Things That Age You Faster, Says Science
Youth may be wasted on the young, but it's no longer their exclusive property. In recent years, scientists have found that it's possible to keep yourself younger than your chronological age might suggest, just by adopting some easy lifestyle changes and avoiding some common habits that are prematurely aging. 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.
Staring at Screens
What you're doing right this minute may be making you older. Experts say that getting too much exposure to blue light, the kind emitted from smartphones and computer screens, may cause accelerated aging. A 2019 study published in the journal Aging and Mechanisms of Disease found that blue light could damage cells in the brain and eyes. To avoid this, the researchers recommended getting as much natural light as possible, wearing blue light glasses to block emissions, and limiting your screen time.
Eating Processed Foods
"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. That's right—sugar can actually cause wrinkles. Sugar binds to two proteins in our skin, collagen and elastin, that keep it looking young, damaging them and actually blocking the body's efforts at repair. Tweaking your diet may lead to the fountain of youth: "Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables may help prevent damage that leads to premature skin aging," says the AAD.
Some people infected with coronavirus may have long-term cognitive deficits comparable to the brain aging by 10 years, a study at Imperial College London found. Researchers looked at more than 84,000 people who had recovered from COVID-19; they found that some had significant cognitive declines that lasted for months, and people who had been placed on a ventilator during their illness had, on average, cognitive decline equivalent to a person 10 years older. "These results should act as a clarion call for more detailed research investigating the basis of cognitive deficits in people who have survived SARS-COV-2 infection," the authors wrote. It's also a clarion call to get vaccinated, if you haven't already—studies show the vaccine cuts the risk of infection, serious illness and developing long COVID.
Chronically Stressing Out
Chronic stress can age you before your time—and even shorten your life. Harvard Medical School reports that chronic stress can shorten telomeres, the structures inside each cell that contain DNA. Telomeres start out long and grow shorter as they age; when they get too short, they die. Not only is this the literal process of aging, but people who have shorter telomeres are at greater risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.
RELATED: How to Reverse Aging, Say Studies
Not Getting Quality Sleep
Getting a poor night's sleep doesn't just feel lousy—it's bad for you. That's what researchers have concluded after determining that sleep is a time when the body's vital systems—everything from the brain, heart, and immune system to the skin—repair and refresh themselves. Skimp on that necessary reboot, and it can prematurely age you. Literally: Scientists at UCLA found that just one night of bad sleep actually makes older adults' cells age faster. And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.