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Do you look your age?

According to skincare expert Dr Howard Murad, one of the biggest reasons why many of us look older than we are is that we are being battered by “cultural stress”. But what is this and how can we stop it taking its toll? Lesley Neil reports

We’re all familiar with the tell-tale signs of ageing, such as wrinkles, a lack of energy and poor memory, but the way we live and the stress we put ourselves under can mean that many of us age far quicker than we should.

In his latest book, “Conquering Cultural Stress”, renowned skincare expert Dr Howard Murad explains how cultural stress impacts the ageing process and provides effective strategies for removing it from our lives so that we become happier and more youthful.

Dr Murad defines cultural stress as the unnecessary, man-made stress we put on ourselves in our attempt to live up to everyone’s expectations. “Cultural stress is having a greater impact on the state of our health than most people think,” he says.

“The extreme dependence on digital devices, long commutes and a never ending ‘to do’ list can lead to a relentless pressure to produce and succeed. By taking healthy measures to eradicate cultural stress, we can dramatically increase the odds of unlocking our potential to look younger, feel younger and live healthier, happier and more rewarding lives.”

The science of ageing

There are three main types of ageing – intrinsic, extrinsic and hormonal. There is nothing that we can do about the intrinsic element. “It’s simply a natural process that happens no matter what you do to halt it,” says Dr Murad. “It’s what would occur despite living in a bubble and getting Botox till your face is stone cold.”

However, we can influence extrinsic ageing. “Extrinsic ageing is also known as environmental ageing,” explains Dr Murad. “Factors such as excessive sun exposure, pollution, smoking, stress, poor diet and intake of drugs or alcohol contribute to this type of ageing.”

We can take steps to minimise the impact of hormonal ageing too. “When all hormones are balanced, the body works as it should, organs function properly, tissues are supple and resilient and skin is youthful,” says Dr Murad. “Hormonal ageing is most troublesome to treat effectively. It requires an inclusive approach.”

You will find details of this inclusive approach and how to achieve it in Dr Murad’s book: “Conquering Cultural Stress.”

What’s your living age?

The following quiz is taken from “Conquering Cultural Stress” and is the very one that Dr Murad gives to new patients at his health centre in the US. It’s a way of measuring how your current lifestyle is affecting how well (or how badly) you are ageing. Be honest with yourself as you answer the questions – don’t cheat by giving a “right” answer that you think will boost your score.

1. When I tell people my real age they are:

  1. Amazed – since I look younger
  2. Not surprised – since I look as old as I am
  3. Trying not to admit I look older than I really am

2. People would describe me as:

  1. Rigid and set in my ways
  2. Someone who sets reasonable boundaries
  3. A pushover

3. I use sunscreen:

  1. Rarely – since my skin doesn’t burn
  2. When I plan to be in the sun
  3. Every day

4. I have ___ close friends (or family members if you have a close relationship with them:)

  1. 0-2
  2. 3-4
  3. 5+

5. Of those friends, I see ___ on a regular basis:

  1. None of them
  2. 1-2 of them
  3. All of them

6. I think of manicures, pedicures and massages as:

  1. A necessity
  2. A luxury
  3. Something I wish I had time for

7. The most important person in the world is:

  1. A family member or other loved one
  2. Me
  3. I can’t decide

8. I splurge on tasty treats:

  1. Never
  2. About 20 per cent of the time
  3. Pretty much whenever I get the chance

9. I exercise:

  1. Rarely – if at all
  2. 3-4 times a week; I do something I enjoy like bike riding, gardening, golfing or dancing
  3. 5 or more times each week

10. The last time I did something fun and spontaneous was:

  1. Yesterday
  2. Earlier this year
  3. I don’t remember

11. I spend ___ of my time in the sun each week:

  1. More than 40 per cent
  2. 30-40 per cent
  3. 20 per cent or less

12. When thinking about the next chapter in my life, I am generally:

  1. Excited and looking forward to whatever life brings
  2. Terrified – because I worry about the future
  3. I don’t really think about it or care

13. My daily skin treatment consists of:

  1. A cleanser, moisturiser, treatments and sunscreen
  2. Usually just a cleanser and a moisturiser
  3. I don’t have a daily skin treatment

14. I check my email:

  1. Every time it dings
  2. Every couple of hours
  3. Only during working hours

15. I eat ___ servings of fruit and vegetables each day:

  1. 4 or more
  2. 2-3
  3. 0

16. The nutritional supplements I take include:

  1. A multivitamin or other supplement
  2. A multivitamin plus additional supplements
  3. I don’t take any supplements 

17. I eat red meat:

  1. Very rarely, when I’m craving it
  2. Never
  3. Pretty much every day

18. I experience stress:

  1. Chronically – it’s never-ending
  2. More times than I’d like to admit
  3. Only occasionally

19. When I feel stressed I:

  1. React with anger
  2. Retreat within myself
  3. Take a deep breath and take it all in

20. I make time for a hobby or do something I love:

  1. Every day
  2. Once a week
  3. I don’t know

Scoring

  1. A = -1, B = 0, C = +1
  2. A = 0, B = -1, C = +1
  3. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  4. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  5. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  6. A = -1, B = +1, C = 0
  7. A = 0, B = -1, C = +1
  8. A = 0, B = -1, C = +1
  9. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  10. A = -1, B = 0, C = +1
  11. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  12. A = -1, B = +1, C = 0
  13. A = -1, B = 0, C = +1
  14. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  15. A = -1, B = 0, C = +1
  16. A = 0, B = -1, C = +1
  17. A = 0, B = -1, C = +1
  18. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  19. A = +1, B = 0, C = -1
  20. A = -1, B = 0, C = +1

Your living age

Add up the values for all 20 questions and add this number to your actual age. So, if the sum of your answers totals -5 and you are 40 years old, your living age would be 35. Or, if your answers add up to +7, then your living age would be 47. Your living age tells you whether the way you live and the choices you make are adding years to or subtracting years from your real age.

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