Getting older happens to us all, but you have more control over the process than you might think. Slow down the clock with these tips from anti-ageing experts
Keep your mind active: The brain lives by the rule ‘use it or lose it’, but don’t just focus on crosswords or Sudoku – they only train one element of thought. ‘Challenge your brain in as many ways as you can,’ says GP Dr Naomi Potter. ‘Interact socially, learn new things, keep reading – the more you can do, the younger your brain will act.’
Eat less sugar: There’s a strong association between high blood sugar levels and cognitive decline, because the chemicals in your body that break down insulin also break down the destructive protein in the brain that’s associated with Alzheimer’s. The more insulin they have to handle, the less good work they can do on protecting your brain.
Eat a rainbow: As we get older, our immune system becomes less able to kill viruses and bacteria. ‘There is no one immunity superfood,’ says Dr Sarah Schenker, co-author of The Ageless Body (Bloomsbury Sport). ‘Ensure you eat a rainbow of coloured fruit and vegetables every day, and keep the rest of your diet as varied as possible.’
Move your body: Physical exercise has been found to help create more neurons in the brain, so working out helps keep your brain healthy, as well as your joints, bones and muscles. ‘Staying active can prevent muscle loss and stimulate the bone-forming cells to replace bone that’s lost,’ says Arthritis Research UK expert in musculoskeletal ageing, Professor Janet Lord. Try walking, running or dancing.
Look after your teeth: Recent research found that people with the worst dental health had a sixfold increase in the rate of cognitive decline. It’s thought that this decline in brain function could be linked to inflammatory factors that are triggered by gum disease.
Maintain a healthy weight: This reduces wear and tear on your joints, and protects you from a wide range of ailments. You probably knew that already – but did you know that fat tissue makes immune factors called cytokines, which appear to cause muscle and bone to be lost? ‘A healthy body weight minimises the risk of this,’ says Professor Lord.
Sleep well – on your side: ‘Sleep is essential to regenerate every part of the body,’ says Dr Schenker. ‘It seems to be particularly important in brain health though, as during sleep, our body removes waste products from the brain, associated with cognitive decline.’ Research has found side sleeping causes the biggest ‘detox’.