Appearing Younger Than Your Actual Age

By James Hardeman, MD

Let’s face it; we’re obsessed with youth. Seventy-year-olds wear short skirts and high heels. A generation that said not to trust anyone over 30 still tries to act as if it’s in its 20s. Debbie Boone advertises facelifts on television. But clothing, immature behavior, and cosmetic surgery are not the answers to a true youthful appearance.

Truly looking younger must occur from inside out by being healthy. Here are seven tips that require no incisions or clothes shopping sprees and will keep you looking and feeling younger.

Maintain Ideal Body Weight – IBW

This is one of the most important aspects of looking younger as the years go by. Metabolism slows with age, so there is a tendency in us all to gain weight as we get older if we’re not careful. From a health perspective, maintaining IBW is important for two reasons. First, it is an indicator that one is generally engaging in activity and eating properly. Second, IBW maintenance keeps one from descending into the vicious cycle of poor health. Weight gain leads to health problems and less ability to exercise which, in turn, causes more obesity, making exercise even more difficult and on and on. If you are in this cycle, breaking out and never returning is the healthiest option.

Avoid photo damage caused by the sun

Wear a hat and sunscreen. Photo damage to skin from sunlight is a major contributing factor to wrinkling. If there is any planned sun exposure for more than a few minutes, these items are essential—in fact many dermatologists recommend daily application of sunscreen for even those few minutes of solar exposure. Carrying a hat, sunscreen, and SPF 30 lip balm in your car will ensure that you will be protected in an unexpected situation. Don’t forget to pay heed to often-neglected areas such as ears, lips, the back of the neck, and flip flop-clad feet. And whatever you do, don’t “work on your tan” either outside or in a tanning booth. Especially avoid facial exposure, which is inviting premature wrinkles, not to mention skin cancers.

Don’t smoke

In the mid-1980s there was a surge of smokers interested in quitting in response to a scientific article in the British Medical Journal. One might think this article revealed another terrible health hazard from smoking, but the title was “Smoker’s Face,” and it described that smoking causes premature facial wrinkles. So if lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease aren’t enough to scare you, how about looking old and wrinkled?

Smile

Is age really relative? Are you truly only as old as you feel? Part of appearing younger is a positive attitude. Curmudgeons never exude youth. Recent studies have shown that those who held negative stereotypes about the elderly at younger ages were less healthy when they became older than their counterparts who were more optimistic about aging. A smile will not just improve your own disposition but perhaps that of others too. And by the way, regular flossing will brighten your smile and may even extend your life by diminishing inflammation due to periodontal disease.

Exercise every day

Exercise is our genetic destiny. Had our ancestors not been able to run, walk, throw, and lift, they would not have been able to hunt, forage, plant, and harvest and we might not even be here. Fast-forward to modern times and we have an abundance of great tasting foods, human energy saving devices, and mostly sedentary jobs—it’s the perfect storm for an obesity epidemic. To combat these influences we need to do what our ancestors did and exercise regularly.

Eat a healthy diet

Obviously a few healthy meals are not going to be transformational, but over the long run, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and light on fast food and junk food is invaluable for those who want to maintain a youthful appearance. A proper diet is an essential ingredient of good health, and, in case you have not noticed, healthy people look younger! Studies have shown enhanced survival with a largely plant-based diet.

Bulk up your self-discipline

Almost nothing worth achieving in life is devoid of effort, and the suggestions above are no exception. Self-discipline has undergone scientific study recently and is thought to be analogous to muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. So bulk up your self-discipline to help look, feel, and be younger.

 

James L. Hardeman, MD, is a pulmonary and critical care physician and the author of Appears Younger Than Stated Age: A Doctor’s Secrets On the Art of Staying Young.