Try thinking young to stave off ailments of old age

Last Updated: Dec 30, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

London: Those who think and dress in a youthful manner are healthier than those who act their age, researchers at Harvard have claimed.

Mind over matter, it seems, can improve everything from blood pressure to arthritis and eyesight.

Even the development of heart disease and cancer may, atleast to a degree, be staved off by refusing to grow old gracefully.

The intriguing claims come from researchers at Harvard University, who reviewed a series of studies into how the mind influences the body, the `Daily Mail` reported.

In one experiment, elderly men were `transported` back to 1959 for a week. They lived in accommodation fitted out in the decor of the Fifties, were played TV shows and music of the time and told to talk and act as if they were living then.

By the end of the week, the men were perceived to look around three years younger. Their hearing and eyesight improved, arthritic joints were more flexible, muscles were stronger and minds sharper, the report said.

In the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, researcher Ellen Langer suggests that much of the decline of old age may be driven by negative perceptions about ones later years? and breaking these down can improve health.

A second study showed that cutting and colouring women`s hair not only made them feel younger, but reduced their blood pressure.

When strangers were shown pictures of the woman with their hair hidden, they were rated as looking younger after their trip to the salon ? despite their new styles not being visible.

Research also shows that older mothers tend to age more slowly than those who give birth in their 20s. While this may be partly due to having the money and know-how to look after themselves, they may also benefit from forming friendships with younger women at the school gates.

Dr Langer, a psychologist, said: "Suddenly the older mother`s world is surrounded by younger cues, including younger mothers and their young children.

Similarly, someone with a young spouse may think and act young, to the benefit of their body.

Research also shows that wearing a uniform to work can slow down ageing ? perhaps because it prevents more elderly staff from dressing according to their age.

Even prostate cancer and heart disease may be influenced by the mind, with studies finding they are more prevalent in men who are prematurely aged by going bald early.

Langer suggests that simply thinking young can do the power of good. She advised people not to dwell on the ageing process, adding: "Don`t buy the mind-set in the first place, then you won`t be vulnerable to it.

PTI