 2,000 to 3,000 calories, which is typical of the normal Western diet.

As you can guess, heart muscle elasticity, blood pressure and inflammatory markers (including cancer-related ones) were all significantly healthier in the low-calorie group.

But your diet has to be highly nutritious, i.e. rich in olive oil, vegetables, whole grains, fish and fruit.

4. Exercise

We may develop a condition known as sarcopenia as we age, which causes us to lose muscle mass as we grow older.

This condition may be due to a lack of physical activity.

One study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that 70-year-olds who had lifted weights regularly for more than 10 years, had as much muscle as 28-year-olds.

Adding strength-training sessions to your weekly regime is a wise move if you want to preserve your muscle mass.

It’s good to stretch and maintain flexibility as connective tissues stiffen, muscles shorten and joints become drier as synovial fluid dries up.

Regular mobilising and stretching can help to reduce the effects of ageing on joints and muscles.

5. Nourish your skin

Reduce your exposure to the sun, wear sunscreen when you’re outside, and stop smoking.

Without protection from the sun’s rays, daily exposure can add up to cause noticeable changes and damage to the skin, such as freckles, age spots, spider veins and fine wrinkles.

Additionally, a 2002 study showed that facial wrinkles not yet visible to the naked eye could be seen under a microscope in smokers as young as 20.

Cigarette smoking causes biochemical changes in our bodies that accelerate ageing.

A person who smokes 10 or more cigarettes a day for a minimum of 10 years is statistically more likely to develop deeply wrinkled, leathery skin than a non-smoker.

6. Maintain social circles

Being active in a group like a religious class, is one way of preventing declining mental function as we age. Being active in a group like a religious class, is one way of preventing declining mental function as we age.

In older age, social isolation can increase declining mental function.

Experts believe that this may be due to not using communication skills regularly enough.

Being part of a group, whether it’s a book club, gardening group or religious class, is healthier than being solitary as you grow older.

The larger the range of relationships, e.g. extended family, friends and interest groups, the less cognitive decline we will experience with ageing.

7. Eat oily fish

Eating fatty fish can slow the mental decline associated with ageing.

Research results show that eating oily fish at least once a week can slow the rate of cognitive decline by 10% to 13% per year.

Salmon, mackerel, herring and tuna are great sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids.

They protect against cardiovascular disease (in combination with statins), and rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3 fatty acids are also believed to help the skin stay elastic and hydrated, which means wrinkles are less likely to appear.

8. Increase antioxidant intake

The body’s production of antioxidants declines with age, but the levels of harmful free radicals unfortunately rise.

According to studies at the Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, US, antioxidant-rich foods may slow ageing processes in the body and brain.

The reason is because antioxidant-rich foods contain vitamins A, C, and E, which all play a large role in strengthening the body against free radicals.

This is why you should always ensure that you get a variety of fruit and veggies that are rich in colour.

Foods like blueberries, pumpkin, and spinach are rich in antioxidant power, so eat more of those.

Datuk Dr Nor Ashikin Mokhtar is a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and a functional medicine practitioner. For further information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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