26/09/2014 12:57 BST | Updated 26/11/2014 05:59 GMT

Six Ways to Age Slowly


Image source:

I have always been interested in how we age as one side of my family lived well into their 90's and the other side only into their 60's. This huge difference was something I was acutely aware of growing up. Was the difference simply down to genes, or was lifestyle also a factor? Of course, I wanted to live a long and healthy life. It felt like I had to pick which side to follow.

The two sides couldn't be any further apart in terms of how they lived their lives, with the short-lived side heavy smokers with a very unhealthy diet of processed food and microwaved meals. The longer-lived side were more active, despite being much older, and cooked from scratch. The good thing is I decided I would never smoke after visiting my grandparents' and the lounge full of smoke. Thankfully, that was enough to put me off for life.

Fortunately, how many years you live for is determined 70% by your lifestyle, and only 30% by genetics. So, your genetics are important but your lifestyle plays a much bigger role.

In the UK women live on average until they are 82.5 years old, and men until they are 79.5 years. This is quite low when you consider the human body is designed to last around 120 years and the longest lived person, Jeanne Calment, passed away at 122 years old.

As you would imagine, Jeanne had some really healthy habits, for example she was still riding her bicycle at one hundred years old. You get the feeling people tend to use their advancing age as an excuse not to exercise, when in fact, most people are more than capable of doing something.

If lifestyle is the main determinant of life expectancy, why are we living around forty years less than the human body is designed to live? What are the key anti-ageing lifestyle factors?


Image source:

If you want to age slowly you want to have long telomeres; the shorter your telomeres the shorter your life. Telomeres are the tips at the ends of your chromosomes which protect your genetic material from getting damaged. As we age our telomeres tend to get shorter as a tiny bit of them is used up each time your cells divide. However you can lengthen your telomeres, and slow the rate you age, by promoting telomerase, an enzyme which helps lengthen the telomeres. The good news is simple lifestyle changes can increase your telomerase.


Image source:

1. Make sure you are well nourished:

The following nutrients are all needed for telomerase; these nutrients help telomeres lengthen by reducing inflammation and oxidative damage: folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin E, zinc, iron, and magnesium.

It is better to get these nutrients from natural food rather than a vitamin tablet. A good way of getting this level of nutrition is to make fresh juices at home.

It is also important to avoid refined sugar if you want to slow how you age. Refined sugar is an anti-nutrient which means it takes more nutrients from your body than it gives. Refined sugar is also inflammatory which can shorten your telomeres. Check out ingredients and avoid food or drinks with added sugar.

2. Supplement with co-enzyme q10:

Co-enzyme q10 is used by every cell in your body to produce energy and reduce the signs of ageing. Premature ageing is one primary side effect of having too little co-enzyme q10 because this essential vitamin recycles other antioxidants, such as vitamin C and E. As we age it becomes harder for the body to convert co-enzyme q10 into it's reduced from, ubiquinol. So, if you are older than 25 years old, supplement with ubiquinol not co-enzyme q10, as this form your body can utilise. Co-enzyme q10 deficiency also accelerates DNA damage, promotes fatigue, muscle weakness, and heart failure.


Image source:

3. Try high intensity exercise:

High intensity exercise has been found to protect your telomere length because it helps reduce your stress load; high stress shortens your telomeres. Ideal exercises include running, cycling, swimming, circuit training, or strength training. If you are new to exercise, and it feels overwhelming, find a good personal trainer to work with you. Everyone needs to exercise to keep healthy, the benefits of exercise are far reaching.

4. Do intermittent fasting:

Intermittent fasting is a way to increase the length of your telomeres. You gain the benefits of fasting after eighteen hours without food, which is not long considering if you eat your dinner at 6pm you can eat your next meal at 12 midday, so you are only skipping breakfast. You can also lengthen your telomeres simply by eating less food. Studies have shown that animals who ate 30 percent fewer calories also lived about 30% longer than those that ate more.


Image source:

5. Reduce your stress load:

Chronic stress can shorten your telomeres so it is important to de-stress to lengthen them. Meditation can help lengthen telomeres, and qi gong and tai chi are also good options to reduce stress. If you feel you have too much stress in your life, it is important to look at ways of reducing it.

6. Detoxify your body:

Over time our bodies can become toxic. Detoxing your body helps it get rid of the toxins which can reduce inflammation and lengthen your telomeres. Eating organic food is a good way to reduce your toxic load. If you think your body's toxic load is high you can detox your liver through coffee enemas or via a liver flush.

The next time you want to buy some anti-aging face cream in the hope it will slow down ageing, buy a vegetable juice, enrol on a qi gong class, or start to exercise instead. Or you could buy the face cream; the choice if yours.

Lorna Balfour is a personal trainer, lifestyle coach, and new mum