How old is your body? Plus how to fix it…

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  • Do you know your true wellness age?

    Ask yourself these questions to get a real reflection of how your body is ageing. Start with your age then answer these eight key questions, adding or subtracting years depending on your answers.

    1. How’s your weight?

    I’m overweight and need to lose a stone or more (+2 years)

    I’m a little overweight; I’d like to lose half a stone (+1 year)

    I’m slim and in the right weight range for my height (-2 years)

    I’m underweight (+1 year)

    Why it matters

    Excess weight is linked with a raised risk of age-related diseases, from type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure to arthritis. Getting to a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to protect your health, but it can get harder to stay slim once you hit your forties.

    “You lose muscle mass with age so your metabolic rate can slow,” says nutritionist Robert Hobson. “You need fewer calories than you did in your twenties and thirties.”

    2. What’s your activity level like?

    I do at least 150 minutes aerobic exercise each week, and some strength training (-2 years)

    I don’t do much formal exercise but try to walk as much as I can and fit in a bit of yoga sometimes (no change)

    I do little exercise (+2 years)

    Why it matters

    Exercise works the heart and lungs, helps control your weight, reduces stress and lifts your mood. The recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week is the minimum we should do, but 40% of those aged 40-60 do less than 10 minutes brisk walking each month.

    3. Which of these best describes your diet most days?

    Balanced, mostly based around fruit and vegetables, with some oily fish, small amounts of meat and very little sugar (-2 years)

    I try to eat well but sometimes reach for junk food when I’m stressed or busy (+1 year)

    My diet’s not all it could be. I have a sweet tooth and live on convenience meals (+2 years)

    Why it matters

    “Balanced diet gives you all the nutrients you need for overall health,” says Robert. “Prepare your meals from scratch wherever possible – convenience foods are often high in sugar, which adds calories, contributing to weight gain, and salt, which is bad news for your blood pressure.”

    4. Regardless of how much exercise you do, how much do you sit down daily?

    I’m largely sedentary and sit for at least eight hours a day (+2 years)

    I sit for a lot of the day but make an effort to get up and down every hour (no change)

    I’m active. I don’t have a sedentary job (-2 years)

    Why it matters

    University of California San Diego research found women who were sedentary had shorter telomeres (the caps on the ends of DNA); longer telomeres are associated with ageing better. In fact, sitting for ten hours or more could age you by up to eight years. It is recommended adults should break up long periods of sitting with some light activity.

    5. Do you smoke?

    No, I never have (-2 years)

    No, but I used to (no change)

    Yes (+2 years)

    Why it matters

    Smoking is linked with many forms of cancer, skin ageing, heart disease and osteoporosis. The good news is, quitting allows your body to start repairing the damage. See your GP for help. Research shows your chances of stopping permanently are much higher if you have support.

    6. How’s your sleep?

    I get seven or eight hours most nights and wake feeling refreshed (-2 years)

    I get less than six hours (+2 years)

    My sleep’s all over the place. I lie in at weekends but sleep less during the week (+2 years)

    Why it matters

    “During solid sleep, the body releases substances that play an important role in allowing your immune system to regenerate,” says Dr Jenna Macciochi, a teaching fellow in immunology at the University of Sussex. Research at the University of Rochester in the US found the brain scours toxins during sleep, lowering the risk of dementia.

    7. Are you constantly under stress?

    Yes, but I manage it with meditation, dance classes and chats with friends (no change)

    No, although I have some short-term stress at work from time to time (-1 year)

    Yes and I find it overwhelming and it affects my mood a lot (+2 years)

    Why it matters

    Short bursts of stress may be quite good for us, giving the immune system a quick boost, says Dr Macciochi. “But long-term stress raises markers of inflammation in the blood, which lowers immunity, and it encourages unhealthy habits,” she explains.

    8. How much alcohol do you drink?

    Less than 14 units (one unit = one small glass of wine) a week, with a few alcohol-free days (-1 year)

    I drink every day and have more than 14 units a week (+2 years)

    I’m not a daily drinker but often overdo it at weekends (+1 year)

    Why it matters

    Even if you’re drinking slightly more than you should most days, you’re affecting your liver’s ability to regenerate, which is why booze-free days are so important. Bingeing raises your chance of having a stroke.

    Plus, “any alcohol you drink contributes to fat storage – your body metabolises it first, leaving food calories to be stored as fat,” says Robert.

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