There’s no escaping aging — nor should we feel pressure to look like we’ve escaped it. But looking much older or younger than your biological age isn’t entirely down to genetics.
Lifestyle can really make a difference to how old you feel and how you look. Dr Noel Young, associate of clinical innovations for home blood testing company Thriva (thriva.co), says: “While our lifespans may increase, our lifespans – our time spent healthy – still remain. much lower than expected.
“Chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, which are mostly lifestyle driven, are very common and are associated with faster aging.”
Young points out that “these conditions are linked to shorter telomeres” (structures that cap the end of our chromosomes and protect them from damage) but adds: “The good news is that making certain lifestyle changes can help prevent chronic diseases and the faster aging that accompanies them.”
Here are the 11 lifestyle choices that can make you age faster.
1. Drink too much
A new study from the University of Oxford has found new evidence that alcohol accelerates biological aging by damaging DNA. Experts looked at data from nearly 250,000 people and found that those who drank more than 17 units of alcohol per week had shorter telomeres.
Dr. Anya Topiwala, study leader, says: “Shortened telomeres – more advanced biological aging – increase the risk of later diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer and heart disease. Obviously, we can’t change our genetics, but we can potentially change our lifestyles by reducing alcohol consumption, increasing exercise and quitting smoking, if we are to reduce the risk of further biological aging. fast.
2. The sun
Various studies have shown that sunlight can age skin – a 2013 French study found that UV exposure was responsible for 80% of the visible signs of facial aging.
3. Sit a lot
We are becoming more and more sedentary and as we age it is more difficult to build muscle. According to Young, we lose about 1% of our muscle mass every year starting around age 35, putting us at risk for osteoporosis, frailty and falling with injuries like hip fractures as we age. let’s grow old.
“So stay active in your everyday life,” he says. “Try things like walking 4,000 to 6,000 steps a day or taking the stairs. Do a regular type of exercise that you enjoy, like swimming, yoga, or sports. Even simple changes like using a standing desk can help keep your legs and muscles strong.
Smoking is thought to affect the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin healthy and elastic. As we age, our bodies produce less collagen, which is why the skin begins to sag and wrinkle. Smoking can accelerate this process, causing premature aging.
A 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta found four factors that can help prevent nearly 80% of chronic diseases often associated with aging. Research cited them as; never smoke, have a body mass index below 30, get 3.5 hours or more of physical activity per week, and stick to a healthy diet with a high intake of fruits and vegetables, wholemeal bread, and a low meat consumption.
A similar 2008 study from the University of Cambridge found that combining healthy behaviors could add 14 years to your life.
5. Poor diet
Fiber-rich foods like vegetables, beans, grains and fruits are linked to longer telomeres and improved lifespan, says Young, who says these foods are packed with nutrients like vitamins C and E and beta-carotene, as well as other antioxidants. The fiber they contain is also an important nutrient that helps regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol levels, and maintain a healthy gut biome.
“It’s also important to include sources of healthy fats like fish, avocado, and nuts,” he says. “These foods feature prominently in eating habits like the Mediterranean diet, which may be why it’s particularly beneficial to your health.”
Certain foods are linked to poorer health outcomes and shorter telomeres. These include foods like red and processed meat and sugary drinks. “It’s best to limit them as much as possible,” emphasizes Young.
6. Being too stressed
Long-term stress is associated with shorter telomeres, and Young says it’s a good idea to try to actively manage stress. “You can start by noticing what triggers your stress by keeping a journal, and relaxation therapies like deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and exercise like yoga can also help. If you suffer from anxiety , depression or PTSD, it is important to talk to your GP and seek appropriate help.
8. Skip the vitamins
Vitamin D is an important nutrient to help reduce the effects of aging, Young says, because low levels are linked to shorter lifespans. “It is recommended to supplement in the UK during the winter months (October – March) as it is quite difficult to obtain via food sources. Sunlight is a good source in summer – but aim for reasonable levels (and of course wear an FPS).
According to a 2022 Italian study, taking an omega-3 supplement could increase telomere length. Young suggests that anti-inflammatory compounds have other beneficial effects, such as helping manage blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, which benefits your heart health.
9. Lack of sleep
Shorter telomeres are associated with a lack of sleep, says Young, who points out that sleep deprivation also increases the risk of unhealthy behaviors like not exercising and eating sugary and fatty foods, which increases the risk of sickness.
“It’s important to get seven to nine hours of good quality sleep a day,” he stresses. “Pay attention to your bedtime routine and environment, avoid caffeinated drinks after lunch, as well as screens, and exercise an hour or two before bed. And make sure your sleep environment is dark, quiet, and cool as much as possible.