5 health habits that make you look older

Are bad habits adding years to your appearance? Check out these five habits that make you look older, and what you can do to fix them

5 health habits that make you look older

Source: Web exclusive, May 2010

Have you ever looked at someone who appears 10 years younger than she is, and found yourself feeling jealous of her good genes? Well, according to research, your bad habits and poor health choices may be sabotaging your appearance.

"Aging has two components," says Dr. Bahman Guyuron, who studied the aging differences in identical twins. "One part is genetics, while the second part is related to the environmental factors that we control." In other words, the choices we make and the stresses we suffer take a much harsher toll on our faces than most of us realize. The good news is that knowing what we’re doing wrong can help guide us in making better lifestyle decisions, in order to prevent the appearance of premature aging. And it’s not just good for the sake of our looks, but for our health, too. Here’s a list of the top five aging blunders and what you can do to fix them.

1. Yo-yo dieting

We all know that yo-yo dieting isn’t great for our bodies. But it turns out that rapidly and repeatedly losing and gaining weight actually makes us look older, too‘at least when the weight loss totals more than 11 pounds in a single year. A study (whose findings were published exclusively in the UK’s Daily Mail) by Dr. Rajiv Grover, secretary of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, suggests that yo-yo dieting alters the ligaments in the face that support the soft tissue, thereby changing the actual shape of the face. According to the article, changes in facial shape can make us look older.

The fix: Find your ideal weight and maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan to help you stay there.

2. Losing too much weight

According to a study conducted by Dr. Guyuron, weighing more after a certain age can give you a younger appearance. In the study, Guryuron compared the appearance of 186 pairs of identical twins. One of his findings: with twins over 40 years old, the sibling that weighed slightly more was perceived as looking younger than the twin who weighed less. 

The fix: If you’re over 40 and still reading fashion magazines, remind yourself that having the body of a 15-year-old, size-0 model will make you look less’not more’attractive. And if you’re not yet 40, it’s wise to find and maintain a healthy weight to prevent any drastic dieting later in your life.

3. Bad lifestyle choices

Guyuron’s identical-twin study also suggests that everyday habits have an impact on the appearance of age. According to the study’s findings, smoking also played a significant role in facial appearance‘the longer the twins smoked, the older they appeared. Among other factors that contributed to facial aging: sun exposure, antidepressant use and alcohol consumption.

The fix: If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit! Also, limit direct sun exposure and alcohol consumption.

4. Stress

Situations that cause prolonged angst can also affect facial appearance. Some experts suggests that divorce, debt, a hated job and grief contribute to face changes. And it’s not just a question of dark circles or wrinkles’stress can lead to acne, brittle nails, hives and even hair loss. Plus, those under a lot of stress tend to neglect their skin, which can compound the situation.

Worse still, chronic extreme stress doesn’t just have the power to make you appear older, it can actually cause you to become physically older. In a study of 58 women between the ages of 20 and 50, Dr. Elissa Epel found that the immune cells of those who lived with extreme stress (in this case, mothers who cared for their chronically ill children) tended to show signs of approximately 10 years’ worth of added aging, compared to those women who led less stressful lives.

The fix: While you can’t necessarily avoid a divorce or quit your job, you can seek out ways to help deal with that stress. Epel’s study found that, of the women leading stressful lives, those who were better able to deal with their stress (i.e., a positive outlook, the ability to let stress roll off them), did not show the signs of additional aging. So whether it’s yoga, kick-boxing or meditating, find something that helps you de-stress and unwind.

5. Eating too much sugar

When you consume sugars, they are converted to glucose in your body and enter the bloodstream, where they then search out and attach to skin proteins. Once attached, they form new molecules called advanced-glycation end products, or AGEs. What does that have to do with your face? The more sugar consumed, the more AGEs you create, and these AGEs mess with your body’s collagen and elastin, which help maintain your skin’s firmness and elasticity. In short: too much sugar leads to sagging, wrinkled skin.

The fix: Reduce the amount of AGEs your body produces by avoiding sugary products, especially the processed foods they tend to hide in. Know sugar by its many names: corn syrup (especially bad is high-fructose corn syrup), glucose, fructose, dextrose and sucrose are among the more common ingredients, while saccharose, treacle, xylose, dextrin and maltodextrin are some of its trickier disguises.

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