Even though two people might be born at the same exact moment, that doesn’t mean that the passage of time affects both individuals equally. If you’re the kind of 30-year-old that gets asked for ID at bars, here’s some good news.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that participants who looked five years younger than their actual age exhibited better cognitive abilities and were up to 25% less likely to suffer from age-related conditions, such as cataracts, hearing loss, and osteoporosis. Conversely, the participants who looked older than they actually were had a higher risk of age-related illnesses.
“In other words, if you look younger than you are, then the health of your organ systems, body and mind are likely to reflect this,” according to lead author Professor Tamar Nijsten, a dermatologist at Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam.
More than just a young face
Nijsten and colleagues put together an independent panel of 27 assessors that were asked to estimate the age of 2,679 men and women from the Netherlands, aged between 51 and 88 years, from their portraits. The participants’ photos were taken during a dermatological examination at the Rotterdam medical center. During their visit, the participants were instructed not to wear any face creams, make-up, or jewelry.
The difference between the participant’s estimated age and their chronological age was then tested for associations with age-related conditions, including cardiovascular, pulmonary, ophthalmological, neurocognitive, renal, skeletal, and auditory conditions adjusted for participants’ age and sex.
The group of participants who looked five years younger than their chronological age performed better in cognitive tests and were 15% less likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as 24% less likely to have osteoporosis. Conversely, those who look older than their actual age may experience a higher risk of death than those who look their age. No link was found between perceived age and osteoarthritis, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), or glaucomatous visual field loss (GVFL).
These findings led the authors to conclude that one’s facial appearance is associated with both physical and cognitive health. How old a person looks could thus be used as an additional clinical marker during physical assessment.
Previously, other research groups reached similar conclusions. A study on identical twins found that when the older-looking twin died first, and the apparent (guessed) age gap was on average 1.4 years. In a Japanese study of 273 men and women, a lower apparent age was associated with lower carotid intima-media thickness. And a study on 20,000 men from Copenhagen found that the participants with more facial wrinkles, grey hair, and baldness had a higher risk of myocardial infarction.
Sun exposure and smoking are two obvious environmental factors that contribute to a person’s appearance of aging. However, some factors are simply a result of the natural aging process. In some instances, the connection between looking younger and certain health conditions may be a combination of both external factors and natural aging, such as in the case of glaucoma. But for conditions such as COPD, the association between a youthful appearance and the condition remains even after controlling for lifestyle factors.
Key pieces of DNA called telomeres, which indicate the ability of cells to replicate, are also linked to how young a person looks. A telomere of shorter length is thought to signify faster aging and has been linked with a number of diseases.
“Although this study didn’t examine specifically why this is, it is likely that factors that cause changes to tissue structures in the face which make us look older, such as the reduction of subcutaneous fat and the development of wrinkles, also impact tissue at other sites around the body and are linked to corresponding changes in bone density,” said Nijsten, adding:
“This is not a definitive study, but it is probably the best study so far providing evidence that perceived age also reflects internal aging. The study clearly demonstrates that something is going on, likely on a biological level and beyond the usual lifestyle factors such as UV exposure or smoking. ”
The new findings appeared in the British Journal of Dermatology.
How to look younger than your age
Can you slow down the hands of time? While we may not have access to a fountain of youth, science does reveal methods to help us look and feel younger
Tip #1: Sun Protection is Vital
Excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays leads to premature skin aging. What can you do about it? Apply sunscreen every day, even on cloudy ones. UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds and harm your skin. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that shields against both UVA and UVB rays. Wear sunglasses and hats for added protection.
Tip #2: Nourish Your Body Right
The saying “you are what you eat” very much applies in this context. Consuming nutrient-rich food fuels your body to operate at its best. Amp up your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods supply vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that fight off harmful free radicals — culprits of cellular aging.
Tip #3: Stay Active
Engaging in regular exercise offers many benefits, such as improved heart health, increased energy, and boosted mood. But did you know that it can also promote youthful looks? Exercise improves blood circulation, feeding your skin with oxygen and nutrients. It also aids in maintaining muscle tone, giving your body a fit, youthful appearance.
Tip #4: Prioritize Sleep
Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. When you sleep, your body repairs and regenerates cells. Lack of sleep accelerates aging and exacerbates wrinkles, dark circles, and a lackluster complexion. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night to ensure that your body gets the rest it needs.
Tip #5: Manage Stress Levels
Chronic stress wreaks havoc on your body, inside and out. High stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that accelerates aging. Practice stress-busting activities like yoga, meditation, or journaling. Maintain a positive attitude and cultivate a supportive social network to help buffer the effects of stress.
Tip #6: Say No to Smoking
The harmful effects of smoking are well-documented. It speeds up skin aging, resulting in wrinkles, dull complexion, and a sallow, yellowish skin color. For a healthier, younger-looking skin, bid farewell to cigarettes.
Tip #7: Limit Alcohol Intake
Excessive alcohol consumption dehydrates your skin and depletes it of essential nutrients. This leads to wrinkles and premature aging. Enjoy alcohol in moderation, and always rehydrate with water afterward.
The passage of time is inevitable, but you have the power to influence how you age. By adopting these science-backed habits, you can maintain a youthful appearance and enjoy better health as you journey through life’s chapters.
Was this helpful?