Are you aging faster than your years? If you don't like what you see in the mirror, it may be time to evaluate some of your daily routines. The foods you eat and even the way you sleep can add years to your face and may shorten your lifespan. Here, experts discuss the most common age-accelerating habits and ways to reverse the process.
If your to-do list never seems to get any shorter, the stress from your hectic life may be taxing your body. "People think multitasking is good, but you don't actually get anything done—you just create more stress," says Raymond Casciari, MD, chief medical officer of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif. Several studies show that chronic stress triggers the release of free radicals, the unstable molecules that damage cells and are responsible for aging. Instead of trying to do it all, Dr. Casciari suggests concentrating on one task at a time and only moving on once you finish it.
|You rarely pass up dessert|
Aside from adding excess pounds to your body, your sweet tooth may also be adding years to your face. "Internally, sugar molecules attach themselves to protein fibers in each of our cells," says Susan Stuart, MD, a San Diego, Calif. board-certified dermatologist. This damaging process, known as glycation, can result in a loss of radiance, dark circles under the eyes, loss of tone, puffiness, an increase in fine lines and wrinkles and a loss of facial contours and increased pore size. Pass on the sugary treats if you want to preserve your youthful glow.
|You get by on fewer than five hours sleep a night|
Skimping on sleep not only results in dark bags under the eyes—it has also been linked to a shorter lifespan, says Dr. Casciari, who founded a sleep laboratory at St. Joseph's Hospital. "Sleeping within the seven-hour range is optimal," he says. Get to bed earlier if you have the symptoms of sleep deprivation, which include a lack of daytime energy, mental sluggishness, attention problems, or weight gain, Dr. Casciari says.
|You love a good TV marathon|
Binge-watching the latest season of House of Cards is one thing; regularly gluing yourself to the TV is another. In a British Journal of Sports Medicine study of about 11,000 Australians ages 25 and older, researchers found that for every hour of television watched, adults cut their life expectancy by 22 minutes. What's more, people who spent an average of six hours a day watching TV lived five years less than their non-viewing counterparts. "This effect is more about sitting and being inactive than the TV watching," says Dr. Casciari. "When you sit for more than 30 minutes your body begins to deposit sugar into your cells, which makes it much more likely you'll be overweight as well." Whether you're watching TV or at your desk, get up every 30 minutes to walk around, says Dr. Casciari.
|You spend most of the day sitting|
The dangers of a sedentary lifestyle are well-documented: People who spend most of their days parked in a chair are at increased risk for kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, not to mention obesity. ??Naturally, exercising regularly helps to prevent these health issues and keeps you living longer, according to a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Study participants who exercised 150 minutes or more a week lived 10 to 13 years longer than the inactive bunch.
|You sleep with your face in the pillow|
Sleeping on your stomach or on your side with your face smashed into the pillow can create wrinkles and accelerate aging. "The connective tissue and collagen in your face becomes weaker and less supportive with age," says James C. Marotta, MD, a board-certified facial plastic surgeon and skincare expert. "So when you sleep on the same side of your face night after night, your skin won't smooth out or spring back as quickly as it did when you were young." Those crease lines from your pillow can become permanent. Sleep on your back or invest in a satin pillowcase to keep skin smooth.
|You keep your home toasty warm|
When it's a snowy mess outside, it's tempting to crank up the heat indoors. But whether you light up the fireplace or turn up the thermostat, both suck moisture out of the air, says Dr. Marotta. "This can lead to dry, inflamed skin, which over time has aging effects." Investing in a humidifier helps counteract the dry air (40 to 60% humidity is optimal) and can free your skin from itching, scratching, and flaking. Alternatively, Dr. Marotta recommends placing a wet towel over a radiator or a bowl of cold water in the room as a way to add back some of the lost moisture.
|You sip drinks through a straw|
Drinking dark-colored beverages through a straw can prevent stains on your teeth, but just as squinting can eventually cause wrinkles to form around your eyes, pursing your lips can also bring about premature wrinkles around the mouth. "This also occurs when smoking cigarettes," says Janet Prystowsky, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York. Pour your bottled beverages into a drinking glass to avoid puckering up.
|You cut out all fat from your diet|
Some fat is necessary for maintaining a youthful feeling and appearance, says Franci Cohen, a certified nutritionist and exercise physiologist from Brooklyn, NY. "Heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel) and certain nuts (such as walnuts and flax seeds) keep skin supple and plump, thereby preventing wrinkles, and they boost both heart and brain health as well," she says. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends including fish in your meals at least twice a week.