Genetics and Skin Aging
Your genes determine the most noticeable things about the way you look – your features. You may think that genetics and skin aging are also intricately linked. That is only partly true. Having a firm, clear, glowing, healthy looking skin is definitely in your control. However, you need to know what cards you are holding in order to know how to play them. Turns out, your genes do tell you how you need to take care of your skin.
What is your Ethnicity?
Chinese women have significantly more severe wrinkles in the area around the eyes compared to Japanese women.
Thai women have more wrinkles in the lower half of their face than Chinese women.
Caucasians have earlier onset and greater skin wrinkling and sagging than other skin types.
So based on your ethnicity, you should be paying special attention to specific aging signs.
How light or dark is your skin?
Dark skin is more likely to develop pigmentation problems. Even minor skin injuries, such as bug bites, can cause a change in skin pigmentation, allowing dark spots called hyper-pigmentation to occur.
However, since the role of melanin in the skin is to absorb and scatter energy from ultraviolet rays, having darker skin reduces the risk of sun damage. As a result of this, dark-skinned people retain younger looking skin longer than light-skinned people.
Melanin also reduces your ability to produce vitamin D. Hence, dark-skinned people have a very high risk for vitamin D deficiency – which could be the cause of several health disorders. Recent studies have linked the higher incidence of autism in Minnesota, and in particular in the Somali community, to vitamin D deficiency.
If you are living in the northern areas of the United States (some experts believe anywhere north of Georgia), irrespective of your skin color, it is very likely that you are deficient in vitamin D.
So all Minnesotans should be taking a vitamin D supplement.
How is your hormonal activity?
Hormones play a significant role in biological processes such as DNA repair and stability, mitochondrial function, oxidative stress, cell cycle and apoptosis (programmed cell death), regulating proteolysis (breakdown of proteins into smaller polypeptides or amino acids.), and transcriptional regulation (conversion of DNA to RNA, thereby orchestrating gene activity).
Hormonal activity is guided by your genetic expression, lifestyle, diet, and other physiological needs. The hormones in turn affect all of those back. Many of the aging processes ensue as the hormonal activity reduces with age, or if hormones are in a state of imbalance.
When it comes to to skin health, the key hormone is estrogen. Estrogen increases collagen production in the skin, which helps maintain epidermal thickness and allows skin to remain plump, hydrated, and wrinkle-free.
Estrogen can also make hair grow long and healthy. This is why during pregnancy, women often experience faster hair growth and clearer skin. In essence, estrogen helps our skin and hair remain youthful.
There are many other hormones that govern how our bodies age, but the most crucial in terms of aging is the Growth Hormone. GH is released by the pituitary gland, and governs all the anabolic (forming of tissue, bone, organs and muscles) processes in the body. As we age, the amount of GH falls, and our body goes into a maintenance mode. Many scientists have linked the changes seen with aging—loss of lean body mass, thinning of the skin and an increase in adipose (fat) tissue—to the decline in growth hormone that begins in the human body by the age of 30. However, with a healthy lifestyle, we can boost the release of growth hormone, and hence restore the youthful look! The three best ways to trigger the release of growth hormone are exercise, sleep, and good nutrition.
The first way to stimulate GH release naturally is exercise. Intense workouts, weight lifting, and short sprints are the best. The more intense your workouts, the more GH release you will trigger. Cardio is good for stress management and to burn some calories, but only in moderation (less than 20 minutes) or as a warmup. If you are just starting to work out, aerobic exercise could be a good starting regimen. However, prolonged cardio will not give you any benefit in the long term. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the better way to go. You’ll build muscle mass, lose weight, reduce stress, increase metabolism, and release growth hormone, making you look fabulous!
75% of your daily growth hormone output is during sleep – and most of that is in REM sleep. The regularity of your sleeping pattern could promote more REM cycles and result in more hormonal output. So keep steady hours of rest, and get a good 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Also, you would want to sleep in a cool, dark environment. This brings about a slight decrease in the body temperature and triggers the release of growth hormone, which works its regenerative magic. Eating too close to bed time will also prevent the body from cooling down while you sleep, putting you at a risk of low levels of growth hormone. A high protein, low carb meal at least 4 hours before going to bed, is the ideal.
Growth hormone is a large molecule and cannot be absorbed if you try to take it orally or topically. The only way is to take synthetic HGH (Human Growth Hormone) via injection. Injectable HGH, however, is not widely available, and studies on safety and benefits are limited. The alternative, and the natural way to increase GH, is by taking secretagogues. These are substances that naturally promote the secretion of growth hormone in your body. As you incorporate a high intensity workout routine, and give your body the right amount of sleep, eating the right foods and supplements can create the right environment for growth hormone secretion. Amino acids, the structural units that make up proteins, are the best secretagogues. A high protein diet, combined with clean fats will promote GH release and aid in muscle synthesis.
Learn more about nutrition in the section about diet for flawless skin.
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