November 20, 2015

9 Natural Ways to Slow Down Aging

There's no denying it. We're all aging every day. But from the time you take your first breath as a baby until the moment you take your last, there are lots of things you can do to slow down the hands of time and feel a lot healthier in the process! In fact, if you cut out some of the major aging offenders, you could actually look and feel years younger than your biological age...the one that shows up on your driver's license. Here are nine ways to slow down aging:

#1. Snuff out scented candles.
Researchers from Trends in Molecular Medicine have discovered several probable "gerontogens," environmental factors that speed up the aging process. One surprising finding? Your favorite scented candle could be making you age faster than normal. Most scented candles are made with paraffin wax and scented with synthetic fragrances, both of which are derived from petroleum. By burning paraffin wax or scented soy wax candles inside of a house, various cancer-causing, age-accelerating chemicals like benzene (dubbed a gerontogen) and toluene are released. Toxic candle soot can linger for extended periods of time all around your house, even accumulating in your air filter.

#2. Stop smoking.
We know it's hard to quit, but giving up your cigarette habit is one of the best age-defying gifts you can give yourself (and everyone around you). Cigarette smoke is one of the most potent agers out there, thanks to its 4,000 potentical toxicants. Chronic exposure is linked to a slew of age-related diseases, including hardening of the arteries, pulmonary fibrosis, and other diseases.

#3. Don't swap traditional smokes for e-cigarettes.
Resist the temptation to ease off of traditional cigarettes using electronic cigarettes. The aerosol devices are under Food and Drug Administration scrutiny for various health threats. And get this: E-cigerettes often spew benzene, the same aging compound emitted from most scented candles. Plus, carcinogens and reproductive toxins like formaldehyde, lead, cadmium, and nickel have also been detected in e-cig aerosols.

#4. Take a moment to stop stress in its tracks.
Studies on the accelerated aging effects of stress are still in their early stages, but researchers have discovered that chronic psychological stress leads to age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, decreased immunity, and neural degeneration. To mitigate the toxic effects of stress, try taking part in transcendental or mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to lower anxiety, depression, and anger, while improving psychological conditions. Also, find time to sweat it out! Excercise is a potent prescription for treating stress and these other ailments.

#5. Eat fresh. Want to feel younger than your age?
Avoid processed foods as much as possible. Phosphates fuel the aging process, interfering with vitamin D activation and weakening your bones. And get this: They even are linked to early death! There are 45 different types of phosphates added to processed foods, sometimes falling under ingredient names like  "sodium phosphate," "calcium phosphate" and "phosphoric acid." Some aren't even required to appear on the label! To start filling out your fresh shopping list, look to the produce picks that recently landed on this powerhouse list. Bonus tip? Genetically engineered food has also been linked to accelerated aging, so if you do choose processed foods, be sure to opt for organic. Common nonorganic ingredients like cottonseed oil, canola oil, soy, and corn are often genetically engineered.

#6. Nix added sugars.
As Anne Alexander explains in The Sugar Smart Diet, a lifetime of overdoing it on sugar may eventual show up on your face in the form of early wrinkles. The culprit is the natural process called glycation, where sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins to form harmful new molecules called advanced glycation end products, known in short, ironically, as AGEs. Eating more sugar—straight up added sugars like the tablespoons you dump into your coffee every morning, or secret sugars hiding out in "healthy" salad dressing and sweeter-than-candy-bar yogurt—causes more AGEs to build up and beat up nearby proteins. "Most vulnerable to damage are the protein fibers collagen and elastin, which keep skin firm and elastic," Alexander writes in The Sugar Smart Diet. "Once they're damaged, these fibers go from springy and resilient to dry and brittle, leading to wrinkles and sagging. These age-related changes to the skin start at about age 35 and increase rapidly after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology."

#7. Spend time with friends.
Scientists have been able to prove that loneliness really is bad for your health. Feelings of loneliness make it harder to deal with life's challenges, prompting the release of high levels of stress hormones, which over time can lead to accelerated aging, heart disease, and high blood pressure, according to 2007 research appearing in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science.

#8. Stop drinking all types of soda.
It's not just the sugar in soda that's doing a number on your insides. All colas, whether diet or regular, contain phosphates, or phosphoric acid, a weak acid that gives colas their tandy flavor and makes them shelf stable for longer periods of time. Too much phosphoric acid can lead to heart and kidney problems, muscle loss, and osteoporosis, and one study suggests it could trigger accelerated aging. The study, published in a 2010 issue of the FASEB Journal, found that the excessive phosphate levels found in sodas caused lab rats to die a full five weeks earlier than the rats whose diets had more normal phosphate levels—a disturbing trend considering that soda manufacturers have been increasing the levels of phosphoric acid in their products over the past few decades. (Unfortunately, there are many other nasty side effects of soda, too, giving you all the more reason to kick your habit.)

#9. Wear less makeup.
In an ironic twist, that makeup you're wearing to hide wrinkles could actually be aging you! A 2013 study appearing in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that paraben chemicals commonly used in personal care products and pharmaceuticals act as estrogenic hormone disruptors, throwing normal female fertility into a premature aging process. Women with higher urine levels of parabens experienced changes in ovarian functioning on par with accelerated aging of eggs. To find safer personal care products and rate the ones you already use, visit Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database. Most importantly, focus on living in the moment and appreciating the gifts each day brings. 

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