No woman wants to think about getting old. Everyone is looking for the ‘secret’ of how to look younger.
Ageing gracefully does not necessarily mean turning back time to how you looked in your 20s. It is about enjoying life in your best physical and mental shape possible, at 40, at 50, at 60 or beyond.
Ageing is a certainty for all women, but how gracefully you ease into older age depends on the choices you make right now, whatever age you are.
Women might spend thousands of pounds on anti-ageing creams, products and even surgery to look younger.
Some of the most cost-effective and potent ‘elixirs of youth’ are diet, exercise and lifestyle change
Here we discuss the causes of ageing for women, and what you can do to slow down the ageing process naturally.
What makes women age?
Ageing is a life-long process and an inevitability for everyone. However, external lifestyle factors can determine the degree and how fast we age.
1. Oxidative stress
Many natural processes in our bodies, such as breathing and digesting food, produce harmful toxins known as free radicals. Our body’s natural antioxidant system will usually destroy these. If our body cannot detoxify them, free radicals can damage cells and tissues, making us look and feel older.
Our diet, lifestyle and environment play a key role in oxidative stress . Some factors are everyday things we just do not think about, like pollution, radiation, certain medications, pesticides, and industrial chemicals.
Biological changes such as menopause also play a key role in how women age. The ovaries produce less estrogen during this time, and a woman’s periods may become lighter and more irregular . Before menopause, women are better equipped to fight off oxidative stress due to estrogen’s strong antioxidant effects .
A woman’s experience of menopause is very individual. While one woman may breeze through menopause, for another, it may completely change how she looks, feels and performs.
While some women embrace ageing, many find themselves feeling depressed, demoralised and ashamed of the changes in their bodies .
Ladies, do not despair; there are things you can do to take back control!
TV presenter Alison transformed her ‘post-menopausal midriff’ training with weights at the age of 58.
How to age well as a woman
1. Eat a healthy diet
Studies have shown that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and olive oil are beneficial for improving your physical appearance. The antioxidants in these foods and the fact that they are high in Vitamin D and Calcium helps maintain bone and muscle tissue.
2. Exercise regularly
If you want to get rid of the dreaded ‘tummy tyre,’ resistance training is one of the most effective means of maintaining healthy body composition and decreasing the risks of bone loss and muscular strength that come with ageing . Especially for post-menopausal women, resistance training can be highly beneficial in counteracting the decrease in insulin sensitivity .
As you age, you are also more likely to move less through the day, so moving more in general and increasing your daily step count can complement resistance training to help you maintain a healthy body weight and body composition .
3. Look after your skin
The part you’ve been waiting for! Of course, we all want to know how to maintain a youthful glow for as long as possible. While you can’t stop the clock altogether, you can improve the appearance of your complexion through lifestyle and diet.
There are two types of skin ageing:
- Chronological ageing, which results from time alone.
- Photoaging, caused by chronic sun exposure .
Photoaging results in dryness of the skin, irregular pigmentation or freckles, wrinkles, and a loss of elasticity.
There are two straightforward ways to boost your daily glow. Use a high-SPF sunscreen daily on your face and decolletage, and increase your intake of foods high in antioxidants such as cinnamon extract, curcumin, and resveratrol (which is found mainly in the skin of grapes and berries) .
4. Plug any nutritional gaps with supplements
While most of your nutrients should come from your diet, for most women, supplementing with vitamin D and calcium can go a long way in helping to prevent muscle loss and osteoporosis.
Current recommendations are that women should consume 600 IU of vitamin D per day if aged under 70, with this increasing to at least 800 IU per day for those over 70.
It is also recommended that women consume at least 1200 mg per day of calcium, mainly from food sources such as oily fish, green leafy vegetables, and some dairy products .
You are not alone in this. We are all affected by ageing. It might be an unavoidable part of life, but that does not mean there are not useful steps you can take to look and feel at your best.
Make sure your diet is highly nutritious and stay physically active (specifically through resistance training), and you can not only survive but thrive through every decade of life.
 Sharifi-Rad, M., et al., (2020). Lifestyle, oxidative stress, and antioxidants: Back and forth in the pathophysiology of chronic diseases. Frontiers In Physiology, 11, p.694.
 McDonald, L., (2017). The Women’s Book, pg. 31.
 Viña, J., et al. (2013). Role of oestrogens on oxidative stress and inflammation in ageing. Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation. 16, 65-72.
 Hofmeier, S. M., et al. (2017). Body image, aging, and identity in women over 50: The Gender and Body Image (GABI) study.
 Hong, A.R., Kim, S.W., (2018). Effects of resistance exercise on bone health. Endocrinology and Metabolism, 33, pp. 435-444.
 Sénéchal, M., et al. (2013). Changes in body fat distribution and fitness are associated with changes in hemoglobin A1c after 9 months of exercise training: results from the HART-D study. Diabetes Care, 36 (9), pp. 2843-2849.
 McDonald, L., (2017). The Women’s Book, p.16.
 McDonald, L., (2017). The Women’s Book, p.74.
 Binic, I., (2012) Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and Strategies. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2012.
 Binic, I., (2012) Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and Strategies.
 Sugerman, D. (2014). Osteoporosis. JAMA, 311 (1), pp. 104-104.