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Health Habits That Age You, According to Science

Want to look younger? Stop doing these 12 things, experts say.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

Aging is inevitable. No matter how much we don't want to lose our youthful looks, it will happen. But we can slow down the process. Whether we like it or not, we have bad habits that will age us quicker, but with a few lifestyle changes, we can help prevent that from happening. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to medical experts who reveal the 12 bad habits we need to break to stop aging faster Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Biting Your Nails/Cuticles

Young nervous woman looking at smartphone and biting her fingernails at home.
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Dr. Michael Hirt, a Board Certified Nutrition from Harvard University and Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is with The Center for Integrative Medicine in Tarzana California says, "With COVID and common colds poised to make a comeback this winter, putting your fingers in your mouth is a sure way to self-inoculate with some of the worst, most aggressive viruses the world has ever seen. Remember the human mouth is also filled with some of the most toxic and terrible bacteria, and biting your fingertips can lead to a very nasty infection from these organisms getting under your skin. Ask Santa for some cotton gloves this year; wear them as often as you can to remind yourself to give your digits a break from this bad habit…which is particularly dangerous during a pandemic."

2

The Toxic Trio—Sugar, Alcohol and Tobacco

Man relaxing with bourbon whiskey drink alcoholic beverage in hand and using mobile smartphone
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According to Dr. Hirt, this toxic trio will add on years to your appearance. Sugar, alcohol and tobacco. "Everyone knows these 'bad-human' habits steal your health faster than you can say 'Happy Holidays'. And when we're stressed with work, family, and money this season, these are the poisons we turn to so we can feel better…for about a minute…but the bad health effects from these indulgences can last for years. After 25 years of medical practice, I have yet to meet anyone over 40 who can drink alcohol or eat sugar daily without consequences that I can see in their bodies or in their lab test results. Tobacco remains bad news, and if you're hooked, make 2022 the year you finally quit."

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3

Get Off the Couch

young woman running outdoors
Shutterstock / Zoran Zeremski

"Your habit of being an inactive couch potato or 'Zoombie' is also shortening your life," says Dr. Hirt. "Humans are built to move, just like cars. If you do not run your car enough, the battery goes dead and parts start to rust. Same with people. The latest research shows that getting 7,000 steps daily reduces your risk of dying from any cause, including heart attacks, strokes and cancer. And those steps can be fast or slow; just long as you take them, it doesn't matter the effort you put in. As cold, inclement Winter weather settles in and gyms remain only partially operational due to Covid, you are going to need to get creative to get in your 7,000 steps. Consider doing some indoor laps at your local mall or your own residence while listening to your favorite podcast. Time will fly and health-filled years will be added to your life expectancy."

4

Stop Stressing

Shocked young woman looking at laptop computer screen at home
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Dr. Hirt explains, "Nothing will age you faster and more harshly than stress. Indulging our daily habits of simmering, stewing, or letting it rip all release an adrenal 'fight/flight' chemical cocktail directly into our veins that can cause us to become sick with everything from the common cold to cancer. While it is supposed to be the season of joy, many of us experience it as the season of unmet expectations, leading to us stressing over how things are supposed to be rather than how they actually are. So, break this bad habit by indulging your meditation practice or 10-minutes of yoga breathing, instead of indulging your disappointment or anger."

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5

Visible Light Causes Aging

Using smart phone in dark

Lawrence Osman, M.D. Board-certified Dermatologist with Dignity Health Northridge Hospital, explains, "It's well known that ultraviolet rays from the sun are a major contributor to skin cancer and an aged appearance. However, visible wavelengths add to aging too, especially blue light. One common source of blue light is from cell phone and electronic screens. The solution: wear sunscreen with zinc. Zinc is the only active ingredient that protects against all types of ultraviolet radiation and visible light too."

6

Sleep Line

sleepy woman lying on stomach wearing pants
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The way you sleep matters! According to Osman, "If you sleep on your stomach or side, your skin may fold under the pressure. In young skin, the resulting wrinkles disappear. However, with repeated pressing of your face against a pillow, these lines eventually become etched in and permanent. Sleep wrinkles tend to be more vertically oriented and often appear at the edge of the nose and forehead."

RELATED: The #1 Cause of "Hidden" Fat, According to Science

7

Cut Out the Sugar

Sugar
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We all know sugar can make you gain weight, but it can age you too. Osman says, "The effect that sugar has on your skin is to link collagen fibers together which makes them more difficult to repair. When collagen fibers become linked they are not as healthy and are called AGE's (advanced glycation end products). Consuming high amounts of sugar and certain methods of cooking including grilling and frying lead to the formation of AGE's."

8

How You Wash Your Face Matters

Woman splashing face with water above bathroom sink
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Seven Yu, Chief Beauty and Creative Office at Glam Set Go says, "Avoid using excessively hot water to wash your face and neck. It strips moisture and oils from your skin, making it less supple and can lead to more wrinkles long term. Warm water is best." 

Sonali Chaturvedi Founder and CEO of ShikSona Beauty and Glam Set Go adds, "It's important to wash your makeup off daily, use a toner, and moisturize to keep your skin looking youthful."

9

Lather Up With Sunscreen

happy woman relaxing in the garden smiling as she applies sunscreen or skin cream
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Getting vitamin D from the sun can be healthy and enjoying the fresh air is always recommended, but don't skip the sunscreen. The sun is damaging to our skin and will cause wrinkles and sun spots. "We should wear a minimum of SPF 30 sunblock daily, even in the winter months, to guard against harmful UVA/UVB rays," says Victoria Stiles, Celebrity Makeup Artist and Creative Director at ShikSona Beauty.

10

Stop Being Angry

Angry young woman arguing talking on phone at home
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Dr. Veera Gupta, DC CCSP Optimum of Health Chiropractic says, "Stop getting angry at people and replaying the event over and over. When you do this you produce chemical inflammation. And the more you replay the event, the quicker you will create that inflammation because you are hardwiring the neuronal channels that are linked to that memory. A simple argument with a spouse can spike NF Kappa B, The Godfather of all inflammatory molecules for up to 48 hours."

11

Manage Your Screen Time

A woman in her 40s wearing headphones and eating popcorn while watching a movie on a streaming service on a laptop at night.
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Dr. Alexis Parcells, MD is a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of SUNNIE, a skincare and anti-aging clinic, and Parcells Plastic Surgery says, "Looking down at a phone, tablet, or computer for extended periods of time can cause unnatural, premature wrinkles, especially around the neck. Additionally, concentrating can also result in a frown expression which can also add premature lines over time. Instead, put your devices at eye level when you use them. This even includes your cell phone and tablet. Take frequent breaks and avoid an electronic device if at all possible (wear air-buds for a call instead of texting). Need a reminder? Place a mirror next to your computer to be reminded to change your posture and expression."

12

Don't Drink with a Straw

Young woman is using laptop and listening to music.
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Dr. Parcells states, "Repeat facial motions, like pursing your lips to drink from a water bottle, can cause deep lines around the mouth. Ditch the classic water bottles for a glass or cup with a wider mouth. Avoid straws, as these can also contribute to lines with time." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

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
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