Stop Your Clock! How You Really Can Hold Back the Years; GOOD HEALTH ANALYSIS

Article excerpt

AGEING affects us all and there's nothing we can do about it - or is there?

As we get older, each part of our physical and mental faculties deteriorates at different rates and at different times, and in each case there are ways to hold back the ravages of time. So what are they?

HAIR AND NAILS: From the 20s, men's hair often turns grey and thins. Women can lose hair after menopause and their fingernails can thicken. They can try taking anti-androgens or female hormones. The only drug licensed to treat hair loss is Minoxidil, although trials of a new prescription-only drug called finasteride, have had some success. Marketed as Propecia, it is set to be launched in Britain this spring.

THE SENSES: The sensitivity of hearing, sight, taste and smell all gradually decline from 40 onwards. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet light can cause cataracts and retina damage in the eye, so invest in sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection.

Have your eyes checked regularly for glaucoma, which can be halted if treated but leads to blindness if left unchecked.

Avoid heavy, pounding music and other loud noise which can hasten loss of hearing.

SKIN: Wrinkles occur from the 20s onwards, as skin thins and the underlying fat shrinks, and age spots often crop up. Avoid sunbeds, which dermatologists now believe may be more dangerous than sunbathing outdoors.

Don't smoke. St Thomas' Hospital's Twin Research Unit in London has shown that smokers' skin is 40 pc thinner than non-smokers and more wrinkly.

Anti-ageing treatments such as collagen can be injected into wrinkles to puff them out.

MUSCLES: Strength usually peaks in your 20s, then declines 10 pc a decade from the late-30s. Try aerobic exercise to preserve muscle mass, Pilates - a slow stretch and tone regime - or the ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi, which reduces the risk of falls in the elderly by 37 pc, according to research by America's National Institute of Ageing. It improves balance, keeps joints supple and muscles strong. The food supplement Coverlean, launched last year, claims to protect against cancer and improve muscle tone.

KIDNEY AND URINARY TRACT AND DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: The kidneys become less efficient in the 60s. Digestion slows down in 40s as the secretion of digestive enzymes decreases. Eat more fibre. Adults in Britain are falling short of the recommended daily intake of 18g by nearly a third. High levels can help reduce the risk of bowel disease, the second biggest killer cancer in the UK. Take peppermint - long used as a remedy for digestive upsets and irritable bowel syndrome.

LUNGS: It doesn't just seem harder to climb those stairs. Lung capacity drops by 10 pc a decade from the age of 40. But you can increase your lung capacity with 25 minutes of aerobic exercise a day - particularly swimming, jogging, cycling or brisk walking. …