Do You Look Your Age? – IELTS Academic Reading Passage

It can be hard to guess someone’s exact age. A range of factors may leave marks on our appearance: how much sleep We’ve had – even the way we dress and our view of ourselves. The good news is that just as these factors can add years on to your appearance, it follows that they can also take years off. We don’t always have control over some of those social factors that can make us look younger, but there are other steps we can take to try to stop the ravages of age.

Last month, the University of Southern Denmark published a report, The Influence of Environmental Factors on Facial Ageing, which showed that how we live can affect how old we look. In it, 1,826 twins were photographed and then ten female nurses aged between 25-46 years were asked to guess how old the “models” were. The results were intriguing. They showed that belonging to a high social class can make us look up to four years younger, and many other lifestyle factors were shown to affect the way we look. Having children was found to make men look a full year younger, though it had no effect on women, and having four or more children cancelled out the benefit.

Depression and sun exposure were the biggest factors in making you look old before your time. Depression added up to three and a half years to a woman’s perceived age (and 2.4 years for men). Sun exposure piled on at least an extra year. Smoking put on six months for a woman and a year for a man. Meanwhile, having a high BMI (body mass index) was found to take a whole year off for both men and women. “If you are not depressed, not a smoker and not too skinny, you are basically doing well,” says Professor Kaare Christensen (married, three children, non-smoker), one of the report’s authors. Professor Christensen’s report concluded that it was more dangerous for our health to look a year older, than to actually be a year older.

This is possibly the biggest change we can make fairly easily. There are four main factors that prematurely age us: smoking, too much alcohol, lack of fresh fruit and vegetables, and insufficient protein intake. You can immediately tell a smoker. It’s not just the lines around the mouth and eyes, but smoking is dehydrating to the body. Every time you inhale on a cigarette, you’re taking toxins into the body which have to be diffused and detoxified by the liver and kidneys, and they’re dependent on plenty of fresh water to carry toxins away. Most smokers don’t drink anywhere near enough water.

The really big, quick fix, though, is eating more fresh fruit and vegetables. You can see if someone doesn’t eat enough, or any, fresh fruit and veg in a minute. The skin lacks a freshness and translucency. This is because the skin is the last organ to benefit from the nutrients you eat – the likes of the brain, heart, and lungs all get first share. If someone’s diet is lacking in fruit and veg, the skin will become dehydrated. This is a sign that sufficient nutrients aren’t being delivered, so from an anti-ageing point of view, it’s important to have live, fresh food and raw food is vital. If you have to cook, steaming will retain at least some of the vitamins and minerals.

The other really important thing, and one we tend to miss out on in our diet-obsessed culture, is adequate intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs), from oily fish, nuts, and seeds. EFAs are vital for prolonging life expectancy because every cell in the body has a phospholipid bilayer that protects it, but they also give the skin a dewy, “bouncy”, youthful feel. One of the worst things you can do in terms of looking old is to go on a low-fat diet. Stress is another big one for adding years. We can help support the adrenal and thyroid glands, which take a hammering when we’re stressed, by eating plenty of fresh vitamin C and magnesium for the adrenal glands; and iodine, selenium, zinc, and B vitamins to support the thyroid.

We’ve come to think of exercise as a pure slimming pursuit and women tend to be rather scared of lifting weights, but building lean tissue through weight-bearing exercise is key to keeping the years at bay. Exercise can help reduce the effects of ageing by slowing down the decline of type II muscle fibres. Generally, type I muscle fibres deal with aerobic activities and type II with anaerobic ones. The type II responds to resistance work to improve muscle tone. With ageing, there’s a reduction in frequency, duration, and intensity of habitual activity: we generally move less. So, these type II fibres deteriorate because they simply don’t get enough stimuli.

Almost every skin cream promises to make you look younger. It’s a promise many are seduced by, but many end up disappointed. The problem is not that products don’t work, but starting too late, and then not spending enough money. A lot of people skip good skin care until they think they need it, and by then it’s actually too late. In women, the skin around the eyes is the first to go, in men it’s the hands. A good routine should start early because maintenance is much easier than repair.

Your skin also becomes more transparent as you get older, so you need to adapt your make-up and hair colour accordingly. Foundation should be lighter than you’d imagine, and sheerer, and if you want to cover grey, don’t be tempted to go for a too-dark hair colour or block colour – highlights are kind. Don’t forget to apply moisturiser around the back of the neck: It’s the only bit of skin attached to a bone, so it’s important that you look after it to avoid sagging.

Questions 27-30
For each question, only ONE of the choices is correct.

27. According to surveys, which of the following social factors makes a person look older?
A Having more than four children
B Having a high BMI
C Spending a long time in the sun

28. Which of the following nutritional factors makes a person look older?
A Eating lots of fruit and vegetables
B Not eating enough protein
C Eating lots of meat

29. How can exercise help make a person look younger?
A By making them feel happier
B It helps keep type II muscle fibres in better condition.
C It increases oxygen flow.

30. What is the main problem with skincare products?
A People don’t use them early enough.
B People spend too much money on them.
C Most skincare products don’t work.

Questions 31-35
Complete the following sentences using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the text for each gap.

The Danish survey used photographs of (31)………………….

The greatest difference people can make relatively easily is with (32)…………………

The human body uses the (33)……………………to get rid of toxins.

A (34)……………………….diet makes people look much older.

People should use (35)………………………..on the back of the neck.

Questions 36-40
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage 3? In boxes 36 – 40 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN If there is no information on this

36. A person’s social class can affect how old they look.
37. Having children makes men and women look younger.
38. Smokers need to drink more water than non-smokers.
39. Some people don’t get enough fatty acids because they are slimming.
40. Most skin creams contain vitamins that are good for the skin.