We’re all aging; it’s simply out of our control. However, how we choose to age, and at what rate, can sometimes be in our hands. The aging process is complex; it’s influenced by an individual’s genetic makeup, environmental factors, and, crucially, by lifestyle choices.
The daily decisions that we make can not only influence how we look, act, and feel, but they can even affect our chances of developing serious health issues. For example, Alzheimer’s and dementia care professionals acknowledge that diet and lifestyle may contribute to an individual’s chances of developing a type of disease.
With lifestyle playing such a pivotal role in aging, here are five things that might be making you age faster.
In this article
Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
Smoking and alcohol can first make us look older. Smoking can lead to a loss of skin elasticity, which contributes to wrinkles, dull skin, and yellowing teeth, and alcohol can lead to dehydration, which can accelerate visible aging. But smoking and alcohol can also cause internal aging.
Excessive alcohol consumption — to put this in perspective, one drink a day for a woman and two for a man is considered ‘moderate’ — can cause damage to the liver, which may lead to cirrhosis. Persistent alcohol consumption can also contribute to high blood pressure and the potential to develop several cancers. Heavy smoking — someone who smokes 20 cigarettes a day is classed as a heavy smoker — increases your risk of developing lung, throat, and mouth cancer.
A Sedentary Lifestyle
This isn’t to say you need to embark on a 5k run every morning. But know that little to no exercise can contribute to accelerated aging. A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to decreased bone density, muscle loss, and a decline in overall health.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should partake in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week, and on two days, they should work on muscle strengthening.
Bad Dietary Choices
Food gives us the energy we need to get through the day, and with gusto! A poor diet will contribute to low energy levels (making it challenging to exercise and get out and about as per above). Food also affects our organ health, bone density, our skin, and our brains.
Further, a diet that’s high in overly processed foods, unnatural sugars, and unhealthy fats can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which can accelerate aging.
Poor Sleep Hygiene
When we reach states of deep sleep, our body repairs and regenerates tissues. Spending hours tossing and turning at night without reaching solid REM can lead to poor cognition and memory challenges. It may even increase your chances of developing dementia.
Little Mental Stimulation
Like the rest of your body, your brain needs exercise. Cognitive engagement and challenging your brain can help maintain mental acuity as you age.
Activities like word games, learning a new language or instrument, reading, painting, crosswords, and other puzzles can keep the brain active, as do regular social engagements.
Keep in mind that these habits or factors can contribute to accelerated aging, but genetics and the surrounding environment — like exposure to air pollution — can also accelerate the process.
Adjusting some lifestyle choices — like those mentioned above — can help slow the aging process and promote overall well-being. So why not connect with your family doctor today if you’re concerned about a current lifestyle choice?