Talk about an incentive to hit the gym and eat right. Research, led by scientists from Unilever and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and published in the Journals of Gerontology in 2012, found that women who have a low risk of cardiovascular disease also tend to look younger than their actual age. (So, when was the last time you had your blood pressure checked?)
This is the first time scientists have proven a link between low cardiovascular disease risk and a youthful appearance. And that’s a real win-win since lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease—which you can achieve by being physically active, eating a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet and not smoking—not only takes a few years off your perceived age, but it also cuts your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
For the study, women were placed into groups according to their cardiovascular disease risk. On the actual day of the study, the scientists asked participants not to use any hair styling or skincare products, such as moisturizers or makeup, on or near the face or neck. Inexperienced age assessors then looked at photos of the participants’ faces both head on and turned at a 45-degree angle via a computer screen and were asked to choose a five-year age range, depending on how old the age assessors thought the women appeared. The age assessors also looked at the wrinkles in the study participants’ upper inner arms.
The result? Women in the group with the lowest cardiovascular disease risk were found to look more than two years younger than those in the other, higher risk groups.
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“We identified that blood pressure was driving the link between cardiovascular disease risk and perceived age,” David Gunn, Unilever senior scientist and lead author of the study, noted in the press release. “Not only this, but we also found that the feature in the face that blood pressure was linked to was not skin wrinkles but likely what we term as the ‘sag’ in the face. The exciting thing is further investigations will enable exact pin-pointing of the feature in the face that signposts an individual’s blood pressure.”
Added fellow study author Diana Van-Heemst of Leiden University Medical Center in the press release: “It is hoped the results of the study will encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle and to regularly monitor important health parameters such as blood pressure, as the study shows that these factors not only impact health, but can also affect physical appearance.”
READ MORE: How Your Heart Health Affects Your Beauty