Published June 15, 2011
In our youth-obsessed society, most of us are on a constant quest to figure out what food, which exercises and which products can help us look younger longer as well as extend our lives. Here we debunk the 10 most widely believed aging myths. Read on to figure out what you have control over in terms of aging, as well as what works and what doesn't when it comes to battling time.
1. Losing weight is harder as you age
One aging and metabolism myth: While your metabolism may dip with each passing year, you can't necessarily blame any ensuing weight-loss difficulties on your age. If you aren't on a low-fat or low-calorie diet, for example, losing weight will be difficult. Similarly, low-sodium diets can make it easier to shed pounds because it increases water retention. Finally, gaining weight is one of the side effects often associated with meds prescribed to older adults, so once you've balanced out your diet, have a discussion with your doctor about what you can do to counteract any lingering unwanted pounds.
2. Excessive use of hair products causes hair loss
Piling on hair products can definitely make your hair brittle, gunky and unappealing for women to touch, but abusing products like gel, hairspray, mousse, and wax won't actually cause hair loss. The reason is that hair growth is dictated by your hair follicles and, given that hair products don't penetrate deeply into your scalp, they won't interfere with hair growth. For healthy-looking hair, however, we recommend using minimal amounts of any hair product to achieve your desired style.
3. Hair loss comes from your mother's side
Whether or not you're destined to lose your hair does come down to a matter of genetics. The belief, however, that the gene for hair loss comes from your mother's side of the family is false. So, while the opportunity to embrace baldness is a hereditary trait, you should examine both sides of your family tree in order to get an idea of what might be in store for your locks as you age.
4. Low-intensity exercise is better for people over 50
Although any form of physical activity is good for you and is certainly better than sitting in front of your television, it's not true that as you age you should engage in less-demanding activities. Many people erroneously believe this myth because they fear that high-intensity exercise will lead to injury. Not exercising, however, is actually more likely to damage your health as vigorous exercise is linked to improved cardiovascular conditioning and will help you prevent a heart attack and ward off diseases, like diabetes, associated with carrying around excess weight.
5. Diet supplements slow aging
Despite the fact that Americans spend billions of dollars annually on supplements marketed as fountains of youth in pill form, scientific evidence that any of these products actually slow down aging is severely lacking. In fact, independent research has consistently demonstrated no link between improved health and downing vitamins, enzymes and much more. Worse, in addition to being questionably effective, many of these products have not been proven safe for regular consumption. To ensure you're getting all the nutrients your body needs, improve the quality of the food you consume, rather than popping pills.
6. Muscle loss is inevitable
It's common to believe that once you hit 40, you can expect to begin noticeably losing muscle mass with each passing year. A Canadian study comparing active adults between the ages of 53 and 75 with sedentary adults of the same age found that the physically active group had muscle cells that functioned nearly as efficiently as those of 20-somethings. The take-home message here is that a sedentary lifestyle may be more to blame for the loss of muscle mass after 40 than the aging process itself.
7. There's no need for sunscreen in the winter
Even on cloudy days, UV radiation reaches the Earth's surface, meaning it can penetrate your skin, leading to premature aging. As such, there's more to worry about than summer skin care. In the battle to prevent skin cancer and the sun in general, it's therefore important to use an SPF 30 sunscreen on skin that is exposed to the elements every day, including those for which the forecast is rain._________________________________________________________________________
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8. Paler skin ages faster
To date, doctors and scientists have found no rock-solid evidence that paler skin ages at a faster rate than darker skin. The darker your skin, however, the more melanin you have to protect your cells from sun damage, which ages skin. Additionally, because it tends to be on the drier side, fairer skin is more likely to show fine lines and wrinkles. If your skin is very pale, your master plan for remaining youthful-looking should include using moisturizer and sunscreen religiously and donning a hat that shields your face when you're out in the sun.
9. Moisturizing products reverse the signs of aging
While scientists are definitely on the case, there are presently no topically applied products available on the market that actually allow your skin cells to time travel to the past. Rather, what the best moisturizers and serums do is increase your cell-turnover rate so that the upper layer of your epidermis looks fresher and, by extension, younger. Also, because moisturizers smooth and plump your skin, reducing dryness, fine lines on your face are less apparent to the naked eye. Furthermore, when sunscreen has been added to a moisturizer, it will help prevent future aging by blocking damaging UV rays.
10. Genes determine how fast you age
One of the biggest misconceptions about aging is that how fast and how well you age are largely determined by genetics. While what your parents gave you will affect tissue degeneration throughout your body, external factors exert a massive influence on the aging process. This news is good because it means you have more control than you may have thought over what you look like now and in the future. To reduce the impact of environmental factors associated with aging, limit unprotected sun exposure, eat a balanced diet, don't be a couch potato, and decrease your contact with pollutants.