science of aging
Illustration: Shout
  • It turns out a smile is worth more than a thousand words. It can also be worth about 24 months. In a study published in Psychology and Aging, subjects who viewed more than 1,000 photos of people with a variety of facial expressions tended to underestimate the age of those who were grinning—by two years or more.

  • A study presented to the American Academy of Neurology showed that among 230 men and women with an average age of 73, those who spoke more than two languages were nearly four times less likely to experience cognitive impairments than people who were bilingual. Magnifique and, um, estupendo!

  • A cocktail a day could keep the doctor away. Harvard University researchers followed 13,000 nurses over 16 years and found that those who averaged one daily alcoholic beverage during middle age were more likely to grow old without developing any physical or mental limitations, or chronic diseases. The study's lead author says moderate drinking can reduce inflammation, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and improve insulin function, all of which might help prevent illness.

  • Stroll six miles a week and you could stop memory decline in its tracks. A 13-year study funded in part by the National Institute on Aging found that participants with an average age of 78 who logged at least six miles a week had a 50 percent lower risk of developing memory problems. The brain shrinks with age, but lengthy jaunts appear to preserve gray matter volume in regions crucial for memory function.

  • Scientists at the Mayo Clinic have discovered how to prevent certain aging issues in mice. Using genetic engineering and a special drug, they rid their subjects of senescent cells, which promote tissue aging, and the mice dodged common age-related declines: They didn't develop cataracts or lose muscle mass, could exercise longer on a mouse treadmill, and maintained fat layers that typically thin out (causing wrinkling in humans). The hope: to one day replicate these effects in us.

Easy Ways to Age Gracefully