Worried your lifestyle choices might be making you age faster?
We spoke to a handful of nutritionists and medical experts in our network to narrow down the worst habits that won’t do you any favors if you’re hoping to age as gracefully as possible.
From following a poor diet to ignoring the importance of mental health, are some of the top habits that might be making you appear (or feel) older than you really are.
Following an unbalanced diet
“Diet has an impact on areas of our health that we often overlook or take for granted, aging and skin health included. Damage from toxins can result in aging of the skin and overall health,” explains Lisa Richards, Nutritionist and Author of The Candida Diet.
“The antioxidant properties of Vitamin C makes it an efficient and effective nutrient to protect the skin from damage. A diet void of fruit and vegetables that provide plant compounds can not only lead to poor health overall, but may speed up the aging process.”
According to Richards, this is because these compounds work as antioxidants in the body and antioxidants work to reduce the presence and damage of free radicals.
Free radicals are similar to toxins and cause cellular damage both inside the body and out. This can lead to increased aging in many areas of health.
Not hitting the right sleep number
Better sleep is absolutely grounded in the science showing how important sleep is to our well-being, function, and feeling our best.
“With just 5 consecutive days of 1 hour or more less than one’s ideal nightly hourly sleep quantity, assuming quality is even adequate, one reduces one’s insulin sensitivity by about 50 percent,” explains Rand McClain, D.O. and Chief Medical Officer of LCR Health.
“That means that, all other variables being equal, you reduce your ability to efficiently metabolize energy (calories) by half.”
Bottom line is, amongst other issues, risks for obesity, inflammation, cancer and coronary artery disease (to name a few serious illnesses) increase substantially.
Longevity, and, arguably more importantly, healthspan (lifespan enjoying good health) is reduced when you don’t get the optimal amount of sleep.
Poor dental health
“Bad habits that lead to poor oral health can rapidly speed-up the aging process,” explains Dr. William L. Balanoff, Executive Clinical Director of Orthodontic Care of Georgia and the CEO of Oral Care Perfected. “Declining oral health has detrimental effects on a person’s physical health, facial appearance and mental wellness.”
According to Dr. Balanoff, physically, bateria and gum disease is a contributing factor to heart disease but losing teeth begins to change the facial structure and appearance as well; dragging the cheeks down and the chin-out.
A patient’s hygienist and dentist can help point out the bad habits that are making them age faster and dental professionals can advise patients about poor brushing techniques, the need to floss, use of mouth rinses for controlling gum disease and more.
Continual lack of hydration ages the skin. “The skin’s outer protective layer binds with water, and it’s not enough to hydrate it topically (with creams),” explains Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD, GP, a medical advisor at HealthCareers.
“Most of the hydration comes from drinking fluids. Although our entire organism suffers when not enough hydration is provided, the most visible effects occur on the skin that looks prematurely aged.”
Leading a sedentary lifestyle
Considering that we’re built for activity, prolonged sitting and generally sedentary lifestyle deteriorate our joint health, blood circulation, and cardiovascular health.
According to Dr. Djordjevic, poor circulation leads to poor nutrition of the organism by micronutrients, water, and oxygen. When not complemented by activity, prolonged sitting may cause hormonal disbalance, and as a result? The premature aging.
Poor stress management
“Cortisol, the stress hormone, negatively affects our entire body,” explains Dr. Djordjevic. “It causes reduced cognitive abilities, memory loss, and becoming more susceptible to developing various brain-related illnesses.”
With skin, cortisol enhances wrinkles because it breaks down the binding protein in the skin called collagen and although every person experiences stress, learning to cope with stress by employing different stress-management techniques helps prevent adverse outcomes.
Having aggressive hygiene habits
According to Dr. Djordjevic, the skin barrier, and the oil that the skin produces, gets weaker with age.
But other factors contribute to premature aging, including using too much soap or being exposed to chemicals that compromise the skin barrier.
“Even though regular hygiene is essential, it’s advisable to use mild soaps and not go to extremes with washing.”
Not wearing sunscreen and sun-protective clothes
“Many people fail to realize how much damage the UV rays impose on our skin,” says Dr. Djordjevic.
“The evidence shows that people who spend time outdoors without sunscreen and sun-protective clothes have much more aged skin due to a process called photoaging.”