Have you ever looked in the mirror and noticed how much you’re starting to look like your mother or father? It happens to all of us: much of aging is determined by the genes we inherited from our parents.
But surely not all wrinkles, sagging, and brown spots are due to “bad genes.” So, how much of aging is due to choices we’ve made over a lifetime and how much is out of our control?
The way to answer these questions is to study adult twins. Twins have identical DNA but experience different lives. Different habits and life experiences over years should affect they way they look. A study of what causes aging in identical twins published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery examined how a lifetime of good or bad habits made twins look younger or older compared to their once identical counterparts.
The 186 pairs of twins in the study looked remarkably alike, but there were differences. As you might expect, the longer people smoked, the older they appeared compared to their non-smoking twin. Also, the more sun exposure people had, the older they appeared compared to their sun-avoiding, sunscreen-applying twins.
Being divorced or taking antidepressants also made people appear older, suggesting that a stressful life can take a toll on your appearance.
Some things in life, like the genes you inherited, you cannot help, but choices you make can make a difference. Make 2010 the year you wrestle control over bad habits like smoking and excess sun and resolve to fight the ubiquitous stress of life by eating well, sleeping well, and exercising — you’ll save yourself a lot of money in Botox later.
Photo: Simon Whitaker, flickr.com