Science-based anti-aging strategies can help you turn back the clock by up to two decades—without surgery, reports a new book, 20 Years Younger, by fitness guru Bob Greene, Oprah Winfrey’s personal trainer, and a team of experts. The coauthors are Beverly Hills dermatologist Harold Lancer, Tufts University nutritionist Diane McKay, Ph.D. and Ronald Kotler, MD, medical director of Pennsylvania Hospital Sleep Disorders Center.
The book’s rejuvenating program is based on four “pillars” designed to help readers shed stress, decrease or erase wrinkles, boost mental sharpness, and rev up energy. According to the authors, incorporating these pillars—the right nutrition, exercise, skin care and adequate sleep—in your life may slow down the effects of aging, so you look and feel younger than your true age. Here’s a look at six anti-aging lessons that I learned from the program:
1. Select superfoods. Certain nutrient-dense foods can reduce the risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases. Among those that Greene and his team recommend are blueberries, almonds, sweet potatoes, and olive oil. They also advise covering half your plate with brightly colored fruits and vegetables, which are packed with antioxidants and micronutrients, a strategy that’s helped me shed 22 pounds since these foods are also filling. Recent studies find that berries lower the threat of developing high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease and dementia, while nuts and olive oil both help ward off heart disease, the leading killer of Americans.
2. Limit yourself to 1,700 calories a day. Eating less is one of the best ways to extend life, since all too many of us dig our graves with a knife and fork: Up to half of heart disease cases, one-third of cancer cases, and up to 90 percent of type 2 diabetes cases are linked to excess weight. Conversely, populations with a low-calorie diet have the world’s highest rates of centenarians. In Okinawa, Japan, for example, so many people live past 100 that there’s an ongoing study of their healthy habits, which include a cultural tradition called “hara hachi bu” (only eating until they feel 80 percent full).
3. Walk uphill. According to Greene, an exercise physiologist, fitness should literally be an uphill battle, since using a flat treadmill is similar to walking downhill. You don’t get enough of a workout to rev up your metabolism the rest of the day, a key goal of a healthy workout. (The book advises at least 200 minutes of cardio per week, plus weight lifting to strengthen the core.) My trainer also recommends walking sideways on a slanted treadmill—try it and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you start to feel the burn!
4. Use sunscreen daily. Having lost my father to melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, I commend Greene for advocating the use of sunscreen for both prevention of skin cancer and premature wrinkles brought on by baking in the sun’s rays. The program includes a three-step facial rejuvenating plan: exfoliating with a dime-sized dab of skin polish, cleansing with an upward circular motion, and using an antioxidant-rich nourisher. Oprah claims that after following this routine for a few weeks, she noticed visible improvement.
5. Slim down by sleeping more. Up to 70 million Americans don’t get the seven to nine hours of sleep a night necessary for optimal health. Not only does that raise risk for heart attacks and diabetes, but it can also make us fat. Getting more rest is literally a dream diet, according to Dr. Kotler, because as we sleep, our bodies produce an appetite-suppressing chemical called leptin, making it easier to avoid overeating during the day.
6. Dim the lights at night. One bad habit that robs us of rest—and I admit that I’m a chronic offender—is using a computer (or watching TV) late a night, because the bright light from the screen tricks the brain into being wakeful instead of slowing down for shut-eye at bedtime. The sleep secret he advises may sound drastic: Get rid of all lights in the bedroom, except for a dim safety light. However, given the life-extending benefits of adequate sleep, it may be worth a try, much as my night owl nature resists this commonsense solution.
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