5 Habits that Damage your Health and Contribute to Early Aging

November 30, 2015

   "The longer I live the more beautiful life becomes." 
                                                     Frank Lloyd Wright 

   Aging is something we all go through if we live long enough. We know that with aging comes wrinkles and gray hair. Our heart rates slow down and the organ itself might even become larger. Blood vessels and arteries become stiffer, causing our hearts to work harder to pump blood through them which can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. Bones shrink in size and density, and this weakens them making them more susceptible to fracture. Muscles lose strength and flexibility, and we become less coordinated or have trouble balancing. Memory become less efficient with age, too, and it takes longer to learn new things, or remember familiar words or names.

   The good news is that our lifestyle choices are some of the main contributors to premature aging. By becoming aware of some of them you can hold off the inevitable for a little while longer.

Habit #1: Smoking

If you want to preserve your good looks, i.e., keep your face looking younger... don't smoke! Cigarettes can accelerate the aging process in the smoker and those who live with him or her. Several studies have shown that regular exposure to cigarette smoke causes skin dryness and facial wrinkles. This occurs because cigarette smoke drains vitamin C, which plays a significant role in the growth of healthy looking skin. 

   Smoking also causes physical changes in your eyes that can threaten eyesight. Nicotine from cigarettes restricts the production of a chemical necessary for you to be able to see at night and smoking increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration which can lead to blindness. And it can cause mild to moderate hearing loss by reducing the oxygen supply to the cochlea causing irreversible damage.
 Habit #2: Not Exercising Daily

   Being sedentary may be twice as deadly as being obese says Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. He pointed to a study published earlier this year of over 300,000 people and their daily activity, noting that being lean without being fit was a predictor of premature death.

   So, walk, swim, run, cycle or do any other activity you enjoy. Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening. Exercising regularly helps to maintain muscle tone and improve the flow of blood to various organs in your body including your skin. These benefits are reflected on your face giving you that youthful glow. Exercising prompts the release of a feel-good hormone (serotonin) which can also improve your mood.

 Habit #3: Not Getting Enough Sleep

   Quality sleep plays an important role in healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels. Weight gain, Type 2 diabetes, reduced immune function, memory loss and mood disorders can also be results of inadequate sleep. Studies have found that a single night of inadequate sleep in people who have existing hypertension can cause elevated blood pressure throughout the following day correlating poor sleep over time with cardiovascular disease and stroke. The recommended amount of sleep is 7 to 8 hours a night. 

Habit #4: Not Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D

   Body weakness, fatigue, reduced ability to perform activities of daily living, poor balance, falls and injuries are all associated with decreased muscle mass and strength of an older body. As we age, the discs between our vertebrates lose fluid and they flatten, our vertebrates then begin to come together actually shrinking our spine a bit. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, tennis, climbing stairs and strength training can help you build strong bones, maintain muscle mass and hopefully help you maintain your height.

   Calcium builds bones and keeps them healthy. It helps our blood clot and aids in helping our nerves to send messages to our muscles when they contract.  Adults ages 19 to 50 and men ages 51 to 70 should take in 1,000 milligrams a day. RDA for women is  1,200 mg a day if you are  age 51 and older and for men age 71 and older. Vitamin D is also important as it plays a role in protecting your bones by helping your body to absorb the calcium. 

   Foods like spinach, kale, okra, collard greens, soybeans and white beans have lots of calcium in them. And you'll get vitamin D, in fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon, as well, as from beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.

Habit #5: Too Much Exposure to the Sun and to Cold Environmental Conditions

   Too much sun exposure is another way we can easily accelerate the aging process. Sun damage is the number one cause of wrinkles. Age spots and other forms of discoloration are exacerbated by the sun’s harmful rays and the sun's ultraviolet light also damages the fibers in the skin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. A face that has spent years working on its tan appears heavily wrinkled. 

   Yes, sunshine is healthy... to a point. It only takes 20 minutes in the sun before it's benefits are reversed.

   Cold winds and low temperatures can also potentially cause premature aging. Spending a life time in a cold environment can create thin skin contributing to more wrinkles. Use a good moisturizer during the winter months and apply moisturizers right after a shower. It will help to lock in hydration. Use of a humidifier in your home or office can also help with keeping your skin hydrated.

    By making small adjustments to change some of these habits you will be taking care of yourself inside and out. Helping to slow down how quickly your body ages and feeling youthful for many years to come.