Justin Timberlake rocketed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2006 by bringing “SexyBack,” which could be the theme song for this column on how great health is the key to looking great, feeling great and having a great sex life.
We were inspired to share strategies for your good health and great looks after hearing about an intriguing side effect of sleep apnea treatment. People who wore special breathing masks at night to keep their airways open, preventing apnea’s heavy snoring, snorting and gaps in breathing, started looking better.
In an unbiased comparison, their faces were rated as younger, far more attractive and more alert about 65 percent of the time. Skin looked less puffy and red, and forehead wrinkles were less noticeable, too. But it’s not the only health upgrade that brings sexy back. Check out these five other strategies:
Sleep more. Even if you don’t have apnea (one in 11 adults suffer from the disorder), there’s a good chance you’re skimping on shut-eye. Thirty percent of grown-ups get less than six hours a night. Skimping can make you look a lot less attractive (puffy eyes, saggy skin, grumpy expression) and worn out. “I’m too tired” isn’t just an excuse; in one survey around 40 percent of folks admitted that they’d skipped sex because they were too weary. We bet the true number is a lot higher.
Nix these food felons. Cutting out added sugars, syrups, excess sodium and any grain that’s not a 100 percent whole does your skin a big favor. When your blood sugar is too elevated, the glucose gloms onto proteins throughout your body, including collagen and elastin, which are essential for keeping skin firm. No wonder one recent study found that high blood sugar adds a year or more to your appearance.
Excess sodium damages the heart and kidneys, and makes you bloated with excess water retention. So cut back on packaged, processed and restaurant foods. They’re loaded with salt. Bonus? You’ll keep your blood pressure healthier.
While you’re at it, cut back on saturated fat, found in full-fat dairy products, fatty meats, poultry skin and many processed treats. This gunky stuff may encourage crow’s feet. The reason? Could be that it makes skin more vulnerable to damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
But your appearance isn’t all that suffers. When you eat saturated fats, too much sugar and processed grains you damage your circulatory system and reduce blood flow to your genitals, which causes erectile dysfunction and may contribute to difficulty with orgasm for women.
Say yes to produce. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables can give your skin a rosier glow. Adding just three extra servings a day for six weeks can make a big difference, especially if you invite yellow- and red-hued produce on to your plate. (We advocate nine servings a day.)
The health bonus? You get lots of fiber, which helps with weight loss and digestion, and can help control blood sugar, improve HDL cholesterol and lower lousy LDL cholesterol.
You also get phytonutrients that fuel your body’s disease-fighting immune system. If your LDL level is sky-high, a diet low in saturated fat plus cholesterol-lowering medications may save your life and your sex life. It also can help smooth your skin.
Smile more. Stress — about job, money, relationships — generally is the No. 1 sexual desire killer. And dumping stress is a bodywide health booster. So walk 10,000 steps daily; meditate 10 minutes each evening; and spend time with friends and loved ones. BONUS: A smile can make your face look up to three years younger.
Lose a few pounds. Excess weight doesn’t just make your midsection and back view look older. Sometimes if you’re uncomfortable with your weight you’re reluctant to have fun in bed. But obesity can also interfere with the biology of sex. Lose 10 pounds to stimulate a reawakening of your sex hormones.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.