These 4 Habits Are Secretly Aging You
If you're looking for the Fountain of Youth in a top-shelf moisturizer or an exclusive exercise class, you should know these "remedies" will only get you so far.
To slow down the effect of aging, keep doing what you're doing, but take time to focus inward and assess your daily habits. With some simple lifestyle changes, there may be more productive methods to achieve positive results.
Here are four factors that could be aging you beyond your years, and what you can do to look and feel younger.
1. A high-sugar diet
A sugary smorgasbord may delight your inner child, but routinely eating lots of sugar can ultimately age you faster. Sugar overload can prompt glycation, a process in which the excess sugar molecules in the bloodstream combine with proteins to create free radicals called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These aptly named molecules may damage surrounding proteins, including collagen, which is essential to keeping skin taut and firm.
Of course, sugar can also be bad news for your smile, contributing to the decay and discoloration of your teeth.
You don't have to give up sweets completely, but try to enjoy them in moderation. And opt for natural sweeteners like agave, monk fruit and stevia as opposed to processed white sugar.
2. Chronic stress
In our fast-paced, competitive society, many people wear stress like a badge of honor. But the long-term cost often outweighs the short-term bragging rights.
People exposed to chronic stress age rapidly, according to a 2020 report published in Biomedicines. The authors point to a significant body of evidence showing stress can wreak havoc on the body and brain, accelerating cellular aging and increasing the risks of several conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, obesity, depression and dementia. Stress can also exacerbate chronic pain, and impede healing and immunity.
If all this talk of stress' effects is stressing you out, here's some good news: There are numerous ways to decrease stress, even in the most hectic of times.
Multiple studies indicate that practicing mindfulness may reduce stress and anxiety, and positively impact your overall mental health.
Regular exercise is another scientifically backed method of stress reduction, which may provide the double benefit of boosting your confidence and sex life. A report from the Archives of Internal Medicine indicated that physically active adults appear to be biologically younger than people with sedentary lifestyles.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise five times a week to manage stress and maintain physical fitness.
3. Too much coffee
Many people wouldn't dream of starting the day without a cup of Joe. And coffee does contain antioxidants, which may be beneficial to overall health. However, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.
Coffee, like alcohol, is a diuretic, meaning it prompts urine production. If you're not drinking enough water to compensate, this may lead to dehydration, affecting your body's ability to efficiently regenerate cells, among other functions. This can lead to dry, dull skin that is more prone to fine lines, sagging and wrinkles.
Coffee may also exacerbate risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Researchers at the University of Milan proposed a direct correlation between coffee consumption and cholesterol levels. Caffeine also raises blood pressure, a primary factor in atherosclerosis, and may contribute to heart rhythm abnormalities.
Research indicates drinking too much coffee may increase the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, and exacerbate anxiety as well.
To reap the benefits without the risk, try sticking to one or two cups of coffee a day, max.
4. Too little sleep
Getting a good night's sleep is another reason to consider cutting down on caffeine, since a sleepless night may leave you feeling and looking like a zombie the following morning. Beyond short-term sleepiness from a single bad night, chronic exhaustion can have much more severe and long-lasting effects, as researchers pointed out in a review published in MEDtube Science.
Chronic sleep deprivation can increase cortisol levels and inflammation, exacerbate mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and accelerate cognitive decline, increasing the risk of dementia.
A study published in Biological Psychiatry reported women with five or more markers of insomnia were biologically almost two years older than women of the same age with no sleep issues.
Of course, even if you do all of the above—along with religiously applying sunscreen, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and abstaining from the king of all aging habits, smoking cigarettes—you still won't be able to turn back the clock. This is not even to mention the currently uncontrollable aspect of genetics.
However, looking forward and making even small changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference in extending your life and getting the most out of your years.