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These Health Mistakes "Age You 20 Years," Say Experts

How to stop premature aging on the inside, and the out.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Healthy aging is a privilege—but premature aging is usually a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices and should be avoided. Here are five health mistakes aging you beyond your years, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Poor Sleep

woman not able to sleep in bed

Not getting enough sleep not only plays havoc on outer appearance, but it can age you prematurely. Studies show that even one night of poor or disrupted sleep accelerates biological aging. "Our data support the hypothesis that one night of not getting enough sleep in older adults activates important biological pathways that promote biological aging," says Judith Carroll, Ph.D, assistant professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral science at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.



Man Smoking On Bright Sunny Day Outdoor

This one is hardly a surprise—smoking adds years to your appearance and shaves years off your life. "Smokers biologically aged faster than nonsmokers regardless of cholesterol and fasting glucose levels. Female and male smokers aged twice and one and a half times faster than gender-matched nonsmokers," reads one study published in the European Respiratory Journal.


Long-Term Chronic Stress

man experiencing high stress doing work, panic attack

Unmanaged stress can dramatically accelerate aging, experts warn. "Research has found the hormones produced with chronic stress can age our brain and immune systems," says Mona Brownfield, MD. "Those who are constantly stressed have higher instances of dementia and memory loss, as well as more damaged cells within their immune systems. Stress also lends itself to high blood pressure, making you more susceptible to heart disease and other conditions typically found in older populations."


Too Much Sun


"Daily sunlight can have quite a few advantages for our mental and physical health, but we don't need that much sun to experience the benefits — ten minutes is plenty enough to get our recommended vitamin D," says Dr. Brownfield. "Anything beyond, without proper sun protection, starts to put our skin at risk for cancer and premature aging. One of the biggest misconceptions I hear is sun exposure just makes your skin thick and leathery, when in fact, the opposite can be just as true. Too much sun exposure can break down our skin's elasticity causing it to be thick like leather or thin like tissue paper. Not only that, UV rays can damage collagen proteins in the skin, leading to sagging or loose skin, and speed up the production of melanin (cells that give the skin its color) causing dark age spots."


Too Much Sugar Causes Inflammation

Woman pouring sugar into coffee

If you want to look and feel younger, it might be time to cut back on your sugar intake. "Sugar binds to the elastic and collagen fibers that make skin look plump and youthful. Damage to these fibers means less support for your skin — and more wrinkles," says dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan
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