Skip to content

Everyday Habits That Make You Older, Say Experts

Five things that speed up the aging process. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Whether we like it or not, aging is inevitable and while we can't stop the process, we can slow it down by practicing healthy lifestyle choices that help prevent signs of aging. There's many bad habits that can deteriorate a youthful appearance and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Jagdish Khubchandani, MBBS, Ph.D., a professor of public health at New Mexico State University who explains what they are.Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Good Health Habits are so Important

young man in white t-shirt and jeans looking in mirror at thinning hair
Shutterstock / Maridav

Dr. Khubchandani says, "There are many behaviors, lifestyles, and habits that can either make a person look older or cause accelerated aging. Most of us will not know about the aging or degeneration of internal body parts unless we have distress or disease symptoms. Rarely, some people may have a genetic makeup making them vulnerable to chronic diseases that can accelerate the aging process (e.g., progeria). However, for the most part, lifestyle habits have a major influence on aging and the most prominent manifestations of aging occur in skin (e.g., thinning, dryness, sagging, hair loss, etc.). One should keep an eye on S related issues (stress, spirits, smoking, sleep, sun exposure)."



woman puts hands on head, stressed, busy at work

Dr. Khubchandani states, "These are the most stressful times for people with a pandemic, quarantines, economic and social upheaval. People are feeling more stressed today than ever and may also be experiencing physical and mental weakness. Stress promotes inflammation in the body resulting in release of toxic chemicals and a variety of neuropsychological, immunity related, and biochemical imbalances that influence the aging process. These changes may also lead to feelings of distress and fatigue. What makes it worse is poor stress management, social isolation, negative outlook, pessimism, and not taking care of yourself. The combination of stress and inflammation causing biological changes related to aging are also referred to as inflammaging."


Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Use

Hand stubbed out cigarette in a transparent ashtray on wooden table

According to Dr. Khubchandani, "Often related to stress, coping problems, emotional distress, and mental health issues, ATOD are used as a means to feel better or cope with these problems. However, these habits are linked to cellular and biochemical changes in the body increasing the probability of many diseases (e.g., heart attacks, cancer, stroke, etc.), cause these diseases at a younger age, or accelerate aging/ degeneration and increase risk factors for these disease (e.g., fatty liver, obesity, etc.). Individuals with heavy ATOD use will have manifestations in skin indicating aging (e.g., loss of elasticity of skin, pigmentation, etc.). The earlier you quit or reduce usage, the less the aging related damage."


Sleep Problems

woman sleeping peacefully in bed with her dog

Dr. Khubchandani explains that, "More than a third of adult Americans sleep less than the required number of hours (6-8 hours) and almost a quarter experience acute insomnia every year.  Millions of individuals worldwide either sleep less or do not get quality sleep. The process of aging and sleep may have a bidirectional relationship (e.g., aging may be related to sleep problems and vice versa). Genetic and biochemical alteration of human body cells due to sleep deprivation may result in acceleration of aging process and also cause aging indirectly by increasing risk of many chronic diseases that cause body organ damage or degeneration. Individuals should get quality sleep for an adequate number of hours by maintaining good sleep hygiene to avoid aging and looking older and distressed."



woman smears face sunscreen at the beach for protection

"Sun exposure is essential for our body and skin (e.g., to get Vitamin D and mood regulation) and everyone should get exposure to sun on a daily basis," says Dr. Khubchandani. "However, excess exposure to sunlight may affect skin tone and texture, accelerate the process of aging and feeling of aging or also cause serious disorders such as skin cancer. Regulating time of sun exposure and wearing sunscreen or keeping skin covered are the best options against aging due to excess or repeated UV radiation from sun exposure."


Skin Hydration, Moisturization, Protection

Woman spraying insect repellents on skin before run

Dr. Khubchandani shares, "Intrinsic aging is the natural process of degeneration that occurs inside our body, but extrinsic aging is more of what appears outside (e.g., on skin). While there is mixed evidence on hydration, it is prudent to drink adequate water for numerous health benefits including maintenance of skin elasticity. In addition, protecting the skin from chemical exposures, burns, etc. and moisturizing ensures that skin tone and texture are maintained and skin aging acceleration is halted."  

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
Filed Under