Aging is a natural process, but that doesn’t mean you have to embrace it. There are simple ways to reduce the negative effects of aging by tweaking your lifestyle. By avoiding habits that accelerate aging, you can ensure that you look as youthful as possible. Genetics play a large role, but external factors can make an even larger impact on your appearance. Here are five everyday things to avoid if you want to slow the aging process.
1. Chronic Stress
Stress is not just unpleasant, it’s dangerous. On the cellular level, chronic stress causes shorter telomeres, which are compound structures at the end of chromosomes that are associated with age-related diseases. Additionally, high levels of cortisol (the primary stress hormone) can weaken the immune system, damage the heart, and cause facial aging. You may not be able to rid your life of stress, but there are ways to reduce and manage it. Meditation and yoga can ease stress, according to the Harvard Health Blog. If meditation’s not your thing, consider spending time with friends, as research links socialization with stress relief. Marriage has also been proven to counter the effects of stress and increase longevity (though we’re not suggesting you get married solely for those reasons).
2. Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is one of the biggest drivers of aging, and your diet could be full of inflammatory foods if you’re not careful. Trans fats, refined sugars, white bread, and dairy can all trigger inflammation inside your body. On the other hand, there are many foods that reduce inflammation in your body. Tomatoes, olive oil, leafy green vegetables, and fatty fish are all anti-inflammatory. In fact, just about everything in the Mediterranean diet fights inflammation and promotes healthy aging.
3. Too Much Sun
Most of us know by now that the sun ages us, but we don’t always heed the warning. A summer suntan has yet to go out of style, so we continue to sit in the sun for longer than we should. Unfortunately, UVA and UVB exposure from the sun causes photoaging. This complex process causes wrinkling as well as elastin and collagen damage. The best way to avoid these age accelerators is to reduce exposure to the sun and wear sunscreen when you’re outside.
4. Not Enough Sleep
If you’re looking for a good excuse to turn in early, here it is. Lack of sleep not only impairs your mental faculties, it also prematurely ages you. University Hospitals Case Medical Center conducted a sleep study with 60 women between the ages of 30 and 49. The results showed that those who got quality sleep recovered more quickly from sunburns and other stressors and had fewer fine lines and more even pigmentation. “Sleep deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure,” said Dr. Elma Baron, director of the Skin Study Center at UH Case Medical Center and associate professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. What’s more, the problem is fairly widespread. “Insufficient sleep has become a worldwide epidemic. While chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, cancer and immune deficiency, its effects on skin function have previously been unknown.” If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider turning off your phone (and make sure you’re not falling prey to one of these four nasty bedtime habits).
5. Too Many Calories
The type of calories you consume plays a large role in aging, but the quantity is also important. Studies of fish, rodents, and dogs have shown that caloric restriction (without malnutrition) can slow aging and increase lifespan. There is not enough evidence to prove that humans benefit from caloric restriction, but there is ample proof that consuming too many calories has disastrous effects on aging. Studies have shown that obesity accelerates the onset of age-related diseases and the aging process in general. Provided that you’re getting the necessary nutrients, cutting calories can help you look and feel younger.