You can’t turn back time, but you can protect your body against it. Conquer the early-warning signs of ageing and you’ll stay at your physical peak for longer. There’s lots of ways to take care of your body and slow down your ageing. Here’s what you should look out for in various body parts, and how to keep in them in tip-top shape.
Your wake-up call: A dull ache the day after a heavy cardio session. “The muscles supporting your vertebrae naturally weaken from your mid-twenties on, leading to slumping and trapped nerves if you don’t act,” says osteopath Garry Trainer.
Your clock-stopper: Invest in a straight-backed chair and a stability ball for work and take turns sitting on both. The stability ball constantly works the stabilising abdominal muscles supporting your spine, and the straight-backed chair will force you not to slump. Plus it’ll stop you falling asleep at work, too.
Your wake-up call: Holding your iPod at arm’s length to check your playlist, plus increasingly last-gasp highway turn-offs. Both are signs of age-related macular degeneration. “This occurs when your retinal cells stop taking in enough vital nutrients, and fail to clear damaging by-products,” says professor Andrew Lotery of the ophthalmology department at Southampton University.
Your clock-stopper: Visit your optician and eat right. “Load up on orange foods rich in beta-carotene such as sweet potatoes, carrots and apricots—all shown to boost blood flow to your retinal cells and speed healing,” says Lotery. Cheese-flavoured orange chips don’t count.
Your wake-up call: Spots or crusty skin patches that are as annoyingly persistent as peroxided boy bands. “Any that change shape or appearance should ring alarm bells,” says dermatologist Nick Lowe.
Your clock-stopper: Annual cover. “Deeper-penetrating UVA light gets through thick clouds, so is a silent skin ager,” says Lowe. Get a decent moisturiser with a high SPF of at least 25 and jump off that Keith Richards fast track now.
Your wake-up call: Feeling like your mouth’s attached to the mains when you sip tea. “Your protective enamel layer gets thinner with age, so the nerves are more exposed,” says dentist Dr Phil Stemmer.
Your clock-stopper: “Brush your teeth before breakfast and spit, don’t rinse, as this washes away fluoride,” says Stemmer. “Don’t brush after drinking fruit juice either—the acid temporarily weakens enamel.”
Your wake-up call: Swelling that’s the envy of other body parts. “Knee problems cause extra synovial fluid to flow in to protect the joint,” says physiotherapist Paula Coates. The most common complaint is “runner’s knee”— when the knee cap gets misaligned and grates rather than glides over the end of your thigh bone.
Your clock-stopper: Before exercise, stretch your IT (iliotibial) band. “Stand with your legs crossed and feet side by side, then bend over and stretch towards your toes,” says Coates. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each leg.