Although aging is inevitable and a part of life, some habits can either slow down aging or make one age faster.
Collagen and elastin are proteins in the body that give firmness and elasticity to the body and skin. Collagen offers strength and rigidity, while elastin provides elasticity to the skin—ability of the skin to snap back into shape after stretching. With age, the amount of collagen and elastin produced by the skin is greatly reduced. These proteins also break down with age. Wrinkles, dry and sagging skin are the results. These are natural occurrences, however, some environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to the early breakdown of these proteins leading to early onset of wrinkles, sagging skin and other signs of aging.
As widely believed, genetics have a role to play in premature aging but not as much as habits and lifestyle. According to a study, environmental and lifestyle factors account for nearly 80 percent of aging in people as compared to genetic factors that account for only 20 percent. That is to say that while genetics is a factor, looking younger or older than we actually are is entirely up to us!
Here are some of the seemingly harmless habits that can make one to age faster and look older than they really are;
1.Too Much Sun Exposure:
It is estimated that 90 percent of skin aging by environmental factors is caused by the effects of sun rays. Also, scientists are of the opinion that the first and most common type of skin wrinkling is caused by chronic sun damage. Underneath the skin reside collagen and elastin, which are proteins that help keep the skin firm. Exposure of the skin to UV rays of the sun causes damage to these proteins leading to sagging and wrinkling of the skin. To delay premature aging, protection from the sun is of utmost importance. The body does need some amount of sunshine as it is a good source of vitamin D, however, this vitamin can be obtained through other means, like adding some vitamin D-rich foods to your diet. If you must go out in the sun, ensure you apply sunscreen on your face and other exposed body parts. Also, avoid going out in the sun between 10am to 3pm when the sun rays are believed to be the strongest.
2. Not Dealing With Stress:
Stress is unavoidable in humans and as such, one must find a way to combat stress. The major stress hormone, Cortisol, damages the elastin and collagen in the skin that gives the skin its firmness. More stress comes with higher cortisol than the body can handle, which causes less-than-normal production of elastin and collagen. The result is a sagging and early formation of skin wrinkles. Prolonged stress can also cause inflammation leading to reduced ability of the body to repair itself. This can cause early aging of the skin.
3. Alcohol: The body needs the right amount of water to function properly. Alcohol causes dehydration of the skin. Excessive alcohol consumption leaves one dehydrated and this can lead to organ damage and dry skin. Alcohol is also linked to a reduction in vitamin and collagen levels, causing a person’s skin to lose elasticity and become wrinkled.
It is a well-known fact that smoking is bad for health and predisposes one to illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer. However, the skin is not left out. The nicotine in cigarettes causes the blood vessels in the skin to narrow, hence the skin does not get the needed oxygen and nutrients it needs for a healthy skin. Also, smoking causes inflammation of the skin, activating enzymes that damage elastin and collagen. This will leave one with wrinkles and sagging skin.
5. Not Getting Enough Sleep:
Sleep allows the brain and body to undergo processes of renewal and recovery which in turn promotes better physical and mental performance. Sleep deprivation has been linked to reduced skin elasticity, uneven pigmentation and dark circles under the eyes. Research has shown that just a single night of insufficient sleep can make an older adults’ cells age quicker. If you do not get the recommended 8-9 hours of sleep, you are unknowingly speeding up your aging process.
6. Lack of Regular Exercise:
Exercise improves blood circulation to the body. It gives the skin a healthy look by improving blood flow to the skin, which boosts oxygen levels and the delivery of nutrients to the skin. This promotes skin elasticity as it provides the right conditions for collagen production. This keeps away wrinkles, leaving the skin tight. People who do not exercise are not doing their skin any good as studies have shown that people who exercise show fewer signs of aging than people who do not exercise.
7. Not Drinking Enough Water: Water makes up roughly 45-75% of the human body and is essential for collagen production. About 60 percent of the weight of collagen is made up of water. When one is not getting enough water, the collagen breaks down and this can lead to aging. Wrinkles, lines and other signs of aging become visible.
8. Not Eating Healthy Foods:
Eating healthy foods not only helps one to live longer but to also look younger. When one doesn’t eat right, it shows. Junk foods, processed meats, refined carbohydrates and sugary snacks are bad for aging. Studies have shown that sugar disrupts the ability of collagen to repair itself. Sugar also dehydrates the natural supply of collagen and elastin, causing the skin to lose elasticity prematurely. For a healthy and youthful look, incorporate proteins, fresh fruits and leafy, colorful vegetables in your diet. To prevent premature aging, consider eating lots of egg whites, fish and other collagen-rich foods that help in collagen production.
9. Too Much Intake Of Caffeine:
Too much caffeine inhibits the enzyme, prolidase, that plays an important role in the synthesis of collagen in the body. This negatively affects collagen production. Also, caffeine affects the length of time it takes for an individual to sleep and the quality of sleep, this cuts into the period of restorative sleep for a radiant skin. Too much caffeine can also result in dehydration as it causes one to excrete fluids, making the skin dull.
10. Repetitive Facial Expression:
Repetitive facial expressions (smiling, frowning, squinting) with muscle contractions can cause wrinkles when done an excessive amount of time. When you repeatedly activate these muscles, the lines you create with the same expressions remain. The wrinkles appear as lines around the mouth from smoking and sipping out of a straw, crow’s feet at the edge of eyes from smiling, creases at the forehead from raising brows. One can try to avoid these movements to prevent wrinkles.
Genetics play a vital role in how quickly one ages, but habits are a much bigger factor. Getting rid of these habits may not reverse the already-existing signs of aging, but you are on the right path to slowing down your aging process.