What is Anti-Aging?

Today’s media is all a buzz with the term ‘Anti-aging’, which technically is anything (products, services, and activities) that directly works to retard the effects of aging.  Although anti-aging started with the healthcare model promoting innovative science and research to prolong a healthy human lifespan, it has evolved into something much more encompassing.  This scientific, evidence-based, well-documented area of health currently boasts well over 1,300 peer-reviewed articles within the U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Furthermore, according to The Economist magazine, anti-aging has grown to $160 billion-a-year global industry encompassing make-up, skin and hair care, fragrances, cosmetic surgery, health clubs, and diet pills.

The main focus of anti-aging is on the preventive model, which contains two primary facets namely, ‘what to do’ and ‘what not to do’.  Such do’s and don’ts, are enlisted to minimize the signs of aging, and to reduce the speed of aging.  These practices, protocols, and regimens all of which contain a variety of subgroups such as foods, exercise, medications, skin care products, etc., support the anti-aging healthcare model.  Often divided into two primary categories anti-aging is viewed as:  1) external – outside the body, i.e., face, neck, skin complexion, hair, body fat, etc.; and 2) internal – inside the body, i.e., organs, arteries, hormonal and cholesterol levels, intestines, blood pressure, colon, etc.  However, it is best not to think of anti-aging as two rigidly separate categories, because they are not mutually exclusively.  Quite the contrary, only a few anti-aging practices are distinctly internal or external in affect.  Anti-aging is actually much more holistic, consisting of several shared properties and factors which contribute to the entire bodily system.  For example, the same foods that deliver vitamins and minerals to provide internal anti-aging benefits such as strong bones, lower blood pressure, better eye sight, and reduced risk of disease, etc. also provide external benefits like a clearer complexion, lower body fat, brighter eyes, tighter skin, healthier scalp and hair, etc.  Similarly, resisting bad habits like smoking protects against unnecessary internal negatives like reducing fertility, increasing the risk of cancer, and weakening the heart, lungs, bones, and respiratory output, while simultaneously promoting external negatives such as the brown nicotine-staining of the hard palate, teeth, fingers, and fingernails, as well as the loss of skin collagen which promotes premature skin wrinkling, dry skin, and the weakening of connective tissues.  So although anti-aging is often discussed in two parts, it is important to remember that there is much overlap making this practice and its resulting benefits systemic.

Anti-Aging and Skin

Probably the most revered external anti-aging component is that of skin care.  Ironically, even more valuable than the 2012 Goldman Sachs estimated $42 billion global beauty industry (consisting of skin care worth $24 billion and make-up worth $18 billion) is the anti-aging knowledge of which activities and habits participate in and not to participate in.  The following top dermatologists recommended practices are a blend of what to do and what not to do to help keep skin healthy and youthful, the first three of which also provide great internal and general anti-aging benefits as well:

