The habits that we develop in our 20s and 30s have a huge impact on how we look and feel when we are older. It is so important to treat your body with respect and care in order to maintain optimal physical and mental health as we age. Here are some avoidable culprits that speed up the aging process.
A constant diet of fatty, carbohydrate-laden foods is a huge cause of premature aging. Processed foods, red meats, white bread, and margarine cause inflammation in your body. This swelling can lead to skin flare-ups and wrinkle formation. These foods also add unhealthy levels of sodium, cholesterol and fat into your body, increasing your likelihood of obesity.
Eating more whole foods can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamin C, zinc, beta carotene and other nutrients that will boost your immune system. Including fish – which is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, and whole grains – which are packed with anti-oxidants, in your diet promote healthy skin and reduce wrinkles.
While a glass of wine every now and then is no cause for alarm, regular drinking can cause you to look much older than you truly are. Alcohol is a natural diuretic, which means that the more you drink, the more dehydrated you become. Your body relies on healthy fluids, i.e. water, in order for it to perform its normal body processes. Insufficient hydration leads to damage to your organs and premature aging of your skin.
By limiting your alcohol intake to one drink a day, you reduce the amount of work that your liver needs to do to flush out toxins and impurities from your body. The texture and moisture of your complexion will improve, you will lose unwanted pounds and your sleep will become more restful.
Nothing can age you quite as fast as a constant sense of worry, anxiety and stress. Studies have shown that prolonged periods of stress can actually alter your DNA. Chronic stress caused by work, family unrest or other triggers, leads to increased blood pressure, sleep disruptions and acne breakouts. These ailments all have a negative impact on how we age.
Do your best to find healthy ways to deal with stress. Taking some time each day to unplug and enjoy some quiet solitude can go a long way towards reducing your stress levels. Go for a walk, read a book or soak in a warm tub. Make de-stressing a priority and your body will thank you.
Insufficient sleep has become a worldwide epidemic. It has been widely proven that a lack of sleep leads to impaired cognition and memory performance. Over time, prolonged sleep disruptions can severely impact our immune systems, decision making processes, response time and other key brain functions. Sleep deprivation is also linked to a speed-up in the aging process. Reduced skin elasticity, uneven pigmentation and under-eye puffiness have all been linked to poor sleep quality.
Many people say that as they get older, they need less sleep. It is true that as we age, our circadian rhythms change, thus affecting sleep patterns. However, studies show that it is still ideal to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If you find that you are waking up tired or dragging during the day, talk to your doctor to rule out any possible sleep disorders such as sleep apnea.
It should come as no surprise that smoking is on this list. The list of ways that cigarette smoking negatively impacts your health and aging process are endless. Illnesses such as heart disease, lung cancer, infertility, high blood pressure and emphysema are just a few of the ailments caused by smoking. In addition to shortening your life span, cigarettes also affect your physical appearance. Smoking activates enzymes that break down the elasticity of your skin. It also deprives your skin cells of needed oxygen, causing your skin to turn a grayish yellow pallor.
If you are a smoker, the time to quit is now. Studies show that smokers who quit at age 35 added 8 years to their life span and those who quit at age 65 added 2 to 4 years to their longevity. Nicotine addiction is extremely powerful and can be difficult to beat on your own. Talk to your doctor about cessation medications and techniques to kick the habit once and for all.
Despite how amazing the sun may feel on your skin, sunbathing is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to premature aging. Excessive exposure to UV rays weakens your skins blood vessels and skin cells, causing that dry, leathery look. Tanning beds are even worse for your skin. A tanning bed exposes you to up to 15 times more dangerous radiation than sitting in the sun, leading to wrinkles, brown spots and, worst of all, skin cancer. Over the past 30 years, more people have been diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
Protecting yourself from the sun’s dangerous rays is not difficult. Apply sunscreen to your face and other exposed body parts each morning. Make sunscreen application part of your daily routine, like washing your face and brushing your teeth. If you know you will be out in the sun for a long period of time, pack a hat and additional sunscreen to reapply as needed. Teach your children the dangers of the sun and get them used to wearing sun protection on a regular basis.
Lack of Exercise
Healthy aging begins with regular physical activity. Research shows that people who do not consistently exercise have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and other age-related illnesses. They also suffer from more injuries than their exercise-loving counterparts. As we age, injuries become more dangerous and often lead to potentially life-threatening complications.
Exercise helps to increase beneficial hormones such as testosterone, lowers cortisol levels, improves mood and controls blood pressure. It also keeps your weight stable and prolongs your life span. Consider investing in a fitness tracker to motivate you to get your target steps in each day. Do your best to exercise for 30 minutes 5 times a week.
While it is impossible to turn back the clock on aging, there are some conscious things we can all do to slow down the aging process. Making the commitment to living a healthy, productive life will benefit you not only today, but in the years to come.