17 Surprising Habits That Make You Age Quicker

The secret to effortless aging is quitting these things.

17 Surprising Habits That Make You Age Quicker

Humans have always been obsessed with looking and feeling younger. We inspect every new worry line, stress over every grey hair, and revamp our wardrobes to create the impression that we’re not as old as we actually are. But in many cases, it’s not the finer points of our appearance that contribute to aging, but the habits we maintain on a regular basis.

For example, little things like slouching over our phones and sleeping on sub-par pillowcases can make us appear older and contribute to long-term health issues that age us beyond our years. And while some bad habits are obvious (for example, smoking and sunbathing are not on this list), others are far more surprising. Read on to learn which habits you’ll want to look out for.

You neglect your friendships.

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When you think of the things that can boost your chance of a long, healthy life, you probably default straight to diet and exercise. But it turns out having good friends is also key. Kate Milne, founder of Cardea Health Consulting, a firm conducting healthy living research for older adults, points to a 2010analysis of social health studies published in PLOS Medicine. For the review, researchers looked at data from nearly 309,000 individuals over the course of 7.5 years.

“Those with strong social relationships were 50 percent more likely to survive during the study period than those with poor quality relationships,” says Milne. “This health effect could be compared with quitting smoking and has a bigger impact than other well-known interventions like reducing obesity.” The findings remained consistent across age, sex, initial health status, and cause of death, meaning that, no matter your health concerns, strong relationships can help slow down your body clock.

You bounce from one fad diet to the next.

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Those worried about living healthier often start by eating healthier. But jumping on the latest fad diet can have the exact opposite result, especially since a diet that involves serious changes to your eating habits usually doesn’t stick—and often just leads to the next fad diet.“Yo-yo dieting can contribute to a loss of fat-free mass (muscle and bone) long-term,” explains Milne, pointing to a 2011 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

“Loss of fat-free mass can lead to poor mobility, increased fall-risk, and lower overall strength,” Milne says. “In studies of those whose weight-cycled, a higher ratio of fat—compared to fat-free mass—was found when participants regained some or all their original weight.”

You drink from water bottles.

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No, this doesn’t have anything to do with the chemicals that can leach off of plastic bottles (though that’s something to consider, too). According to Anthony Youn, MD, a holistic beauty specialist and author of The Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How to Really Look 10 Years Younger, drinking regularly from water bottles can cause wrinkles.

How, you ask? Well, according to Youn, “drinking from water bottles causes us to purse our lips repeatedly, and even though the water hydrates our skin, some doctors believe that the repeated lip pursing causes our lips to wrinkle more.”Youn says the solution is to “drink from wide-mouthed bottles, or, if you need to use a small-mouthed bottle, then squirt the water into your open mouth.”

You hold grudges for longer than you need to.

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Your emotional life can significantly influence your physical life. And, it turns out, one of the most common ways you can damage yourself emotionally is by holding onto past events or arguments.

“The body holds onto stress and traumas through clenched jaws, permanent frowns or furrowed eyebrows, and slumped shoulders,” says Heather Larivee, a corporate wellness consultant and the founder and CEO of Sparkflo, LLC.

Christine Scott-Hudson, a psychotherapist and the owner of Create Your Life Studio, agrees that resentment can prematurely age a person.“Letting go of old hurts frees up space for new energy in your life,” she says. “If you are having trouble getting over a slight, try imagining letting go of a balloon. Picture releasing the balloon of resentment and watch it float away from you.”

You get “text neck” when you look at your phone.

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Text neck is when you tilt your head down to look at your phone. Since the average head weighs between eight and 12 pounds, getting into this habit can have major effects on your health. “Text neck puts an incredible amount of force on our neck and spine, causing undue strain on the neck,” says Larivee.

That can lead to headaches, neck and shoulder pain, decreased range of motion, and a visible hump in the spine. Larivee recommends holding your phone at eye level. Doing so will also help strengthen the muscles in your upper body.

You sit for more than four hours a day.

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You’ve probably heard that sitting is the new smoking—but you might not realize just how much it can affect the aging process. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Aging Research found that those who were sedentary for more than four hours a day were associated with lower odds of “aging successfully,” due to a combination of physical, psychological, and social health. Those who were sedentary for fewer than two hours a day were 43 percent more likely to age successfully.

That’s because sitting for extended periods can decrease oxygen intake and atrophy your muscles. These factors contribute to weight gain and inhibit your body’s production of feel-good endorphins, such as dopamine.

You slouch at your desk.

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While sitting itself is bad for you, theway that you sit can also impact aging. Bad posture can lead to kyphosis, also known as Dowager’s hump, the abnormal curvature of the spine that’s common in the elderly.

“It’s becoming more and more common in younger people too due mostly to poor posture sitting at their desks hunching over a computer,” says Monica Lam-Feist, an ACE certified personal trainer and fitness lead at AlgaeCal, a calcium supplement company. “This habit rounds your upper back and can weaken your spine by placing constant stress on it. This can lead to pain, arthritis and, of course, the physical change of a curved, rounded spine.”

You have a soft spot for heavy earrings.

