6 Habits of the Prematurely Aged

Take aging into your own hands by avoiding these six harmful habits


It’s true: Age is just a number. But wouldn’t it be nice if that number would get smaller instead of larger with time?

Raymond Francis, author, radio host and health maintenance expert, is 77 years old. A Doppler ultrasound, however, indicates that his arteries have a biological age of 25. The ultrasound works by measuring the elasticity and cleanliness of arteries, and it can be taken by anyone. Francis says his goal is to have the arteries of a teenager by the time he’s 80.

Growing old is often associated with heart disease, memory loss and arthritis. While there is no elixir for eternal youth, avoiding certain unhealthy habits can help you feel younger throughout your later years.

1 Sun Exposure

Unprotected exposure to the sun is one of the biggest culprits for premature aging of the skin. In addition to causing wrinkles, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light can lead to melanoma and other types of skin cancers. Protect your face and body from unnecessary physical aging by applying sunscreen throughout the day.

2 Unhealthy Diet

Even if you have the most beautiful skin in the world, you could be old on the inside, according to author and narrative journalist Lauren Kessler. Her book “Counterclockwise” (Rodale, 2013), deals primarily with aging from the inside out.

Kessler and Francis both stress the importance of avoiding processed foods. Processed foods are low in nutrition and high in toxins – two of the most common causes of all diseases, Francis says. Try instead to stock your kitchen with fresh foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B-12. Spending hundreds of dollars for unusual “superfoods” or supplements is unnecessary when you can get the same nutrients from an orange or a piece of salmon, Kessler says.

3 Inactivity

Exercise can benefit your body weight and energy levels. It can also improve digestion, immune system function, muscles and brain activity, Kessler says. Going to the gym for an hour each day is a good start, but Kessler advocates integrating exercise into your life as a whole. For example, next time you meet up with friends or co-workers, try going for a hike instead of meeting for dinner. The same amount of socialization can be achieved in healthier ways.

4 Toxins

The key to lasting health is knowing how to keep just one cell healthy, Francis says. To do this, you must keep the cell free from toxins that can interfere with its function. Toxins can be found in anything from laundry detergent to toothpaste. Specifically, try to avoid heavy metals such as lead and mercury, as well as Bisphenol A (BPA) and flame retardant, Francis says. Knowing what to look for and what brands to avoid can greatly reduce your toxic intake. In “Never Be Sick Again” (HCI, 2002), Francis’s first book, he devotes an entire chapter to toxins. Francis is living proof of his method’s success: He says he has had two colds in the past 27 years.

5 Sleep Deprivation

Your body is a self-repairing system and will repair the damage it has endured throughout the day while you sleep, Francis says. Adults should sleep for seven to nine hours each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. There is a difference, however, between lying in bed and actually sleeping.

6 Smoking

Smoking causes premature aging by increasing a person’s risk for ailments such as heart disease and lung cancer. Second-hand smoke can be detrimental to health as well.

The rate at which you age is truly within your control. Making subtle, healthy lifestyle changes can have profound effects.

“The latest thought is that 30 percent of how we age is genetic and 70 percent is habits and lifestyle,” Kessler says. “That’s huge.”

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