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Health Habits That Age You Faster

Read on to look most youthful.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Stop looking for the fountain of youth—it's in your own backyard. While science hasn't found a way to stop time, there are plenty of easy, no-cost things you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling young. The other side of that coin is that there are too many things we do every day that age us faster. These are the habits to avoid. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You May Have Already Had COVID.


Not Getting Enough Sleep

Woman in a bed holding her head in pain.

Skimping on Z's doesn't just make you feel older. Scientists at UCLA found that just one night of bad sleep actually makes older adults' cells age faster. Sleep is crucial downtime for the body's vital systems, which repair and reboot themselves while we snooze. Poor-quality sleep has been associated with everything from accelerated skin aging to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and dementia.


Not Exercising

Woman sitting on bed looking at phone bored and in a bad mood

Not getting regular exercise can age you, upping your risk for obesity and related chronic diseases. Conversely, consistent physical activity can keep you young—even decades younger. That was the conclusion of a 2018 study that found older men and women who exercised for decades had muscles similar to people in their 20s and greater aerobic capacity than their contemporaries, making them biologically almost 30 years younger than their chronological ages.

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Eating Too Much Sugar


Consuming too many simple carbs and foods high in added sugar doesn't just wreak havoc on your waistline. Scientists have found that eating excessive amounts of sugar may actually cause wrinkles by damaging collagen and elastin, two proteins that keep skin looking young. "Findings from research studies suggest that a diet containing lots of sugar or other refined carbohydrates can accelerate aging," says the American Academy of Dermatology.

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Not Using Sunscreen

woman applying sunscreen lotion standing outdoors at the urban location during the sunny weather

UV rays from the sun damage the collagen and elastin in skin, making it slack and wrinkled. To avoid premature aging, experts advise wearing a sunscreen of at least 30 SPF on your face every day, even if it's cloudy outside. (Clouds only block 20 percent of UV rays.) 

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Chronically Stressing Out

stressed woman

"People exposed to chronic stress age rapidly," wrote the authors of a 2020 study published in the journal Biomedicine. "Inflammation is another important feature of stress that, along with aging, accounts for the phenomenon of inflammaging"—very simply, aging caused by inflammation, which also raises the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more
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