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Genes vs. Behavior: What Makes Us Age?

Study Shows Behavioral Choices Are the Real Culprits of an Aging Face

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Also, aging reduces hormones, and "if they are replaced judicially under medical advice, that will delay aging," Guyuron says. "Estrogen has a significant effect on the elasticity of the skin." To look younger, overweight people shouldn't try to lose a lot of weight quickly, he says.

Seth A. Yellin, MD, chief of facial plastic surgery at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta, says everyone loses "facial volume" with age and "gets a loose neck. If we replenish facial volume, it can make an older face look more youthful."

Weight and Facial Aging

Genetics, Yellin tells WebMD, "is only one component of aging. You have a great deal of control over how you will look at 45, 55, or 65. If you eat well, maintain a good body mass index, don't smoke, wear sun protectant, and keep yourself fit, then you're going to look better than your genetic identical twin who makes bad decisions, eats high-fat foods, ignores admonitions about [too much] sun, and goes to a tanning bed."

Yellin says that after age 40, people with "higher than normal weight are going to look younger because fat is going to stretch the skin," lessening the appearance of wrinkles, but no one should gain weight to keep from looking old.

Researchers looked at identical twins because they are genetically programmed to age in exactly the same way. But Guyuron says the study shows "you can cheat your biological clock" by making smart choices, such as not smoking.

"Some patients, particularly those who have eating disorders, feel they will look younger if they lose a lot of weight after 40," he says. "But actually that will make you look older."

He says he doesn't recommend that people in bad marriages stay together, but faces of twins in the study suggested that those who'd divorced looked nearly two years older than siblings who hadn't.

In twins younger than 40, the heavier ones were perceived as being older, but in those over 40, the lighter ones looked older, says Guyuron.

"The research is important for two reasons," Guyuron says. "First, we have discovered a number of new factors that contribute to aging, and second, our findings put science behind the idea that volume replacement rejuvenates the face."

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