The dreaded “A” word… AGEING. Where beauty is concerned, many of us see ageing as our mortal enemy, particularly when thinking about our skin, as well as our overall wellbeing. Well, I’ve got some good news and some bad news…the bad news is that getting older is one of the unavoidable facts of life. But the good news is that it doesn’t always have to be as unpleasant as it’s made out to be! While we can’t turn back time, the good news is that we do have a degree of control over our biological age. Our diet, habits and even our sleep pattern can influence how our bodies age, both inside and out.
First things first, we know that our skin tends to bear the brunt of the less pleasant aspects of ageing; the outside reflects what’s happening on the inside. So, it is important to consider the multitude of factors that play into the way that our cells age and what we can do to minimise this, so that we can stay looking and feeling our best!
The things we do (and don’t) consume through our diets play a significant role in how our cells age. Many of us are unknowingly deficient in valuable vitamins and minerals that are fundamental to keeping our bodies young, fit and healthy.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential to many bodily functions, including but not limited to regulating our blood pressure, keeping our bones strong and aiding in restful sleep. However, magnesium’s importance extends beyond these functions to the cellular regenerative processes throughout our bodies, that influence how our cells age. A magnesium deficiency can accelerate ageing in various cell types, which can hinder their ability to divide and renew themselves. One of these cell types is the fibroblast cells. Magnesium also vital to preventing premature ageing in our fibroblasts, which are the cells that can be found in our connective tissues, for instance our bones, tendons, and cartilage. These areas are essential to our biological ageing and how this affects our appearance, as these cells are integral to the production of collagen.
Collagen is a key aspect of staying youthful, not only on the inside with respect to our bones and joints, but also in terms of our skin, as collagen is largely responsible for keeping our skin looking smooth, firm, and elastic. When our fibroblast cells are unable to replicate as quickly and as often as they should, their tissues experience changes that are very similar to what can be seen in the ageing process. This is often at least partially due to a magnesium deficiency, which has become increasingly common due to the large amounts of magnesium poor processed foods consumed today. To increase your magnesium levels, consuming magnesium rich foods such a dark green leafy vegetables, dark chocolate and nuts.
An interesting example that shows us the importance of magnesium in positive cellular aging is in astronauts’ accelerated aging that they experience in space. It has been observed over many years that upon astronauts’ return to earth, their cardiovascular capacity appears to be of somebody that is accelerating at 10 times the usual rate. This is largely attributed to the magnesium depletion that they encounter during their space flights.
Stress is a major factor that can influence our biological age increasing. Stress is inevitable. We have jobs, families, and responsibilities, so a bit of stress from time to time is normal. However, much of what we stress about is maladaptive; we don’t know the cause, or it can be lurking deep within our psyches.
Some natural ways to combat this low-level, underlying stress is to incorporate practices such as meditation, yoga, or exercise into your weekly routine. The ancient practice of yoga, for instance, is commonly used to combat stress and has numerous benefits that contribute to a younger biological age. Yoga is known to help with stress relief as it encourages mental and physical relaxation, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. This is done through grounding and centering your focus, with emphasis on your breathing and staying in the present moment when doing yoga poses. This allows you to let go of worry and anxiety that you may be experiencing in your life and give yourself some time out… let your brain chill.
A significant way that yoga helps us to combat stress is through the releasing of endorphins, which are feel-good hormones that can help you to positively manage your stress levels. The name endorphins comes from the words “endogenous” meaning within the body, and “morphine” a pain relief drug. So, think of endorphins as a natural stress relief your body can produce on its own!
Yoga also can help with physical stress blockages, such as muscle knots, so it can aid in alleviating pain and tension which are factors that put strain on our bodies and encourage biological ageing. When we carry out yoga poses, we are facilitating an increase in our flexibility, muscle tone and cardiovascular and circulatory health.
Managing stress through a healthy and mindful means such as yoga is a great way to help your cellular age on the inside, but also the outside too. Believe it or not, stress affects our skin. When we feel anxious or stressed, our sympathetic nervous system releases cortisol, causing an increase in oil production in our skin glands which can cause our pores to become clogged and lead to breakouts. Beyond breakouts, stress can also cause our skin to age by causing changes to the proteins in our skin, thereby reducing elasticity and leading to the emergence of wrinkles.
A further element to consider when looking at reversing our biological age is our sleep pattern. We all know that there are a whole host of benefits to be had from having a regular sleep schedule, and lowering your biological age is one of them. One way that our biological age is measured is through biomarkers like the length of our telomeres. Telomeres are the caps at the end of chromosomes that protect our cells, and these can get shorter due to ageing. Studies have found that individuals who sleep less, tend to have shorter telomeres, indicating an older biological age.
Furthermore, it is thought that sleep deprivation damages cell cycle processes and increases their susceptibility to senescence, which refers to a cells loss of ability to divide and grow. So, it’s clear that a lack of sleep is hard on our bodies internally, but about our outward appearance? Unfortunately, if we are getting poor quality sleep, this will show on our skin. Similar to the reaction we have to stress, when we aren’t getting enough sleep, our cortisol levels will rise. This rise in cortisol can trigger inflammation, which will cause the proteins that keep our skin smooth and glowing to break down.
Tackling matters pertaining to our diet, stress levels, and sleep can certainly help us to holistically and naturally minimize the ageing that takes place in our cells, that contribute to an increased biological age. Lowering our biological age is something that can improve our wellbeing in our bodies