There are two processes to aging. One is the natural process and we can’t do anything about that. Cells in our body duplicate every seven years. Each time they do so, there are minute mutations. It’s these mutations that cause aging. By the time we are past sixty-five, there is so much mutation, the cells no longer function properly and eventually they just give out. That’s called dying of natural causes.
The other process is unnatural aging. These are the things we do to our bodies unnecessarily that cause additional damage to the cells, stress them out and age them more rapidly. Here are the things that contribute to aging we have control over:
First, sunlight is really damaging. We need a certain amount of it, of course. The sun is our major source of vitamin D. People who live in arctic areas need one to two hours per day of artificial sunlight to ward off depression, a symptom of depleted vitamin D. But for most of us, we get all the sunlight we need just going about our daily routines. Those who spend too much time in the sun or under sunlamps are severely damaging their skin and it’s not reversible.
I once saw a photo of female twins who were separated during childhood. One was raised in Maine where there is minimal sunlight and the other in Southern California. The latter spent many days at the beach becoming a sun-worshiper. At the age of forty, the two got back together which was when the photo was taken. The one who had grown up in Southern California looked like her twin’s mother. Her skin was blotchy, leathery and sagging. She looked a good twenty years older than her sister whose skin had remained smooth and blemish-free. Too much sunlight is a skin-killer. And it’s not even trendy anymore. Just look at the stars on the Hollywood carpets today. There are no dark tans. Dark-tanned skin is out.
Second, chemicals damage both our hair and our skin. The worst thing for our hair is bleaching. During the latter part of the 20th century, it was all the rage for females to have bleached blonde hair. The trouble was, the bleaching caused the hair to become dry and brittle. After two or three treatments, the hair had to be cut off so that new, undamaged hair could grow in. And if bleaching didn’t damage the hair enough, hair colors and developers did. If that’s a must today, do it infrequently just to cover gray. And there is shampoo. We all think shampoo is necessary for healthy, lustrous hair. Wrong. What causes healthy, lustrous hair is natural oil. Our skin has natural oil, too; oil that comes from within rising to the surface and lubricating the skin keeping it youthful and healthy. Soap strips the skin of its natural oil just as shampoos do the hair. All that’s needed is warm-water bathing or showering. This washes away the dirt and grime and leaves the natural oil to keep the hair and skin well-lubricated. Use soap only under the arms and in genital areas to wash away bacteria. Keep the rest of the body shampoo and soap-free. No lotions either. They clog the pores and prevent perspiration which carries the oil to the surface.
Third, you are what you eat. I know you’ve heard that over and over but it’s true. In our modern culture, we eat two and three times more food than we need to maintain a healthy body. Overeating, especially greasy and sugary foods, can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart problems. Why speed up the aging process like that? Remember the old saying: ‘Eat to live, not live to eat.”
And don’t forget the damage done by addictions. Our two main ones are smoking and alcohol. Smoking speeds up the aging process at an alarming rate. Not only is it unhealthy to our internal organs, particularly the lungs, it contributes to cell damage of the skin and, yes, the hair, too. Alcoholism also causes unnecessary aging. The cells of our body need moisture to function properly. With too much alcohol, the cells are forced to take in moisture polluted with it and that causes damage to the cells, as well.
Fourth, exercise is critical to staying young. You’ve heard the old adage: Use it or lose it. If you enjoy sports, and most males do, you’re ahead of the game. Regular sports activity aids in keeping the body youthful and healthy. But if you’re not sports or gym-oriented, and most females are not, there are many other ways to get exercise in your daily routine. The number one is walking. Walking is one of the best exercises we have. We used to swing in trees in our prehistoric period. But when we climbed down from trees, our daily exercise became walking. That did the trick. But in our modern world, we do very little of it. How many times to you drive to the mall or supermarket and circle around the parking lot hoping to find a space near the entrance? Wrong. You’re robbing yourself of a few good minutes of valuable exercise. Park at the back of the lot. There are always spaces there and what an opportunity you’ll give yourself; a chance at staying young and healthy costing you nothing.
If you can spare the time, and everyone can really, take long walks. Every city today offers an array of public parks and riverfront or beachfront promenades. Use them. Long walks for females and light jogs for males are the best exercises we can add to our daily or weekly routine.
Oh, and did I mention the butt? It’s the first thing to go in the aging process. Have you ever wondered why the buttocks muscles are the largest in our body? We virtually never use them and that’s why they eventually sag. You see, once we climbed down from trees and began walking the savannas, we also had to climb hills and even mountains. So nature gave us buttocks to facilitate that. We are the only primate with them and we only have them because we’ve needed them for the past thousands of years. Now, we don’t need them so we need to keep them tight with exercise. Find a hill or stairs to climb. And while doing that, place your hand on one buttock and feel it tighten as you go up. Add that hill or stairs to your regular exercise. It’s an instant butt-buster.
And, lastly, your mindset. You are what you think you are. If you think of yourself as getting older, you are. You’ve bought into it. But if you’re following the above advice, you’ll feel young and healthy every day of your adult life. And guess what, you will be? We have three basic stages in life, aging-wise. It begins with youth. That is our growing stage from birth to 25. By 25, the growing ends and the aging begins. That is our adult stage from twenty-five to sixty-five. It is the bulk of our lifetime. And we have old age after that when everything goes downhill; remember those mutations? We want to focus on the adult stage. There is no reason to look much different from age 25 to 65, remaining youthful and healthy throughout. What female would not enjoy looking like Angelina Jolie? Hello! She’s 39-years-old. She has obviously taken the aging process seriously and has adapted the above principles to combat it. She has remained young and healthy her entire adult life. And her hubby Brad Pitt, who likewise is fit and looks great, is no younger than she.
Why is all this so important? Because others are drawn to youthfulness and health. Those who maintain it are the ones who have all the friends, the promotions at work and, yes, the dates. Not that dating is all it’s made out to be, but who wouldn’t appreciate the offers. That’s because we all need to be loved. Eddie Cantor put it succinctly in his 1930s song: “Stay young and beautiful if you wanna be loved.” It’s a good life. Why throw it away? Focusing on staying young and healthy is really easy but it begins now. By the age of 35, it’s too late. You’ll spend the rest of your life on one diet after another, one exercise program after another, and with poor results? Nothing is effective after that. The body doesn’t work that way. Once damage is done, it’s virtually permanent. So, get ahead of the game by starting now. Go for it!
For a truly provocative read, check out Saints and Dragons, Edward Snowden in His Own Words.