Turn Back Your Body Clock
A 12-point Guide
1. Start Now!
Your body will start ageing sooner than you might think. From your 30s you start losing muscle mass and bone density and you start to gain weight. Your memory start to deteriorate, as does your hearing and vision. The good news is that no matter when you start, you can make significant changes that will help to slow down the ageing process.
2. Quit Smoking
Smoking is probably the worst thing you can do at any age, and will make you look and feel years older. Not only is it the major cause of lung cancer (and other cancers), heart attacks and stroke, but it also ruins your complexion, produces wrinkles and inhibits your capacity to exercise effectively.
Debrett's Tip: try www.quit.org.uk
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Leanness matters because fat cells produce hormones that increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes; carrying excess fat also stiffens the arteries, heart and major organs and can raise the risk of some cancers.
Use a tape measure to measure the size of your waist as this is where visceral fat shows. Take your waist measurement and divide it by your hip measurement - if it is more than 0.85 you need to do something about it. Beware of getting too thin as your body is likely to starved of essential nutrients.
4. Take Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercise controls your weight, improves endurance and mood, and over the years decreases blood sugar and insulin levels - protecting you against diabetes, arterial ageing, heart disease and high blood pressure. Aim for 3-6 sessions a week of walking, running, cycling for 20-30 minutes, working hard enough to make a conversation strained or to reach 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. Vary your exercise programme every 12-16 weeks in order to challenge your muscles and continue to burn calories.
Debrett's Tip: get a Heart Rate Monitor and Personal Training Plan from www.polar.fi
5. Do Strength Training
Make sure you do 2-3 x 30 minutes sessions a week of strength or weight training to retain muscle mass and increase bone density. After their mid-40s, women lose ¼ lb of muscle mass each year, gaining fat in its place. Muscle is important in burning calories efficiently and, if you want to reverse bone loss and maintain energy and vitality, you need to do strength training or weight bearing exercise.
If you do nothing else, start jumping - start a jumping session three times a week, jumping as high as you can and landing flat-footed with knees slightly bent. Start with 20-30 jumps a session building up to 50-60 (if you are new to exercise you may need to build up strength in your legs, knees and ankles for a few months first),
Debrett's Tip: check out Strong Women Stay Young by
Miriam E. Nelson
6. Ditch Processed Food
Ready meals and sauces, biscuits and cakes and other processed food contain saturated and trans fats, sugars, salt and artificial additives; if you want to avoid clogging up your arteries, raising your blood pressure and piling on the weight just don't buy convenience food.
Also avoid substituting convenience food with high glycemic food (quick digesting carbs) which produce blood sugar spikes and can contribute to overeating. But don't avoid dairy food - just choose low fat products as getting enough calcium is good for bones as well as helping to prevent weight gain
7. Eat for Wellbeing and Variety
Increase your intake of oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel) or take flaxseeds to get essential Omega 3 fatty acids that prevent heart disease, ward off depression and help your brain function. Eat more fibre rich in wholegrains for slow release carbohydrates - aim to get 3 servings a day (eg two-thirds of a cup of brown rice or a slice of wholegrain bread) and look for wholegrain food that has 3-4g of fibre per serving. Don't skimp on protein - you need it to build muscle and stoke the metabolism; aim for three servings a day (a serving should be the size of a pack of cards or a tennis ball). Increase your intake of legumes or pulses such as tofu, beans, lentils and chickpeas.
Most importantly, eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables each day - pick colourful foods like berries, mangoes, papaya, spinach that are full of antioxidants and aim to eat a range of colours across your 5-6 daily servings. Make sure you vary your food - if you get stuck in a rut you will limit the variety of body and brain rejuvenating nutrients you receive.
Debrett's Tip: aim to replace a favourite food with something new each week.
8. Drink More Water
Drinking water cleanses the body and re-hydrates the skin. But did you know that drinking 2 litres of water daily burns up to 150 calories? That's 1,000 calories a week, 50,000 calories a year... But don't exceed this amount unless you have exercised heavily.
9. Drink Alcohol in Moderation
Excessive drinking (anything over 6 units at a time or 14 units a week) can result in a host of serious physical and mental problems - liver damage, weight gain, some cancers, Type 2 diabetes, depression, sexual and fertility problems. Do we really need to go on?
10. Get Enough Sleep
Good deep sleep helps turn back the body clock because it sharpens your mind and defuses stress. During sleep your body releases melatonin, cortisol and other hormones that help to repair cells and burn fat.
If you have sleep problems, here are some things to avoid: don't watch television in bed (the noise increases your alertness), don't undertake unpleasant tasks and chores in the hours before bedtime (as this may produce anxiety and stress), if you wake in the middle of the night don't look at the time (it will just trigger your brain into action), don't lounge about in bed in the morning but get up as soon as you wake up (snoozing will just postpone your bed time that evening and the cycle will start again).
Most adults require between 6 and 8 hours a night - listen to your body and adjust your sleep pattern and schedule to fit round your daily routine.
11. Be Positive and Optimistic
People who have a positive outlook on life, have a goal, a purpose or a passion and have a sense of humour live longer. If you feel stressed on a regular basis you need to learn how to manage it as in the long term it can lead to raised blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer, fertility problems and a host of minor but debilitating illnesses.
Chronic stress may also shrink the part of the brain that is involved in learning, memory and mood. Meditation, writing and chanting are useful in lowering the concentration of stress hormones, as is deep breathing.
Debrett's Tip: find two minutes twice a day to try this classic exercise- exhale strongly through the mouth making a whoosh sound; breathe in through the nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven then exhale with a whoosh sound for a count of 8. Repeat the cycle three times more.
12. Take Care of your Brain
The old adage 'use it or lose it' is very true and there is some evidence to show that exercising the mind can slow down the ageing process. As you age changes occur in the hippocampus part of the brain; whilst stress can cause these changes so can lack of stimulation. It is important that your brain gets both stimulation (e.g. through doing crosswords regularly) and challenge (learning new things skills or doing things differently).
Stimulation reinforces the connections between the nerve cells and through these connections our memory is preserved; but constantly doing the same things reinforces the same connections and other connections remain under-stimulated.
Debrett's Tip: to increase your cognitive ability try these - switch your mouse to the other hand when using the computer or your toothbrush when cleaning your teeth; take a different route to the office or shops and vary this regularly; commit to memory a verse of your favourite poetry each week; learn to salsa or any other form of dancing where you need to memorise different routines.