There’s nothing wrong with growing old and aging, but I think it’s safe to say that most of us would like to do it gracefully.
And certainly not before our time.
But there are a few very common bad habits that can speed up the aging process, from your appearance to your physical health.
So, in this article, I’ll be covering 7 behaviors that make you age faster (and how to avoid them).
Let’s start with the most obvious:
If you haven’t started smoking, good! Don’t. Because once you do, it’s a slippery slope.
I say this as a smoker myself. I console myself with the rationalization that since I smoke very little and mainly on social occasions, it’s not too bad.
But I think the lines on my face and the fact I can’t run up the stairs like I used to say otherwise.
The truth is, smoking is terrible for things like:
- Wrinkles and premature skin aging.
- Yellowing of teeth and fingers.
- Increased risk of cataracts.
- Reduced lung function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
- Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and various cancers, especially lung cancer.
And if you are already a smoker?
Consider cutting down and ultimately quitting. Going cold turkey works for some, but for the majority of people, it’s counterproductive.
Speak to your doctor, join a support group, and find healthy replacements to keep your hands busy (fellow smokers will know exactly what I mean by this).
2) Excessive alcohol consumption
Everything in moderation. If you enjoy a cold beer on a hot summer day, or perhaps happy hour cocktails are your weakness, that’s fine.
What isn’t, is binge drinking on the regular.
In terms of aging, you’re likely dehydrating your skin which can lead it to become dry and sallow.
Not to mention the liver damage, impaired cognitive function, and increased risk of various cancers.
Now, I’ve got to say, there are ways to drink without overdoing it. Since moving to a Mediterranean country, I’ve noticed a lot of people mix their alcohol.
For example, mix red wine and lemonade, and you’ve got a refreshing summer drink that isn’t as harmful to your health (although you still shouldn’t drink it like water).
Most recently, I went to a party where I noticed a few people were alternating between an alcoholic beverage, then water, and then another alcoholic beverage, and so on.
It’s just about cutting down and being aware of how much you consume on a weekly basis.
3) Chronic stress
It feels like we’re in a world of stress, everywhere you look people are tired and anxious.
But stress doesn’t only affect how well we function and deal with life, it also considerably ages us.
Some of the most common effects are:
- Accelerated cellular aging.
- Reduced immune function.
- Increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
Not to mention, stress can actually cause grey hair.
But I know what you’re thinking…How on earth can you avoid stress?
Ultimately, life is stressful, so it’s more about learning how to deal with it as opposed to avoiding it.
Meditation, deep breathing, and therapy are also recommended if you struggle with chronic stress.
4) Lack of physical activity
As I write this, I’m glaringly aware of the fact that I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle. I guess other folks who work from home might feel the same way.
And if you’re anything like me, you’ll notice the effects.
I went for a hike the other day, something I used to do regularly. Except after months of not exercising, I pretty much died on the way up.
You see, the issue with not moving your body regularly is that things like loss of muscle mass and strength, reduced bone density, weight gain, and increased risk of obesity-related diseases all start to creep in.
Here’s my advice:
Find a form of movement that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be the gym.
I, for example, did a 15-minute dance workout yesterday. There are tons on YouTube. And this particular one played R&B hits from the early 2000s, so I had a blast.
The point is that doing exercise doesn’t have to be a boring chore. You can get as creative as you want with it.
But you should do something, even if it is just 15-20 mins a day.
5) Overexposure to sunlight
Are you the type to lather yourself in baby oil and fry in the sun for hours?
Yeah, you might want to stop doing that.
Not only is it terrible for your skin (you’re literally cooking yourself alive)…but it can cause very harmful cancers and melanoma.
And that’s not all…Overexposure to the sun can also result in:
- Premature wrinkles and age spots.
- Reduced skin elasticity.
- Cataracts and other eye conditions.
- Weakened immune system.
Talk about a way to age yourself overnight.
Remember – always use sun cream (minimum factor of 30). Stay in the shade during peak sun hours or when there’s a high UV count.
And if you can, cover yourself with loose clothing, and a sun hat if you’re out walking or working in the sun.
6) Not staying hydrated
If you want to avoid aging faster, H2O will be your best friend.
Ever noticed how those people who look amazing (naturally) in their 50s and 60s tend to keep active and drink water regularly?
They’ve got it right.
You see if you don’t consume enough water every day, you’re messing up your skin’s elasticity. Hello, wrinkles and dry skin.
You’re also putting yourself at risk of kidney issues (think nasty kidney stones), impaired cognitive function, and digestive issues…to name a few things.
I’ll be honest, at my last doctor’s checkup, my blood work showed I was dehydrated. And I thought I was drinking enough – I always have a bottle of water by my side.
But as the doctor said, it’s not just through liquid. Eating certain foods (melons, strawberries, pineapple, celery, cucumber, and more) can also help increase your hydration levels.
So, get one of those fancy bottles that measures how much you’ve consumed, introduce a few more fruits and veggies into your diet, and you’ll be good to go.
7) Isolation and loneliness
And the final thing that can make you age faster is being isolated.
You might not have realized just how drastic this can be for your mental and physical health, but it’s a real concern.
Studies show that those who are isolated have a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
Loneliness was also associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Ultimately, we’re social beings.
We need company, stimulation, and love.
Without it, it’s a quick decline. So reach out to those around you. Join a few clubs and meet new people.
Don’t shut yourself off when life gets tough, this is the time when you need people the most.