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September 21, 2018

Six things you do every day that are ageing you

A file photo of elderly people
A file photo of elderly people

While all men and women hope to age gracefully, there are a number of things we are doing each day that are speeding up the process without us even realising it.

In fact, according to Australian nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver, there are exactly six key things people do every day that are drastically accelerating the process.  

'The good news is, there are things we can do to reduce the likelihood that we will age faster than our biological years or experience debilitating health challenges in our later years,' Dr Weaver told FEMAIL. 

'There are also things that we can avoid or minimise, in order to prevent premature ageing.'

1. Excessive exercise

'We know that physical activity is good for our health, but this doesn't necessarily mean that more is always better,' Dr Weaver said. 

'While there are many people who would benefit from moving more, on the other end of the spectrum are those who exercise excessively, particularly in terms of too much high intensity or endurance training. 

'Over training doesn't allow the body to recover and repair properly, and with more rapid breathing we are actually producing more free radicals, which can accelerate ageing processes if we're not simultaneously increasing our intake of antioxidant-rich foods.'

2. Your perception of pressure and urgency

According to Dr Weaver, when everything feels urgent or we perceive immense amounts of pressure in our daily lives, it communicates stress to our body. 

'There are, of course, moments of pressure and experiences that require a quick and urgent response, but for many people, the lines between what is actually urgent and what we perceive as urgent have become blurred and so everyday life has become overwhelming.

'Chronic stress drives biochemical changes in the body. With excessive production of our long-term stress hormone cortisol, body fat tends to be stored around the tummy and we can experience a loss of muscle mass, which ultimately affects our metabolic rate, not to mention our strength. 

'Maintaining muscle mass is really important if we want to remain mobile and active into our later years.' 

3. Thinking that a multivitamin will make up for a poor-quality diet

Those who have a big, indulgent weekend will often 'make up' for their bad choices by popping a few multivitamins on a Monday morning.

 But this isn't going to make up for years of a bad diet.  

'Now, don't get me wrong, multivitamin/mineral supplements are useful to help top up your intake of vitamins and minerals,' Dr Weaver said.

'However, many people assume that taking a multivitamin will completely cover their nutritional bases, and that's not necessarily the case.

'If we aren't getting essential vitamins and minerals from our food, then a supplement is likely going to be beneficial. But whole foods provide so much more than just vitamins and minerals, and taking a multivitamin cannot make up for a lousy way of eating.'

Dr Weaver said that if we're consistently not eating our minimum requirement (for average, basic health) of five serves of vegetables each day, we're likely not getting enough of the other beneficial substances in plant foods called phytochemicals – many of which are potent antioxidants. 

'Antioxidants help to prevent oxidative damage, which is one of the biochemical processes that contributes to ageing,' she said. 

4. Accumulating a 'sleep debt'

Being time-poor is incredibly common these days, and many people are sacrificing the amount of sleep they get in order to fit more into their day. 

'Sleep is a time when our body undergoes crucial rest and repair processes – adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each night,' Dr Weaver said.

'After a poor nights' sleep, we're also more likely to reach for highly refined and processed foods, which can compromise our intake of essential nutrients.'

5. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)

Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) can form in the body when sugars bind to some of our DNA, proteins and lipids (fats). 

This, Dr Weaver explained, can cause cells and tissues to not work properly, resulting in ageing or, in some cases, disease. 

'When we consume a poor-quality diet high in refined/processed and deep-fried foods, the body tends to form more AGEs,' she said. 

'However, we can also consume some AGEs through our food. Foods particularly high in these compounds tend to be those subjected to high temperatures, such as fried foods. 

'A diet that includes plenty of plant foods is likely to have a lower AGE content.'

6. Pollution

'While we may not be able to control our exposure to all pollutants, there are things we can do to support the detoxification (change) of problematic substances that we inhale so that they can be eliminated from the body,' she said. 

'Nutrients are required to drive our detoxification pathways, so it's essential to consume plenty of nutrient-rich whole foods, particularly plenty of green leafy vegetables from the Brassica family – the liver especially loves these. 

'You can also support the liver by minimising alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars and trans fats, as well as your exposure to synthetic substances (such as those found in conventional beauty and cleaning products).'

Dr Libby will be speaking about ageing and hormones throughout Australia during September for her, The Hormone Factor tour. For more information, visit www.drlibby.com 

The Beauty Guide will launch August 22.

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