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Image of an hourglass representing the myths of aging

Myths about aging

Written by
Lucy Foster

Most of us can agree that it’s a privilege to age. But while that’s the considered viewpoint, it doesn’t always relieve the day-to-day burden we can feel to look younger than our actual years.

After all, society still seems to equate youth with beauty. The message that being young is desirable is displayed on most marketing campaigns across the world and the fact that ‘anti-aging’ is still a term used by many, makes it hard to ignore. And while women may feel it, most men are not immune to it, either. The pressure to stay young – in looks at least – affects us all.

With that, there are a wealth of ideas and half-truths in place around preventing the aging process. So, what are they and is there truth in any of them? Can we honestly wind back the clock or is accepting the aging process simply a matter of mindset? Let’s look at some of the most common aging myths.

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You can reverse the signs of aging

Reverse? No. Prevent? Maybe. Slow down? Definitely. While there is published scientific research that suggests that future therapies might be able to remove harmful mitochondria from cells and lengthen telomeres on DNA strands – reducing wear and tear on cells and the probability of age-related diseases – right now, the best we can do is prevent. And we all know the mantra on how to do that: no smoking, broad range SPF on all skin exposed to UVA light, a diet high on fresh fruit and vegetables and low on sugar and refined carbohydrates, lots of water, regular exercise and good skincare. Common treatments can also target problem areas ensuring our aging journey can be something we celebrate rather than commiserate.

You will age like your parents

Well, your mother, to be precise. Research has shown that, aside from environmental factors, which have the most effect on how you age, our personal aging process is likely to be determined by genes passed on by our mothers. But saying that, it’s not a given that you will end up as a carbon copy of your mother when you reach 60. Aging is mostly decided by what you’ve been exposed to in your lifetime and how you’ve chosen to counteract those effects. For instance, did your mother smoke? Grow up in a smog-filled city or the countryside? Did she wear SPF on holiday, let alone daily? Did she make a point of cleansing her skin and moisturising? What was her diet like? Did she get enough sleep? Was she plagued by stress? Did she have access to preventative treatments? Then apply these questions to yourself and see if there’s a marked difference. While you and your mother may be prone to sun spots or frown lines, there’s no guarantee that you’ll age in exactly the same way.

Smiling causes wrinkles

Smiling can contribute to wrinkles in the form of static lines developed over time but essentially, sun damage, dehydration and loss of collagen (as a result of aging) are your biggest culprits here. Besides, smiling and feeling joy is one of the most youthful actions we can take so we should be doing it more, not less. A protein rich diet is such an important factor in improving collagen levels but food supplements can also help, along with targeted treatments to kickstart your body’s collagen production.

As you age you need less sleep

This is simply not true. Adults all need seven to nine hours of sleep a day regardless of whether they’re 20 or 60 – the problem is that as we get older, we might struggle getting the sleep we need. This can be down to multiple factors such as stress, lack of daylight (particularly if we’re inside all day), and shifting of our circadian rhythms. Our internal clock tends to function less efficiently as we age, making us feel sleepier in the afternoon and alert much earlier in the morning than many of us would like. The body also produces less melatonin, which is a primary hormone in helping us drop off.

Your metabolism slows so you’ll put on weight

Yes, and no. It is true that your metabolism – the process that turns food into energy – does start to slow down after the age of 30 but that scientific fact also goes hand in hand with the fact that we generally become less active as we move into middle age and we lose muscle mass, which in turn means we burn less calories. Strength training builds muscle mass so this is essential to counteract the effects of a slowing metabolism, along with aerobic exercise – running, cycling, swimming. Lots of liquids, particularly green tea, have also been shown to help liven up a lethargic metabolic system.

What can I do to slow down the aging process?

Aside from tweaking your lifestyle to ensure that you’re eating, sleeping and exercising well and preventing environmental damage, there are several products and treatments available to lessen the effects of aging.

Retinol

Retinol (a form of vitamin A) can help the body produce more collagen, plumping out fine lines and wrinkles in the skin. It can also improve texture and breakouts as it encourages the skin cells to turnover at a faster rate. A heavyweight in your arsenal.

Vitamin C

Not only does vitamin C encourage collagen production, it is also a powerful antioxidant that neutralises free radicals that can damage skin cells leading to premature aging. It is found in fresh fruit and vegetables and a wealth of skincare products for topical use.

Thermage

A non-surgical, non-invasive treatment that uses radiofrequency to heat up the upper layer of skin, promoting collagen production, smoothing lines and tightening skin. The treatment is quick (30 minutes to an hour on average) and doesn’t require healing time.

Fraxel-type lasers

Fraxel-type lasers work by sending tiny columns of light deep into the skin, destroying old cells and encouraging new growth. They work brilliantly on pigmentation issues, sun damage, acne scars and wrinkles.

Dermal fillers

Fillers are injected into your skin and can help define the face and bring plumpness to areas such as cheeks and lips while also filing out fine lines. The results are not permanent but they last up to a year.

Botox

Botox injections relax the smaller muscles in the face to ease the appearance of fine lines and crow’s feet. Injections need to be repeated every three to four months to maintain the effect.

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