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9 Habits That Accelerate Aging

The good news? Most of these can be easily remedied.
FACT CHECKED BY Christopher Roback

There is no way to prevent aging. However, your lifestyle habits may dictate how quickly you physically age. If you want to slow the aging process, there are things you can do that don't involve going under the knife. Nigar Ahmedli, MD, the director of the division of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at Montefiore Einstein Advanced Care, reveals nine habits that accelerate aging – and explains how to remedy them.

Sun Exposure

Portrait of an old woman in a straw hat, sunglasses and a swimsuit applying sunscreen to her face while relaxing by the pool.

"Significant sun exposure leads to premature aging by creating sunspots and wrinkles," says Dr. Ahmedli. "Several sunburns over a lifetime can increase the risk of skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma."

Not Wearing Sunscreen

Beach Woman in Sun Hat on Vacation

Not wearing sunscreen is linked to sun exposure. "Wearing sunscreen every time you spend more than 15 minutes in sunlight will decrease the damage done by the UV (ultraviolet) radiation to the skin," explains Dr. Ahmedli. "It is important to use sun block creams that provide a full block, namely those containing zinc or titanium compounds."

Lack of Basic Skincare

Facial Skincare. Attractive Female Applying Serum On Face Moisturizing And Caring For Skin Standing Near Mirror In Modern Bathroom Indoors. Beauty Routine. Skin Care Concept. Selective Focus

If you aren't taking care of your skin, you will age faster. "Basic skincare includes a face wash for hygiene and exfoliation, lotion for hydration, and sunscreen. Some people add various other serums and creams to this regimen to help brighten pigmented or darkened areas and decrease the appearance of wrinkles," explains Dr. Ahmedli. "It is important to remember to wash your face with a gentle cleanser one to two times a day to remove the dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells that accumulate on the surface. Especially in the winter, the skin loses moisture which can lead to flakiness, dry patches, and excoriations (cracks in the skin), which lotion can help address."

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Smoking leads to several issues, explains Dr. Ahmedli. "For the skin, it produces a yellowish discoloration and a grayish dullness. Fine lines can appear around the lips due to constant pursing of the lips. The teeth become stained. Overtime, you can develop voice changes due to the constant irritation to the voice box, which leads to swelling and scar tissue formation. If you have surgery, it leads to worse wound healing and scarring due to narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply the face and neck," she says.

Poor Diet

Unhealthy products. food bad for figure, skin, heart and teeth. Assortment of fast carbohydrates food.

A poor diet is another culprit behind premature aging. "There is no one diet that is ideal and works for everyone. The more generalized approach is to eat a balanced diet in moderation," says Dr. Ahmedli. It is important to eat foods that supply a variety of proteins, carbohydrates, and minerals consisting of various vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats, and some fruits. Highly processed foods should be avoided as much as possible. "A balanced diet will help maintain your weight, especially as you age," she adds.

Lack of Physical Activity


If you want to look young longer, exercise. "There are certain recommendations for weekly activity. 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week is a standard recommendation," explains Dr. Ahmedli. "This implies that your heart rate needs to be elevated to promote cardiovascular health." She adds that the "10,000 steps a day" that is often quoted in the media "does not fulfill this recommendation because your heart rate does not significantly go up beyond its resting rate," she says. "As we age, the tendency is to gain weight (fat) and lose muscle mass. Aerobic exercise and weightlifting (many repetitions of lighter weights) help combat this."

Significant Weight Gain

Close up overweight woman measuring her hip with tape measure.

"Significant weight gain can lead to various generalized health complications, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and sleep apnea," says Dr. Ahmedli. "Sleep apnea is more and more common these days as health care providers have become more aware of its negative health impacts over time. In addition to poor, non-restorative sleep, it can be a contributing factor for high blood pressure, diabetes, and neurologic issues (such as brain fog)."

Limited Water Intake/Dehydration

Closeup on mineral water bottles in raw and lines

"Drinking adequate amounts of water each day (the typically recommended 8 glasses a day) is paramount to overall health," Dr. Ahmedli maintains. A rule of thumb is to drink enough water so that your urine is a very light yellow. "The darker or more orange the urine becomes, the more dehydrated you are. Water allows the kidneys to flush out the wastes the body makes. Staying hydrated allows your heart and blood vessels to maintain appropriate heart rhythm and blood pressure. Water allows your skin cells to remain plump and provide a glow to the skin," she says.

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Stress-Filled Lifestyle

mid adult italian woman banging her head against a wall outside office building. Horizontal shape, copy space

Everyone experiences stress. However, too much of it can age you. "One way to limit external stressors is to limit social media use. The culture of social media has become obsessed with maintaining an image of the best possible version of yourself. This not only applies to physical perfection (with the use of makeup, filters, and surgery), but also the representation of a person as the best in business, career, fashion, social scene, etc." says Dr. Ahmedli. "We look at others and think, 'why are we not like that? How do I become like that person?' Many of these expectations are not attainable or sustainable and not possible in 'real life.'"

💪🔥Body Booster: A quick way to look younger? If you are dehydrated, drink more water.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more