  • Don’t smoke, as smoking is quite possibly the worst internal and external aging practice there is.  Smoking speeds up the rate at which the body breaks down vital collagen and elastin causing saggy skin throughout the body.  By constricting blood vessels smoking prevents optimal skin oxygenation and nutrient shuttling which manifests itself in a variety of ways including premature drying and wrinkling of the skin, and yellowing of the nails and fingertips.  From an internal aging perspective smoking reduces respiratory capacity (endurance and activeness), weakens the heart, lungs, and bones, reduces fertility, and of course increases the risk of smoking related forms of cancer, most prominently lung and esophageal cancers.
  • Do not participate in yo-yo dieting, and other harmful eating practices.  Poor eating practices such as yo-yo dieting, unsustainable fad dieting extremes, along with eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa cause stress on multiple bodily systems which in turn damages hair, and nails, while stretching skin causing it to lose elasticity which promotes skin flaps, sagging of skin (especially on the face, neck, arms, thighs, and torso), and stretch marks.  These negative practices also cause the metabolism to stall making body fat gain more likely, and body fat loss more difficult.
  • Avoid consuming too much alcohol either through routine or binge drinking, as alcohol:  accelerates the aging process; damages liver cells; acts as a neurotoxin which (according to numerous clinical studies) causes premature and/or accelerated aging of the brain that can damage the brain’s frontal lobes resulting in a condition now known as Alcohol Related Dementia wherein the sufferer experiences Alzheimer-like symptoms; weakens the immune system; depletes calcium by interfering with the body’s ability to absorb calcium which increases the risk of brittle bone syndrome and osteoporosis; is notoriously dehydrating, which ages skin more rapidly promoting deeper lines and facial wrinkles while increasing the rate at which the body excretes water thereby reducing the absorption of nutrients vital to healthy skin; dilates blood vessels (causing them to widen) producing flushed skin, broken capillaries and producing rosacea – a skin disorder marked by redness and tiny bumps; depletes the skin of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids) all of which negatively impacts skin’s ability to retain moisture, resist inflammation, and replenish cells and collagen for sustained elasticity; and increases unnecessary calories which promote excess weight and fat gain.
  • Wear hats, caps, sun-visors, and sun-protective clothing in conjunction with sunscreen.  Broad brim hats are best and offer the most face and neck protection.  Sun protection clothing, which looks the same as regular clothes but are specially treated to provide at least SPF 30 protection against UVB and UVA are a good choice for those who spend excessive amounts of time outdoors.
  • Apply sunscreen routinely and liberally when outside for extended periods regardless of the season.  Many people falsely believe that the sun’s rays are only harmful during direct glaring exposure on hot days, but the American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a sunscreen, which at least protects against UVA and UVB rays with a minimal SPF of 30.  The better products cite ‘broad-spectrum’ on the label and list such ingredients as avobenzone, mexoryl, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide.  If participating in water activities, the sunscreen should also offer water resistance.
  • Use antioxidants and skin treatments.  The most basic skin care routine is washing with a gentle cleanser and applying a day and night moisturizer.  However, serums containing peptides and antioxidants can also be an effective part of this regimen.  The best serums contain grape seed extract, resveratrol, green tea, and vitamins A, C, and E.  Skin treatments may aid with sun damage in the same way that they help with acne scars, and the most popular are laser treatments, microdermabrasion, and light peels.
  • Always reapply sunscreen as directed on the label.  For starters, most people don’t apply enough sunscreen, which should be done so liberally.  Not even the best protectant is going to work if enough of it isn’t properly applied.  Additionally, one should reapply sunscreen every one to three hours, depending on the amount of sweating, swimming, or direct sun exposure.  It is a mistake to think that a single application is completely protective.
  • Resist the urge to tan, both indoors and outdoors.  One of the single biggest mistakes people make, especially young women, is intentionally tanning.  The practice of tanning literally damages the skin with ultraviolet radiation, which causes cumulative premature age, and too much sun can damage collagen and elastin promoting skin discoloration, as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.  Today’s sunless tanners are highly effective, and come in variety of sprays, gels, creams, lotions, and wipes.
  • Wear sunglasses.  This is the single best way to protect eyes and the delicate area surrounding them from the sun.  UV protective sunglasses are best, and bigger glasses cover a greater surface.

Anti-Aging Topical Products

Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-aging products are a multi-billion dollar industry to which even young customers who wish to prevent the aging process greatly contribute.  New evidence-based anti-aging topical cosmetic products (creams, lotions, oils, etc.) often referred to as cosmeceuticals, have burst on the marketing scene in a big way.  The vast majority of such products boast a variety of both classic and obscure ingredients for combating skin-aging, in particular antioxidants like vitamin C, niacinamide, polyphenols, and flavonoids, as well as known cell regulators such as retinol, peptides, and growth factors.

Although, many OTC products advertise dramatic results, there has been relatively little hard scientific data to support these claims.  One UCLA study reviewed the literature on ingredients commonly found in OTC anti-aging creams and concluded that although many different compounds are marketed as anti-aging products, studies proving their efficacy is limited.  So what actually works?  Evidence based research demonstrates that vitamin C and alpha-hydroxy acids possess solid anti-aging capabilities, while vitamin A and vitamin B derivatives provide only promising effects thus far.  While many studies show that moisturizing creams, lotions, and oils have been shown to increase skin hydration and improve the overall appearance of skin, others indicate that pentapeptides can be effective in decreasing facial wrinkles and roughness, and still other studies indicate that ingredients such as botanicals require significantly more research to reach reliable and valid conclusions regarding the efficacy of their topical application.

Anti-Aging Medications

Documented research clearly demonstrates that hormones play an important role in how individuals both function and feel.  It is also true that the secretion vital hormones, most notably sex hormones, slows with aging but can be lower than normal throughout the lifespan, due to various other reasons.  Such truths have given birth to yet another huge money making industry, that of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  In its most generic form, HRT can be related to any bodily hormone, but it most often refers to the use of synthetic estrogen plus progestin/progesterone for the treatment of perimenopausal symptoms in women.  The inverse of which is testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), which refers primarily to the use of synthetic testosterone for the treatment of hypogonadic symptoms in men, and secondarily for use in women.  The third most common form of HRT is that of thyroid hormones, which help regulate the way the body uses energy.  Synthetic thyroid hormones are prescribed when the thyroid is over- or under-performing, due to a variety of possible causes.

