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Look Old Or Young For Your Age? What Does It Mean For Your Health?

Posted in General Health 20 Aug, 2015

I was ID'ed at the Co-Op last week when I picked up a bottle of Rioja. I'm 36. My friends are sick of hearing me crow about it on Facebook. So does the fact I look like a 17 year old mean I'm healthy? Or am I doomed? Perhaps it just means the checkout assistant needs a trip to Specsavers.

Looking Young

We all assume that young-looking folk are healthier. They may look well on the outside, but what's going on inside?

Duke University undertook a study comparing people born within a year of each other, i.e. who would have been in the same 'school year'. They looked at physical traits of 100 people when they hit 26, 32, and 38. Tests were carried out on their kidney function, their weight, gum health, and cardio fitness. Results showed that most people's bodies aged at the 'normal' rate, but some 'aged' 3 years for every one that passed, whilst others did not age at all. The ones that did not age in the tests looked younger, too.

Those that remained younger generally outperformed their peers in physical and mental tests. The folk whose bodies aged faster performed worse on mental aging tests, which included balancing and co-ordination tasks. Tasks such as opening jar lids and having a firm handshake were also harder for them.

That's good news for all you younger-looking smug gits.

Looking Old

Don't panic. Some of the best looking actors are older. Alan Rickman, Harrison Ford, Emma Thompson. OK, my tastes are broad, but health may not all been down to looks. You may look older if you have pale skin compared to darker skinned friends.

For example, a 40 year old white man may look older than a 40 year old black man simply because the sun has acted faster on his skin. Manchester University professors found an extracellular matrix in darker skin that keeps a better structure.

This suggests that environmental factors have a pretty big influence on your appearance. So you may look older than your darker-skinned friends, but not necessarily be older physically or mentally.

What Can You Do?

You can't do much about your genetics, but some studies on twins showed that only 20% of aging was due to genes. That's a whole 80% you have left over to play with. So fight it.

Environmental factors

Use sunscreen religiously - not just a blob of it when the sun is roasting. Don't forget the backs of your hands and your neck.


Eat well, including lots of fruit and vegetables. Avoid high saturated fat foods such fried or baked goods as they may lead to a high cholesterol. We offer medication for high cholesterol if you suffer from the condition. Visit our high cholesterol page for more information about causes, symptoms and medications available.


If you use your body, it stays healthier. Calcifiying your spine in front of a PC every day will age you, believe me. And don't smoke! If there's one thing you change for your health make it quitting smoking. We offer guidance on how to stop smoking along with offering a treatment to quit the habit for good. Visit our how to stop smoking page for more information.

Be Positive

A survey of young-looking people suggested that having a positive outlook kept them young. They enjoyed life's simple pleasures like listening to the rain and having an amazing sex life (OK don't rub it in). These younger looking people may have the right idea. If you are optimistic, lively and are satisfied with your lot then you are more likely to avoid depression, frown lines, and loneliness due to moaning at your friends all the time.

It looks like healthy inside can indeed = healthy outside.

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