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Health Habits That Are Aging Your Body

Stop doing them today.

Many of us spend a lot of money every year on trying to prevent aging. But some of the most effective, science-backed ways to stay young cost little or nothing—and can even save you money. It just involves dropping some health habits you may not even realize are aging your body. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Eating Too Much Sugar

Female hand poured sugar into coffee, cappuccino

"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. Eating too much sugar can prematurely age your skin and body, increasing your odds of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. It can also throw a wrench in your personal time clock. A study at the University of California—San Francisco found that people who consumed more sugar-sweetened drinks, such as soda, had shorter telomeres, the part of cells that hold DNA. Telomeres start out long and get shorter as they age. When they get too short, they die. "Regular consumption of sugar-sweetened sodas might influence metabolic disease development through accelerated cell aging," wrote the study's authors. 

RELATED: This Surprising Habit Can Stave Off Dementia, Says Study


Not Exercising

overweight woman at home lying on the floor, laptop in front of her, prepared to work out on mat according to video

Consistent exercise 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. Conversely, not getting regular exercise can up your risk for obesity and related chronic diseases. 

RELATED: Over 60? Stop Doing This ASAP, Say Experts


Not Getting Enough Sleep

young woman sitting up in bed unable to fall asleep
Shutterstock / ae ssp

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.

RELATED: Sleeping This Way Can Lead to Depression, Study Shows


Chronically Stressing Out


"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." Simply put, that's aging caused by inflammation, which raises the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), diabetes, high blood pressure and more. Finnish researchers recently found that ongoing severe stress can shorten your life by at least three years. 

RELATED: What Happens to Your Body When You Smoke Weed, Says Science




This month, it was reported that cigarette sales went up in 2020 for the first time in 20 years. Taking up smoking remains a very bad move for many reasons. One is that it ages you.  According to a study published in JAMA, cigarette smokers had three times the wrinkles of nonsmokers. 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." 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. Read more about Michael
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