Older Woman with white hair wears earrings, habits that make you age Jacob Lund / Shutterstock

It may sound strange, but your earlobes could be a dead giveaway that you’re getting up there in age. And if you’re in the habit of wearing big, heavy earrings, that could be even more accurate.“As we get older, our earlobes droop (like everything else in our body) and we get stretched and elongated earlobes,” says Youn. “For women, it’s even worse than for men, since heavy earrings can weigh down an ear and cause it to stretch over the years. Ear piercings also weaken the earlobe and can stretch and tear.”

He suggests a simple solution: Lobe Wonder support patches, which attach to the back of the earlobe to support it and counteract the weight of the jewelry. (Good news: They cost just $6 for a pack of 60.)

You don’t manage your stress.

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Numerous studies support the fact that stress (both short-term and long-term) can cause premature aging. That’s because when you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol, which can damage your telomerase and telomeres (the caps at the end of each strand of DNA).

“Wrinkles, grey hair, and a weakened immune system may be associated with shortened telomeres,” says Lam-Feist. “So by giving yourself a simple attitude adjustment or participating in stress-reducing activities (such as meditation, breathing, and yoga, etc.), you could combat aging.”

You don’t pay attention to the ingredients on your skin care products.

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The skin care products you use every day could be hiding some seriously scary ingredients. “On average, women use beauty products that contain more than 120 chemicals per day,” says Alissia Zenhausern, MD, a naturopathic physician at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale. She notes that many of those chemicals have been linked to or are suspected to cause hormonal imbalance and disruption, which can lead to premature aging.

Lorraine Miano, an integrative health coach and author of The Magic of Menopause: A Holistic Guide to Get Your Happy Back, seconds this idea. “Our skin is our largest organ and what you put on it is absorbed into your body,” she says. “Many beauty and skin care items contain hormone-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, pesticides, and plastics. These chemicals can mimic hormones, destroy others and cause internal signaling issues, leading to premature cell death.” Your dermatologist will be able to help you decode these labels and recommend the safest products.

You drink too much dairy.

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Sure, calcium is good for you. But a glass of milk every day may not be all that healthy.“Dairy is pro-inflammatory to the gut which means that if you are consuming dairy on a daily basis, you are increasing your risk of gut inflammation,” says Zenhausern. “With our gut as our major organ of not only digestion but also detoxification, a lack of proper detoxification can lead to skin that appears older. Proper gut health is what provides us with young, fresh, glowing skin.”

You exercise too much.

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While exercise is key to a long and healthy life, there can certainly be too much of a good thing. Miano says that when you exercise too hard or too frequently, it can make it so your muscles never have time to fully recover.

“This can lead to inflammation, poor sleep, and a compromised immune system,” says Miano. “Especially for women as they age, the stress caused by excessive exercise can raise cortisol levels and lead to hormone imbalances.” Depending on your age, you’ll want space your workouts anywhere from 24 to 36 hours apart.

You overbook your schedule.

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Packing your days too full can cause all kinds of problems that will sap your youthful energy, says Lydia Noyes, a health and wellness expert for lifestyle website HighYa.com.

For example, shorting yourself on sleep can lead to hardened arteries and lackluster skin. Likewise, too much stress from feeling overworked can manifest itself physically as wrinkles and grey hairs.Instead of booking yourself from the time your alarm clock blares to the time you hit the hay, be sure to block in some downtime.

You only do cardio.

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Cardio is great, but don’t ignore the weight room at the gym. Anyone trying to keep the body of their youth should strength train at least three times a week, says Jill Brown, a certified health and nutrition coach, functional strength coach, and group fitness instructor in Beverly Hills.

“Sarcopenia [loss of muscle tissue] can begin as young as 25 to 30 years old,” Brown says. “If you don’t exercise enough to make muscle, and maintain what you’ve built, you may begin to lose as much as 3 percent to 5 percent [muscle mass] per decade after the age of 30.”

You live in a high-pollution area.

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This may be more a lifestyle choice than a habit, but if you tend to prefer cities with high levels of air pollution, it could accelerate the aging process. “Studies have been done in urban areas, where there are high levels of particles and chemicals in the air, that show that living around such high levels are associated with increased visible signs of aging such as age spots and wrinkles,” says Emilia Javorsky, MD, co-founder and chief scientific officer of skin care company Sundaily.

You don’t have a functional sleep routine.


Sleep plays a huge role in our health and our aging. Getting regular, deep sleep can make the difference between looking bright and chipper in the morning and appearing 10 years older than you actually are. Scott-Hudson emphasizes that it “ages you faster to be chronically underslept.”

She adds: “People tend to snack mindlessly when they are tired. You won’t be on top of your game at work if you are exhausted. We make more mistakes when we are tired.”

You sleep on a crummy pillow.


Sleeping on your face or side can create creases in your cheeks that can progress to permanent sleep wrinkles, says Youn. This is exacerbated if youuse a rough pillowcase, like one made of polyester.

His solution? “Sleep on your back, or if you can’t, then change your pillowcase to a silk or satin pillowcase.” And for more ways to get your best sleep ever, you’ll want to know the 40 Ways Your Sleep Changes After 40.

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