Premature aging of the skin. Can it be stopped?
While the visible signs of aging cannot be stopped, they can be diminished. Here are four aging enemies you can combat by making certain lifestyle changes.
Enemy No. 1: The Environment
As we age, our skin’s antioxidant defense system weakens and loses its capacity to fight off oxidative stress caused by free radical damage. This leads to deterioration of the skin cells resulting in dull, lifeless skin. We cannot prevent free-radical damage, but we can reduce it by eating an anti-oxidant rich diet. The affect oxidation has on our skin is similar to an apple cut in half. Exposed to the air, the apple turns brown. But if you put lemon juice on it before it turns brown, the apple is preserved. In the same manner, antioxidants, such as Vitamin C, help preserve our skin from the inside out and minimize the damage. High antioxidant-rich foods include: acai berries, pomegranates, blueberries, tomatoes, and spinach. The darker the fruit or vegetable, the more likely it is to have a high amount of antioxidants.
Enemy No. 2: The Sun
UV exposure is a main contributor to premature aging. It destroys the skin’s support structure and leads to sagging skin as well as lines and wrinkles. A small amount of sun exposure is necessary for your skin to produce Vitamin D. But 10 or 15 minutes will do just fine. Beyond that, there is no health-related reason whatsoever to be in the sun. In fact, the longer your exposure to the sun, the more serious the UV damage will be and the more premature aging you will encounter. When in the sun for long amounts of time, be sure to use a sunscreen that includes broad-spectrum protection which blocks both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays. (Speaking of free-radical damage in No. 1 above, one of the major contributors of free radical damage is UV radiation.)
Enemy No. 3: Eating Too Much Sugar
Having too much sugar in our diet breaks down the support structure and leads to loss of firmness and elasticity of the skin. Our body metabolizes the sugars we eat for energy. The excess that isn’t burned as fuel can play a role in the deterioration of the skin. According to Dr. Perricone, sugar “causes inflammation that destroys our bodies and attaches to collagen, which results in stiff, inflexible, sagging skin.” Cutting back on refined sugars is an important lifestyle change in order to maintain youthfulness.
Enemy No. 4: Smoking
We all know that smoking isn’t good for you. Both firsthand and secondhand smoke leads to damage to our health. Besides being a major risk for lung cancer, strokes, and heart disease, smoking accelerates aging both inside and out. It increases facial lines and wrinkles and it delays skin healing. If you want to live long and healthy, you should avoid smoking at all costs.