It begins with an attitude. We all know someone who measures 'old' in calendar years but who lights up a room with her ageless, beautiful presence. She's happy in her skin, she lives life to the full, and she's a stickler for basic principles of good health.
A recent nationwide survey conducted by Priceline Pharmacy revealed that the average 'health age' of Aussie women runs about six years older than their 'real' age. The study highlighted several key areas we tend to neglect that contribute to our older health age.
You know what's crazy? The things we do - or don't do - that age us faster are things we can control and change. More than good luck or good genes, true beauty comes down to basic good management. The real trick is in valuing yourself enough to make your physical health and wellbeing a priority. The rest takes care of itself.
Know your numbers
According to the survey, 70 per cent of Australians don't know their cholesterol levels and 55 per cent don't know their blood pressure, including many who have a family history of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Why it's ageing: Chronic high blood pressure and/or elevated cholesterol puts you at greater risk of heart disease. You can't see or feel either condition, so knowing your numbers gives you the upper hand when it comes to managing them. You may need to make subtle (or great) lifestyle changes or even begin a medication regimen. Knowledge is power!
Fix it: A fasting blood test determines cholesterol levels. Your GP should take your blood pressure at every visit but you can also purchase a monitor to use at home. If it's been a while since your last full check up, schedule a visit. Be proactive, not reactive!
There's good stress - the kind that gets you fired up and motivated - and there's the kind that feels like a noose around your neck and adds about a decade to your face and body.
Why it's ageing: Chronic stress can compromise everything from mental wellbeing to immune function, as well as reproductive, respiratory, digestive and musculoskeletal health.
Fix it: Identify your negative stressors and work to manage them or remove them. Restructure insane schedules, become a smarter delegator, work less, play more, and be honest about your needs within relationships both personal and professional. It may even mean a complete sea change. Remember, one life.
Want to look and feel 10 years younger without spending a cent? Have a good sleep, then get more of it.
Why it's ageing: Insufficient sleep ages us faster than just about anything else. Long term, it makes us less focused, more irritable, more prone to illness and weight gain, more likely to make poor decisions, and did we mention the sallow skin and puffy, baggy eyes?
Fix it: Whatever it takes, work out a way to get more quality shut-eye. Squeaking by on very little sleep each night doesn't make you a hero, it makes you a walking time bomb who looks and feels older than you should.
Like sleep, exercise is one of life's great regenerators, and is a wonderful gift to give yourself. It gets your blood pumping, endorphins rushing, muscles flexing and fat burning. It's a dose of happy for your brain and body, and who doesn't need that?
Why it's ageing: A sedentary lifestyle can lead to poor muscle tone, poor circulation, general sluggishness and low moods. On the flip side, being more active ramps up vivacity and energy, which greatly enhances youthfulness.
Fix it: Make a solemn vow and promise to be more active every day. Not next month or next year, but now. You will find you feel the body and soul benefits almost immediately.
What you put into your mouth matters! Nourish your body like the glorious temple it is, and it will repay you with glowing good health and looks.
Why it's ageing: A consistently poor, low-nutrition diet can lead to obesity, illness, conditions like osteoporosis, and skin and hair problems.
Fix it: Limit overly processed, fat-, salt- and sugar-laden foods, and introduce more whole, fresh foods along with lean protein, oily fish and dairy into your diet. The less processed a food is, the greater its benefit to you. Take time to explore your local greengrocer, use the internet to seek out delicious recipes, and never shortchange yourself when it comes to food.