You can’t turn back time, but you can protect your body against it. conquer the early-warning signs of ageing to stay at your physical peak for longer

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Your wake-up call A dull ache the day after a heavy cardio session. “The muscles supporting your vertebrae naturally weaken from your mid-twenties on, leading to slumping and trapped nerves if you don’t act,” says osteopath Garry Trainer.
Your clock-stopper Invest in a straight-backed chair and a stability ball for work and take turns sitting on both. The stability ball constantly works the stabilising abdominal muscles supporting your spine, and the straight-backed chair will force you not to slump. Plus it’ll stop you falling asleep at work, too.

Eyes

Your wake-up call Holding your iPod at arm’s length to check your play-list, plus increasingly last-gasp highway turn-offs. Both are signs of age-related macular degeneration. “This occurs when your retinal cells stop taking in enough vital nutrients, and fail to clear damaging by-products,” says professor Andrew Lotery of the ophthalmology department at Southampton University.
Your clock-stopper Visit your optician and go on amber alert. “Load up on orange foods rich in beta-carotene such as sweet potatoes, carrots and apricots – all shown to boost blood flow to your retinal cells and speed healing,” says Lotery. Cheese-flavoured orange chips don’t count.

Skin

Your wake-up call Spots or crusty skin patches that are as annoyingly persistent as peroxided boy bands. “Any that change shape or appearance should ring alarm bells,” says dermatologist Nick Lowe.
Your clock-stopper Annual cover. “Deeper-penetrating UVA light gets through thick clouds, so is a silent skin ager,” says Lowe. Get a decent moisturiser with a high SPF of at least 25 and jump off that Keith Richards fast track now.

Teeth

Your wake-up call Feeling like your mouth’s attached to the mains when you sip tea. “Your protective enamel layer gets thinner with age, so the nerves are more exposed,” says dentist Dr Phil Stemmer.
Your clock-stopper “Brush your teeth before breakfast and spit, don’t rinse, as this washes away fluoride,” says Stemmer. “Don’t brush after drinking fruit juice either – the acid temporarily weakens enamel.” Which leaves you spitting teeth.

Knees

Your wake-up call Swelling that’s the envy of other body parts. “Knee problems cause extra synovial fluid to flow in to protect the joint,” says physiotherapist Paula Coates. The most common complaint is “runner’s knee” – when the knee cap gets misaligned and grates rather than glides over the end of your thigh bone.
Your clock-stopper Before exercise, stretch your IT (iliotibial) band. “Stand with your legs crossed and feet side by side, then bend over and stretch towards your toes,” says Coates. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three times on each leg.