Hey Twins can tell us alot about aging!

by DavalosMcCormack on February 6, 2009

Today, on one of my favorite health blogs,  the New York Times “Well” by

How much control do you really have over facial aging?

A new study of identical twins shows that life experiences and environmental factors have a big effect on how fast or slowly our faces age. Researchers recruited nearly 200 sets of identical twins who were attending the annual twin festival in Twinsburg, Ohio.

(Hey that sounds like a pretty good P.R. idea doesn’t it?  Every year get a whole bunch of identical twins to book rooms and restaurants for a leisurely weekend in lovely “Twinsburg, Ohio” – Nearest towns are Aurora, and Bedford Heights (Hey isn’t that were “A Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart took place?….no, that was Bedford Falls.

Here are the stats: for Twinsburg:

Population – 17,006

17,006 people live in Twinsburg, OH (Ohio)
1.03% of residents in Twinsburg, OH are Latino 1%
86.36% of residents in Twinsburg, OH are Caucasian 86.4%
8.73% of residents in Twinsburg, OH are of African descent 8.7%
2.95% of residents in Twinsburg, OH are of Asian descent 3%
Then Tara said:

Twin research is especially useful in the study of aging because twins are “genetically programmed’’ to age the same way, said study author Dr. Bahman Guyuron, chairman of the department of plastic surgery at the University Hospitals of Cleveland and Case Western Reserve University. As a result, any perceived differences in appearance among twins can give clues as to what environmental and lifestyle factors can strongly influence aging, he said.

(Now here’s a study I’m interested in!)

“We wanted to look at the factors that may accelerate aging,’’ Dr. Guyuron said. “What are the things we can control? By changing your behaviors, can you control part of aging that would otherwise be speeded up?’’

(Tell me! Tell me…I would like to know what can be done to slow…halt…or just stop aging!)

Using still photographs of each twin set, the researchers asked an independent panel to rate differences in each twin’s appearance and whether one twin looked older than the other. They found several factors influenced facial aging, including sun exposure and smoking. Based on the assessment, 10 years of smoking added about 2.5 additional years of aging to a twin’s face, compared to a twin who didn’t smoke. Sun exposure, particularly among those who spent a lot of time outside playing golf or tennis, also increased the appearance of aging.

(Okay, we know about smoking..don’t we?…and sun exposure…did they use sun block? It wasn’t mentioned in this article anyway)

Stress also appeared to be a factor in aging. Divorced twins appeared, on average, at least two years older than a twin who was married or widowed. (Yikes!  I knew stress was a factor, but if you smoked and played tennis in the sun without sunblock and were stressed out because you are going through a divorce…That’s over 6.5 years on your face right there!)

Notably, antidepressant use was also associated with an older appearance. Researchers said it may be that depression itself increased facial aging, or it’s possible that use of antidepressant drugs relaxed facial muscles in a way that increased the appearance of aging.

(Okay, really, now that’s interesting…does that mean if you are on anti-depressants and you’re face relaxes you become saggy?  Is it better to stay just a little depressed or just take an anti-depressant every other day to stay in balance?)

The researchers also found a surprising relationship between facial aging and body weight. A heavier body weight before the age of 40 was associated with an older appearance.

However, in the women over 40, a heavier body mass index was associated with a more youthful look, compared to a thinner twin.

(That makes sense, it’s sometimes hard to tell the age of someone who is overweight.  The younger ones look older and the older folks – well, you just can’t tell. But does that mean stay slim up to 40 then pack on the pounds after 40 to stay younger looking?)

“Excessive loss of weight can be detrimental to youthfulness and attractiveness,’’ Dr. Guyuron said. “It’s a warning if you lose too much weight after the age of 40.’’

(That’s a given, if you loose too much, too fast, everything sags)

The findings were published online in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All of the twins studied were women. Dr. Guyuron said future studies will look at male twin sets to determine what factors influence a man’s facial aging.

(I’ll be darned. Do you mean to tell me that they didn’t test the men? –  Perhaps, they should have an “Identical Man Age-off!”  But these are interesting findings… Behaviors you can work to improve and guess what?  You too can look years younger!)

To see a slide show of some of the twins used in the study, go to The New York Times, “Well”  by Tara Parker Pope on Health.

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