Last updated: Oct 20, 2009
youth-secrets
Isabelle Cardinal
Whoever coined the phrase “Youre only as old as you feel” had it so right. If you feel younger than you are, the number on your drivers license (who needs to see that, anyway?) loses much of its sway. And, fortunately, turning back the clock has never been easier. To fend off—even reverse!—the signs of aging, try these decade-by-decade tricks.

Your 30s
Defend your face
Take decades of environmental exposure, add a quickening rate of collagen breakdown, and behold: In your 30s your face may show more sagging, fine lines, and early wrinkles than youd like, says Bobby Buka, MD, a New York City dermatologist.

His turn-back-the-clock recommendations: Use a strong sunblock every day, eat lots of vitamin C–rich citrus (the vitamin helps prevent collagen loss), and apply cream with a retinol or retinoid (a vitamin A derivative) every night to promote skin-cell growth.

Dr. Buka often prescribes tretinoin 0.25% (also known as Retin-A, about $20 for a months use). Or try this nonprescription version: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ($19.99; drugstores).

Baby your breasts
Lets face it: Pregnancy, breast-feeding, and simple gravity can be a bit of a downer for your girls. But the right bra—fitted with the help of an expert—can make all the difference. (See Health.com/bra for fitting tips.) What else can help your breasts as the years go by? Remember to work your pecs at the gym. “Toning the pectoral muscles wont revive sagging tissue or skin, but youll look better with definition in that area,” says Colette Cole, a senior personal trainer and director of the Female Focus Program at the Cooper Center in Dallas.

Make sure to pump that iron while wearing a supportive sports bra that limits bounce, which can put stress on connective tissues and lead to even more sagging. Compression sports bras are recommended for small-busted women. Women who wear a C-cup or larger should opt for an encapsulation bra—try the Asics Abby Bra ($42). Also, its best to replace your sports bra every six months if you use it frequently.

Stay energized
Women are roughly twice as likely as men to get depressed, which can make them feel worn out and weary beyond their years. To guard against energy-sapping blues, get enough B vitamins: They may help ward off depression and play a role in how cells produce energy, says Christine Gustafson, MD, an integrative medicine specialist in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Dairy, beans, meat, seafood, and eggs are good sources, but if you eat few (or none) of those foods, a supplement might make sense. Look for a B-complex supplement that contains brain-boosting B12, Dr. Gustafson says, like Jarrow B-Right Optimized B complex (Amazon.com, $29).

Your 40s
Get to bed
Women report more sleep problems than men, especially starting at age 40. Blame topsy-turvy hormone levels in perimenopause (the 5 to 10 years before the change), not to mention everyday stress that only seems to worsen during this decade. The good news? Getting more rest better equips you to fight off conditions, like memory loss, high blood pressure, and a weak immune system, all of which make you look and feel older.

Besides forcing yourself to go to bed earlier, Dr. Gustafson recommends a magnesium supplement. When youre stressed, the mineral gets used up quickly, and a deficiency may lead to frequent sleep problems, possibly because it interrupts proper electrical activity in your brain. Look for magnesium aspartate or glycinate rather than magnesium citrate, which can upset your stomach. And make a habit of eating almonds—theyre rich in magnesium.

Beat the bulge
Before you had children, a tummy pooch was never an issue, right? But now changing hormone levels are cueing your cells to store more fat—and the ab region is storage central. Changing the way you exercise may help you fight off the bulge. Dr. Gustafson believes that working out more frequently—20 minutes five days a week, say, instead of hour-long sessions three days a week—trains your body to burn fat faster. Another smart adjustment: Structure your diet around fresh veggies and whole grains—foods that encourage your cells to burn fat, not store it.

Keep your wits
With age comes wisdom, but finding your keys is another story. Avoid that addled feeling by exercising your brain. “Research shows people who do things with their minds tend to have less memory loss,” Dr. Gustafson says. Novelty is important; you wont fight cognitive decline with-out trying something new. Take a community ed course in graphic design, find your inner Julia Child in a cooking class, or tackle an engrossing classic like Tolstoys Anna Karenina. Also, eat more brain food, like salmon and tuna.

Your 50s +
Erase the evidence
If night creams, exfoliators, and sunblock arent keeping wrinkles out of your life, a hyaluronic acid–based facial filler, like Juvederm or Restylane, might be your best bet. “A single shot lasts up to one year, requires no skin testing, and, other than possible bruising and tenderness, has few bad reactions,” Dr. Buka says. (The cost? Its a $500 to $800 investment in yourself.) Check that your derm is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and can show you before-and-after pictures.

Another option is supplementing with potential wrinkle fighter N-Acetylcysteine. “Weve known about this amino acid for a while, but the fascinating new data is on its benefits for skin health,” Dr. Buka says. Talk to your dermatologist before trying it, so you can ask about any potentially risky interactions with other medications you may be taking.

Ache Less
Osteoarthritis (OA), the degeneration of cartilage in the joints, often rears its ugly head in the 50s. (OA is more common in women than in men, affecting upwards of 16 million of us.) Exercise may help you avoid the aches; just make sure you vary your routine and include several types of low-impact activities, like biking, swimming, or any water-based fitness class—one of the best options for women who want to stay fit without putting extra stress on their joints, says Cole.

An anti-inflammatory omega-3 fish oil supplement may help, too. Dr. Gustafson, who is approaching 50 and runs regularly, takes a fish oil pill every day.

Stay frisky
Feeling too old and tired (or too dry) for sex? Then talk to your doctor about hormone creams to relieve vaginal dryness, which is a common side effect of plummeting estrogen levels. (Short-term use is thought to be safest.) Or experiment with a lubricant containing L-arginine, which stimulates blood flow, setting the stage for the big O. Some experts also suggest an herbal supplement combining Peruvian maca root and deer antler velvet, which may help free up testosterone, a key to boosting libido. “If youre going to try herbs, try this,” Dr. Gustafson says. Check out Amazon.com for various brands of the lube and herbal supplement.

Seven ways to turn back the clock
When you make a change, how much of a difference will really show up? Everyone reacts differently, says Bobby Buka, MD, a New York City dermatologist, but the changes listed here can lead to dramatic improvements.

Try this change Years it takes off your face and body
Use SPF 30+ sunblock everyday 20
Quit smoking 20
Use a retinol or retinoid product for a year 10
Get one shot of a hyaluronic acid filler 10
Exercise at least three times a week 10
Lose 10 pounds 5
Get eight hours of sleep a night 5