bad habits
Bad habits

7 Bad Habits That Shorten Your Lifespan

We can’t slow down time, but we can slow its effects on us, according to experts. The key is to make healthier choices, and that starts with breaking bad habits.

“One hallmark of aging is accumulated cellular damage that leads to organ dysfunction and ultimately death,” Dr. Brett Osborne, a Florida neurologist and longevity expert, told Fox News Digital. The key to staying healthy is to minimize cellular damage without adding fuel to the fire, which unfortunately most people do.”.

Doctors shared with Fox News Digital the 7 most common unhealthy behaviors that speed up the aging process and tips on how to avoid them.

1. Smoking
One of the bad habits that you should quit immediately is smoking.
“Smoking speeds up aging by exposing you to harmful chemicals, reducing oxygen supply, breaking down collagen, and increasing oxidative stress,” says Dr. Dawn Erickson, obstetrician-gynecologist and medical director at Age rejuvenation in Tampa, Florida.

“The harmful effects of tobacco extend beyond lung health, accelerating skin aging and increasing the risk of gum disease and tooth loss.”

Smoking introduces toxins that reduce skin elasticity and collagen production, which leads to wrinkles, Osborne added. “The free radicals in tobacco damage lung tissue—causing cancer— the walls of your blood vessels,” he told Fox News. “The incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and brain aneurysms is significantly higher in smokers than in non-smokers.”
Experts agreed that the quickest solution is to quit smoking immediately.

To increase the likelihood of success in quitting smoking, Erickson suggested setting a “quit date,” avoiding triggers, and seeking support from friends, family, and health care providers.
Some also have results with nicotine replacement therapy or drugs such as bupropion and varenicline, he said.

2. Excessive sun exposure
Excessive sun exposure can lead to aging by damaging the skin’s DNA, causing wrinkles, sagging skin, and dark spots, Erickson noted.

Osborne agreed, also warning of an increased risk of skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, the latter of which can be fatal.

“Regular use of high-SPF sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and avoiding peak sun exposure can protect the skin,” Osborne advised.
Other protective strategies include covering up with hats, sunglasses, and protective clothing and seeking shade during the strongest hours of sun exposure (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), according to Erickson.

Staying hydrated and using antioxidants like vitamins C and E can also help protect the skin.

3. Poor nutrition
A nutrient-deficient diet has been shown to speed up aging.

Unhealthy foods are cutting years off our lives.
“A diet high in processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats can cause inflammation, damage collagen, and speed up skin aging,” Erickson warned.

Diets high in processed foods and sugars can cause inflammation and free radical damage, Osborne added.

“The resulting insulin-resistant or pre-diabetic state puts you one step closer to the dreaded metabolic ‘syndrome’—a gateway to diseases like coronary heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s,” he told Fox News Digital.

To reduce the signs of aging, experts recommend a balanced diet rich in low-glycemic fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and anti-inflammatory fats (omega-3 and omega-9).

“The antioxidants in these foods fight free radical damage, as do antioxidant supplements like vitamin C, green tea, and omega-3 fatty acids,” Osborne said.

Other tips include planning meals and snacks ahead of time—with an emphasis on focusing on whole, unprocessed foods—to avoid impulsive, unhealthy choices, according to Erickson.

Cooking at home, controlling portions, and staying hydrated are also good ways to improve food intake, she added.

4. Lack of exercise
“Lack of exercise contributes to aging by causing muscle loss, decreased bone density, weight gain, and cardiovascular problems,” Erickson told Fox News Digital.

Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining muscle mass, circulation, and cognitive health as we age, she advised.

Osborne is also an advocate of staying active, noting that “our bodies are meant to be exercised.” “Exercise activates over 100 genes associated with longevity, so don’t skip it! It benefits the body and the mind.”

Regular physical activity, especially strength training, is fundamental to your health, according to Osborne. “That means lifting weights and breathing hard during your workouts,” he said.

On “off days,” Osborne suggests doing 45 minutes of lighter endurance training, such as walking, rowing, swimming, or jogging, which will improve your cardiovascular fitness while allowing you to recover from heavy strength training sessions.

To maintain a long-term exercise routine, it’s important to find activities you consistently enjoy, set realistic goals, stay flexible, and “listen to your body,” Erickson said.

5. Excessive alcohol consumption
Alcohol dehydrates the skin and can lead to liver damage and cognitive decline, Osborne warned. “It also causes problems with blood sugar regulation and is closely linked to obesity,” he said, adding, “As alcohol is a cellular toxin, it speeds up the aging process.”

Erickson agreed that excessive alcohol consumption speeds up aging by causing dehydration, nutrient depletion, inflammation, liver damage, and collagen breakdown.

“Chronic alcohol consumption can dehydrate the skin, damage the liver, and increase the risk of cognitive decline,” Erickson said.
As with smoking, the solution is to eliminate alcohol consumption, experts agreed.

“I’m not saying cut it out cold, but aim to eliminate habitual alcohol consumption within the next six to 12 months,” Osborne advised. “You’ll feel better and save a lot of money in the long run.”

Other tips to quit drinking include avoiding triggers, engaging in healthy activities, and seeking professional help if needed, according to Erickson.

6. Chronic stress
While some stress is normal and healthy, chronically high levels of stress can shorten telomeres, which are protein structures of DNA that “play a central role in cell fate and aging, regulating the cellular response to stress and the stimulation of growth based on previous cell divisions and DNA damage,” according to the US National Institutes of Health.

“Chronic stress can also worsen skin conditions and affect mental health, accelerating aging,” Erickson added.

Long-term stress affects the body’s ability to repair itself and can lead to premature aging, according to Osborne. “Aging is a state of increased inflammation, and once the body’s ability to moderate inflammation through cortisol production is exhausted, it reigns rampant,” he said.

Stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, therapy, and regular physical activity, Osborne said.
“Strength training also reduces cortisol production (several hours after training) and facilitates sleep, which is critical for reducing stress,” he said.

7. Insufficient sleep
Lack of sleep speeds up aging by reducing skin health, increasing inflammation, and causing hormonal imbalances, Erickson noted. “Insufficient sleep also prevents cell repair and affects cognitive function,” he pointed out.

Sleep is vital for the body’s regenerative processes, Osborne noted. “If you don’t sleep, you’re going to have a hard time doing some tasks because a lot of fat burning happens during sleep,” he said. “You’ll also set yourself up for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

Memories are also formed during sleep, he noted. “Sleep can’t be hacked; it’s an essential part of health and well-being.”

To optimize sleep health, Osborne suggested establishing a regular schedule, creating a restful environment, and avoiding stimulants before bed.

“Also, minimizing carbohydrate consumption within several hours before bedtime can make it easier to induce sleep,” he added. “In a similar context, give up the cell phone, laptop, and tablet as early as possible to minimize the interference of blue light with the production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone.”

Manage stress and seek professional help if needed, Erickson added.

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