HRT medications are synthetic estrogen hormones, which are prescribed when there is a deficiency in the production of natural estrogen.  Most often found in the form of creams, pills, patches, and interuterine devices these medications are used to increase estrogen levels in menopausal and post-menopausal women, as well as in younger women with perimenopausal symptoms which hinder their quality of life.  More specifically, HRT is effective in:

  • Helping to stabilize mood, energy levels, and to improve general well-being
  • Reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes, moodiness, and sleep complications related to hormone changes
  • Maintaining the lining of the vagina, which in turn reduces irritation
  • Increasing skin collagen and elastin, which are responsible for the elasticity in skin and connective tissues
  • Helping to slow bone loss and increase in bone density, which aids in preventing osteoporosis and fractures
  • Reducing tooth loss, gum disease, and the risk of other dental problems

TRT medications are various synthetic testosterone preparations, which are prescribed when there is a deficiency in the production of natural testosterone.  Most often found in the form of creams, patches, and injectable solutions these medications are used to increase testosterone levels in men experiencing andropause (male menopause), as well as in younger men with hypogonadic symptoms, which hinder their quality of life.  More specifically, TRT is effective in:

  • Increasing sexual desire/libido
  • Reversing erectile dysfunction – the inability to become adequately sexually aroused or to achieve and sustain erections during intercourse
  • Increase sperm count, motility, and potency
  • Reduce insomnia and improve the quality of sleep
  • Decrease body fat
  • Increase muscle mass, strength, and bone density
  • Improve energy levels
  • Increase motivation and self-confidence
  • Enhance mental clarity and concentration
  • Improve memory
  • Improve mood and reduce mood swings, unwarranted feelings of sadness, loneliness, and depression

Thyroid hormones help regulate the way the body uses energy.  Synthetic thyroid hormones are prescribed when thyroidal secretion is too far below normal (hypothyroidism) or above normal (hyperthyroidism).  Most often found in the form of tablets, and oral solutions thyroid medications, depending on the cause of thyroidal production problem, may need to be taken for a lifetime or may correct the condition permitting eventual discontinuation.  These medications are effective in treating the symptoms of both:

1) Hypothyroidism

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Decreased libido
  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
  • Coarse, dry hair
  • Dry, rough, pale skin
  • Hair loss
  • Cold intolerance

2) Hyperthyroidism characterized by

  • Fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Fast heart rate
  • Trembling hands
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Warm moist skin
  • Hair loss
  • Staring gaze
  • Heat intolerance
  • Nervousness
  • Insomnia
  • Breathlessness
  • Increased bowel movements
  • Light or absent menstrual periods

Anti-Aging and Exercise

Saving the best for last, and long viewed as the most beneficial and least expensive anti-aging method, exercise is still number one.  Participating in routine physical exercise to be healthy and stay fit is important, but exercise is also central to any anti-aging regimen because it can help fight the natural slowing of different systems throughout the body.

There are three basic types of exercise programs, specifically cardiovascular/aerobic exercise, weight or resistance training/anaerobic exercise, and stretching/flexibility exercise.  A solid anti-aging exercise regimen should be performed a few times a week, and should contain components from each of the three types of exercise because each possesses unique benefits:

  • Cardiovascular exercises like walking, running, playing sports, etc. support and maintain a strong and healthy heart, which enhances nourishing blood flow to throughout the body to repair and replenish organs, tissues, and cells. 
  • Resistances training such as weight training, body weight exercises, and band weight exercises promote bodily health, improve vital sex hormone secretion, and increases bone density. 
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises promote injury resistance, increase balance and range of motion, reduce lactic acid build-up, speeds muscle recovery, and elevate IGF-1 levels. 

