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Everyday Habits That Age You Quicker, According to Science

Turn back the clock by turning your back on these harmful patterns.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

According to a new study published this week in the journal Nature Communications, the hard limit to how long a human can live lies somewhere between 120 and 150 years old. But experts say an inconvenient truth has emerged: During the pandemic, many of us developed bad habits—or allowed them to worsen—that can take years off your life, prematurely aging your appearance and various body systems. Here are five everyday patterns that age you quicker, according to science. Read on to find out more so you can avoid them, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.

1

You're Eating Too Much Sugar

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Sugary foods can really pack on the pounds. They can also add years to your face. According to a study published in the journal Clinical Dermatology, consumed sugar binds to and damages collagen and elastin, the compounds that keep our skin robust and youthful—and actually prevents the body from repairing them. 

Your best bet for healthy aging: Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and processed foods, and be mindful of how much added sugar is in products you buy by checking Nutrition Facts labels. (Eye-popping amounts can lurk in unexpected places, even wheat bread.) Emphasize whole foods. "Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may help prevent damage that leads to premature skin aging," says the American Academy of Dermatology. "Findings from research studies also suggest that a diet containing lots of sugar or other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging."

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2

You're Not Getting Enough Sleep

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Sleep is the time when your body undergoes necessary maintenance, rebooting and repairing everything from your brain to your skin. According to a study published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, women who reported good quality sleep experienced 30% better "skin-barrier recovery" than those who got poor sleep, and they had "significantly lower intrinsic skin aging." What's more: Sufficient sleep seems to lower the risk of several chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer and dementia. What's "good-quality sleep"? Experts including the National Sleep Foundation recommend seven to nine hours every night. If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep, or you don't wake up feeling refreshed, raise the issue with your doctor. 

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3

You're Drinking Too Much Alcohol

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Chronic overuse of alcohol can age you prematurely inside and out. Alcohol dehydrates the skin and causes inflammation, which can lead to flushing, swelling and broken capillaries. It also can damage the heart and prevent the liver from properly detoxifying the body and processing fats and carbs. Not a great look. To prevent premature aging, and to reduce your risk of cancer or heart disease, experts recommend no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.

RELATED: Sure Signs You May Be Getting Diabetes, According to Doctors

4

You're Not Exercising Enough

To keep your heart, brain, and immunity in top shape—and to prevent premature skin aging— exercise most days of the week. "Moderate exercise can improve circulation and boost the immune system," says the American Academy of Dermatology. "This, in turn, may give the skin a more youthful appearance." The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) per day to prevent heart disease. Bonus: You just might look younger while you're doing it.

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5

You're Smoking

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If someone offered you a Magic Aging Wand to wave in front of your face, would you take it? That's essentially what a cigarette is: The hundreds of toxins in cigarette smoke cause blood vessels to constrict, preventing oxygen and nutrients from reaching the skin. "Smoking greatly speeds up how quickly skin ages," says the AAD. "It causes wrinkles and a dull, sallow complexion." At the same time, those toxins damage the blood vessels, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. According to a study published in JAMA, researchers found that cigarette smokers had three times the wrinkles of nonsmokers. So quit if you smoke, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.