Oops: 9 Mistakes That Are Aging You
Photography by: Stephanie Rausser
1. Aging Error: Eating Sweets
The average American eats 150 pounds of sugar each year—18 percent of our calories. You know the health implications of this, from obesity to type II diabetes, but it can also be as much of a wrinkle-causing culprit as sun exposure and smoking. That’s because a process called glycation causes sugars to attach to proteins in collagen and elastin, which can make skin look older. a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology found that the aging effects of excess sugar consumption become visible around age 35 and accelerate rapidly after that.
Youth boosters: Your best bet is to cut out processed foods, says integrative medicine physician Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., of Kona, hawaii, and author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now! (Fair Winds Press), who adds that women should limit their sugar intake to 6 1⁄4 teaspoons (or 25 grams) a day. Fiber also slows sugar absorption, so opt for whole foods like an orange over its juices (OJ has the same sugar content as soda). When a sugar craving hits, it’s often because you’re thirsty, Ashton adds. “go for water or seltzer instead of something sweet,” she advises. If that doesn’t help, have a piece of dark chocolate or fresh berries— and opt for sweeteners like Body Ecology or Sweet Leaf brands of stevia or ribose (corvalen), a healthy sugar that, in a recent study, increased subjects’ energy 61 percent and improved heart function.
2. Aging Error: Working Too Hard
Research has found that a bad job—whether it’s a career you don’t enjoy or working long hours—can increase the risk of heart disease and speed up cell aging, as well as minimize the time you spend getting exercise, healthy meals and sleep. long-term chronic stress—a common problem for the overworked—also impairs age-related brain function. “It shrinks the hippocampus, where memories are formed, and impairs frontal lobe function—planning, coordinating, prioritizing and executing complex activities,” says Phoenix-based neurologist Paul Bendheim, M.D., author of The Brain Training Revolution: A Proven Workout for Healthy Brain Aging (Sourcebooks, Inc.).
Youth Boosters: If you can’t change your stressors outright (think: a difficult boss, travel schedule or workload), draw up a list of things that make you happy—a pet’s wet kisses or your favorite tea—and add them into your day, advises Jennifer Garza, M.S., a life coach in Cornwall on Hudson, N.Y., and author of 365 Days to Happiness: Use Your Strengths, Thoughts, and Dreams to Manifest a New Life (InspireWire Publishing). She also suggests a no-complaint challenge: “for one week, resist the urge to gripe, and replace complaints with thoughts of gratitude.” Garza also notes that work is most fulfilling if it gives you a sense of purpose, so she recommends enlisting the help of a therapist, life coach or book to help you move toward recognizing and fulfilling your dreams.
3. Aging Error: Eating through the AGEs
Advanced glycation end products (ages) form when sugars and fats react with a protein, causing a structure to change irreversibly, and then attach to many things in the body and cause damage, says Michelle Davenport, nutritionist and research scientist at the new York University School of Medicine in New York City. While we can create ages in our body after eating sugar, we can also straight-up consume these ages via foods that are processed and/or heated. “AGEs can increase inflammation and oxidation that cause aging and age-related diseases affecting the heart, brain, bones and joints, kidneys, insulin resistance, anemia and skin,” says Davenport.
Youth Boosters: Browning, caramelizing, grilling, roasting, broiling and frying create ages, so limit these cooking methods. Highly processed and canned foods heated during processing, as well as high-fat dairy products like cheese, are also culprits. Your best bets to reduce the consumption of ages are to eat raw when possible, eat foods in their whole form and cook them with a water-based method (like steaming, poaching or boiling) or marinate in an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice) before cooking. eating a variety of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can also help reduce the inflammation and oxidation that ages cause, so go for berries, sweet potatoes and leafy greens.