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Avoid the Surgeon's Knife

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Avoid the Surgeon's Knife

Lattes in hand, my friend Natalie and I were at an urban coffee bar catching up. A pretty woman in her thirties with two kids and a flashy but stressful job, Natalie confessed she felt saggy and tired and was longing to regain her youthful spark.

Lattes in hand, my friend Natalie and I were at an urban coffee bar catching up. A pretty woman in her thirties with two kids and a flashy but stressful job, Natalie confessed she felt saggy and tired and was longing to regain her youthful spark.

To my surprise, she also revealed that she is seriously considering cosmetic surgery: a tummy tuck, breast lift, injectable synthetic filler around her eyes, perhaps a mini-facelift.

A decade ago we would have been shocked at the thought of an attractive, outwardly confident young woman saving up thousands of dollars for a series of invasive, medically unnecessary procedures.

So-called reality television gives cosmetic surgery an aura of effortless transformation. But there’s another side. Procedures are pricey and may require uncomfortable recovery time and repeat work. Breast implants, for example, only last about seven to 12 years. All procedures, even nonsurgical ones, have possible risks and side effects. Finally, the whole process can become addictive–one surgery may lead to another.

Today, women like Natalie have new options. Healthy aging research has revealed that genetics determine only 10 percent of the visible signs of aging. Environmental factors account for much of the rest. For anyone interested in avoiding the surgeon’s knife (or needle), here is a rundown on natural healthy aging alternatives.

Skin Care

David Moore, regional manager for natural living for Capers Community Markets, always recommends the basics, including a good moisturizer and sunscreen. But two of the most popular products today, says Moore, are alpha-lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant, and hyaluronic acid, known for its water retention properties.

Other antioxidants, including vitamins C and E and coenzyme Q10, have also been in high demand due to reports of exciting effects such as skin protection, fewer or less obvious wrinkles, and fading age spots. For best results, team skin care with a good diet.

Diet

According to a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, there is a link between what we eat and how many wrinkles we have. The study found subjects who consumed mostly vegetables, olive oil, fish, legumes, fruits, whole grains, low-fat milk products, water, and tea showed less skin wrinkling. Meanwhile, those who preferred red meat, sugar, soft drinks, and full-fat milk showed more wrinkling and skin damage.

Supplements

The same study suggests a positive effect on skin from supplements such as retinol (vitamin A), vitamin C, and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. Moore also recommends antioxidants and essential fatty acids (omega-3).

Lifestyle

One warning bears repeating. Protect skin from the sun and cigarette smoke, even second-hand smoke. All are extremely damaging to skin. Stress is also known to speed the signs of aging, so stress management through exercise and other means is strongly recommended.

Body Image

Finally, it’s worth re-examining our desperate desire for makeovers. We see hundreds of advertising images a day, many containing messages, subtle or otherwise, about beauty. Awareness may help curb our self-criticism. To build a better body image, try questioning external ideals of beauty; strive for fitness–not thinness; and use exercise to feel good in your own skin.

As I tipped my cup for the last drop of latte, I suggested to Natalie that she consider these natural approaches to healthy aging, since they aren’t just good for our skin, but are also beneficial for overall health, energy, and well-being.

There are no overnight miracles. However, a balanced, nurturing approach can go more than skin-deep, bringing us to a fuller realization of our own beauty.

Between 1997 and 2005, the number of cosmetic procedures in the US jumped by 444 percent. Not surprisingly, 91 percent of consumers were women.

Source: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery

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