There are a variety of exercise groups to choose from including team and individual sports, plyometrics, yoga, martial arts, etc., all of which contribute in their own ways to holistic health.  For example, the traditional Chinese exercise tai chi combines slower movements and mind concentration to focus on motion for reducing stress and increasing balance, flexibility, and endurance has been demonstrated to increase the lifespan.  In a study from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee Dr. Xianglan Zhang’s research concluded that Chinese men who practiced tai chi were less likely to die over a 5-year period than men who didn’t exercise at all.  Tai chi, and all exercises, can be practiced alone, with a training partner, in a group/class, or with a personal trainer.  Furthermore, the benefits of routine exercise are innumerable as exercise:

  • Reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack, diabetes, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and obesity
  • Increases life expectancy; studies have shown that routinely exercising 65 year olds can expect an additional 12.7 years of healthy life, i.e., live disability-free until age 77.7, and that highly active 65 year olds can add an additional 5.7 years of remain disability free until age 83
  • Increases energy levels, improves mood, decreases fatigue and exhaustion
  • Enhances sexual enjoyment and capacity via better respiratory conditioning and circulation
  • Improves the quality of sleep quality, and some researchers have found that morning exercise helps to better set the body’s clock each day promoting greater daily alertness and deeper sleep
  • Helps prevent cognitive impairment; keeps the brain sharp for better concentration, decision-making, and strategy development while reducing the risk of dementia and cognitive decline
  • Improves the immune system, making one more resistant to catching colds and helping them recover quicker from sickness
  • Reduces the risk of falls and bone fractures by helping to maintain equilibrium (the sense of balance), which naturally diminishes with age

Anti-Aging and Diet 

As evidenced above, and should be overtly apparent by now, anti-aging is best viewed as a group of whole body practices that return whole body results.  Nowhere is this truth more obvious than in the area of diet.  Of course eating the right foods helps nourish the body, but a healthy diet can also make one look better (external benefits) and feel better (internal benefits) as it effectively slows the aging process throughout the body.

Dietarily speaking, the best anti-aging diet is one in which the individual is as aware of what to eat liberally and why, as he or she is of which to foods to limit.


  • Drinking plenty of water will help prevent dehydration – a condition that can drain energy and cause skin to dry out.  If exercise is long and/or intense, or if work is outdoors in excessive heat, be sure to periodically supplement water with a good source of electrolytes.
  • The fortified vitamin D and calcium in dairy foods are vital to strong bones, which helps prevent osteoporosis.
  • Fatty acids found in all varieties of nuts are among the healthiest in nature.  One study demonstrated that snacking on nuts reduced the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure by approximately 20%.
  • Consuming whole grains rich in fiber like oats, quinoa, barley, wheat, and brown rice lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and keeps blood vessels in peak condition.
  • Foods dense in specific nutrients can protect vision and hearing, preserve memory and defend against Alzheimer’s.  Consuming a healthy, well-rounded diet is one of the best anti-aging practices.
  • Omega fatty acids in fish and flaxseed oils protect the heart by reducing the risk of stroke.
  • Beans and lentils provide high concentrations of plant-based protein, serving as a viable alternative to red meat, which is linked to heart disease and diabetes.
  • The antioxidants in richly colored fruits and vegetables, like berries, carrots, leafy greens, and tomatoes help stop hazardous molecules (free radicals) from damaging healthy cells.  Three particular antioxidants known as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and zinc help protect against the leading cause of blindness in adults over 65 years of age, a condition called macular degeneration.
  • Consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and nuts serve to protect against many chronic conditions including diabetes and heart disease.  By keeping blood vessels in top shape, these and other foods support heart health as well as that of every organ in the body.  Additionally, the consumption of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, collard, and mustard greens have even been shown to slow the progression of such conditions in people who already possess them.  A 2010 study of subjects who consumed lots of yellow and green vegetables benefited from enhanced vitamin C which preserves skin by promoting fewer wrinkles.
  • The potent antioxidant resveratrol, abundantly found in grapes and red wine, helps reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, and premature aging.  Continue reading below. 


  • Consuming too much salt, a form of sodium, can increase blood pressure, which can be quite damaging to the body, in particularly the kidneys, eyes, and brain.  Limiting sodium intake to 2,400 milligrams a day, approximately 1 teaspoon of table salt is a sound practice.  It is also wise to become a label reader, one who checks nutritional value labels for the sodium content, especially within canned, frozen, and boxed foods.
  • Consuming too much sugar can cause peaks and valleys in energy levels (blood sugar concentrations) and has been proven to lead to insulin resistance, which can result in type 2 diabetes – a condition that damages blood vessels and often leads to heart disease.
  • Minimize the consumption of foods that are high in fat such as certain meats, dairy, and a wide variety of bakery products.  The saturated fat found in these foods can clog arteries, which can lead to heart problems. 


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