In Face Yoga, we talk a lot about how we can all stay healthy and well through natural lifestyle changes. But something that is often overlooked is longevity – not just how we can look and feel happier and healthier right now but also how we can make sure we stay that way for the next ten, twenty, or even fifty years.
This is the area of expertise of Angela Foster, a functional nutritional practitioner and executive health and performance coach. Angela joined me recently on the Face Yoga Expert Podcast to share her journey to wellness and to give us some tips on how we can live well for longer.
Angela was originally a corporate lawyer, working long hours at a stressful job in London. After being diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and endometriosis in her late 20s, Angela began to learn more about nutrition and health. She was able to have three beautiful children in quick succession and continued to find professional success in her law job.
However, Angela also struggled with postnatal depression, which got worse after each child. By the time she’d had her third baby, she was on strong medication and under the care of a psychiatrist. She was experiencing suicidal thoughts and found it increasingly difficult to get out of bed in the mornings.
After a flu infection landed Angela in hospital with double pneumonia, she realised she’d reached breaking point and needed to make a profound change to her life.
Although it wasn’t easy, Angela was able to turn things around by focusing on optimising her physical, spiritual, and mental health. She left her job as a lawyer and trained in nutrition and health coaching.
Now, Angela works with people around the world, teaching them how to optimise for health and longevity at the same time as having long-term, sustainable career and life success. She’s also been able to come off her medication.
Angela shared her five top tips that we can all use to increase our longevity and lower our biological age. In this post, I’m giving an overview of those tips. You can also listen to the full podcast episode for extra advice and more details on Angela’s journey.
How to Naturally Reverse Your Biological Age
Our chronological age is how old we are according to the day and year we were born. But our biological age refers to how fast our body is ageing. Excitingly, there’s increasing scientific evidence that we can reverse biological ageing and optimise our longevity through various lifestyle changes.
These changes fall into five key categories:
Sleep is so vital for slowing ageing and is also an area that many of us struggle to make a priority. Regular readers will already know how important sleep is for your skin – people talk about getting their beauty sleep for a reason!
Once you get into your 40s, the only time you really produce meaningful levels of human growth hormone is when you are in a deep sleep. This hormone plays many essential roles, including building muscle tissue, rejuvenating your skin, and repairing the lining of your gut.
One of the best things you can do for your longevity is to have a really good circadian rhythm and sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day (yes, even on weekends).
Human growth hormone production is also inhibited by the presence of insulin, so it is best not to eat too close to bedtime. Aim to make your last meal 3-4 hours before you go to bed.
Lots of us graze regularly throughout the day without realising what we are doing. Even if those snacks are healthy, eating constantly means our digestive systems never get a break.
Unless there’s a special reason you can’t (such as type 1 diabetes), Angela recommends that everyone should fast for at least 12 hours overnight. This means eating your last meal earlier and your first meal later, so your digestive system has a chance to rest and repair.
Whether you should fast for longer than 12 hours or not depends on many factors, including your stress levels, age, and hormone levels. Many of the studies on fasting for longer have been done on overweight, sedentary men.
For women, it generally works best hormonally to keep the fasting period to 12-14 hours overnight. This helps the body to do lots of repair work and maintains insulin sensitivity.
3. Eat Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods
We now know that two of the biggest factors in ageing are blood sugar dysregulation and inflammation. So, we want to customise our diets to manage these two aspects. This means eating plenty of nutrient-dense whole foods.
These foods are great for our skin’s health. They also help with a process called methylation, which is essential to a whole range of the body’s vital functions.
Aim to include a diverse range of whole foods such as folate-rich cruciferous vegetables, sulphur-containing foods (leeks, onions, garlic, etc.) to support liver detoxification, and lots of colourful fruits and vegetables, such as berries.
These foods contain high levels of polyphenols – powerful antioxidants that feed the beneficial bacteria in our guts and help to reduce the burden of oxidative stress in the body, protecting us against chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Also, look out for foods that contain sirtuin-activating compounds. These compounds help to activate our longevity genes and enhance metabolism. Examples include raw cacao, ECGC from green tea, curcumin from turmeric, and resveratrol from red wine.
Combine these plant-based foods with healthy proteins to build muscle tissue, skin health, and neurotransmitters. After about age 30, our muscle mass begins to decline, so we need to make sure we’re getting enough protein to offset this.
Grass-fed, pasture-raised meats and oily fish are great sources of protein if you eat meat. Eggs are also good to support brain function and methylation.
Doing thirty minutes of moderate exercise five times a week has been shown to significantly boost our longevity. Moderate means you are still able to hold a conversation, but not as easily as you would be able to if you were sat still. A brisk walk is a good example.
Recent research by Dr Kara Fitzgerald found that combining moderate exercise with a 12-hour overnight fast and a diet rich in methylation- and sirtuin-enhancing compounds really does reverse biological ageing. And surprisingly quickly too – during the eight-week study, participants were able to lower their biological age by an average of 3.5 years.
Angela also recommends incorporating strength training to support muscle building and repair.
5. Lower Stress
Stress really does age us, so we want to make sure we have plenty of strategies at our disposal to help us manage our stress levels and find calm.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that relieving stress and tension is a big focus of my Face Yoga and facial massage routines. Taking those few minutes to focus on self-care every day can make a noticeable difference to your stress levels.
I always say that my two top tips for inner peace are gratitude and breathwork. Angela agrees. She says that these practices can help with oxytocin release, protecting us against stress.
If you are a parent, you are probably familiar with oxytocin because of its role in childbirth and breastfeeding. It is the hormone of relationships, so we feel it when we look at our children. But we also get an oxytocin release whenever we show love and gratitude.
As well as lowering our stress levels, oxytocin is important for cardiovascular health.
Making Health and Wellness a Priority
Angela shared plenty of actionable, practical advice to help us all on our journeys to a long, healthy life.
For more expert tips, make sure you tune into the Face Yoga Expert Podcast each week – I’m regularly joined by health and wellness practitioners from many different fields. You can also catch up with previous episodes either via my website or on your favourite podcast platform.
I have lots of other resources to help you make health and wellness a priority. You can find my books, apps, and DVDs in my online shop.
I also run live online workshops – check the sessions page to find out when you can next join in with these beautiful self-care sessions or visit the shop to get lifetime access to recordings from past masterclasses.