No matter how healthy you feel you are, there are ways your lifestyle could be aging you. I am a self-confessed awake-a-holic, also known as an 'insomniac.' I haven't always been this way; in fact, pre-kids I could engage in sleep-a-thons of all lengths. Learning more about the ways your lifestyle could be aging you is a great way to make some lifestyle changes.
1. Not Sleeping Enough
I am absolutely guilty of this one. I know there are ways I can get a handle on my sleep. Valerian root usually sees me right, but I don't always give in. Why? Because insomnia comes in pretty handy when you are balancing a dissertation, work, two kids, and a mild history addiction. Out of all the ways your lifestyle could be aging you, this one has both long and short-term effects. In the short-term, you are too tired for your age and your eyebags make you look older. Long-term, not sleeping causes weight gain and may even increase wrinkles.
Again, I am totally guilty of this one too. My usual fluid intake usually consists of caffeine, soda, and often a combination of the two. With all those diuretics, I am dehydrating myself. Dry skin isn't all that resilient, which again, makes it prone to wrinkling. Switching to water can boost your collagen production, which in turn enhances skin repair. Don't dehydrate, drink water like it's an awesome cocktail instead.
3. Too Much Sun
It is really hard to resist lying in the sun and building an amazing tan. Sunshine boosts your mood, tans make you look thinner...what is there to lose? When you absorb too many UV rays, they break down the collagen and elastin in your skin. These structural components lie deep in your skin's tissues and keep it looking plump and fresh. So too much UV and you will end up looking like a leather handbag. However...
4. Too Little Sun
Yep, I hate to be a pain here, but being a vampire isn't going to help matters either. If you are a sunphobe, your low Vitamin D levels can lead to a host of aging problems. Now I am not talking about the external signs of aging here. A Dutch research team found in 2013 that too little Vitamin D can increase your risk of age-related disabilities. The good news is, enough sun exposure helps your liver store up to four months' worth of Vitamin D. However, that doesn't mean you can go wild during the summer and skimp during the winter. Get outside every day to boost your Vitamin D levels.
5. Not Socialising Enough
Trust me, I empathise with anybody who says they do not have time for socialising. In fact, over the course of my degree, I can probably count the number of outings I have had each year on one hand. Humans aren't meant to be isolated creatures, and there is a lot of evidence to suggest that not socialising enough can contribute to your dementia and Alzheimer's risk. The more time we spend socialising, the better our cognition is. So join a club, see your friends, volunteer...do whatever you can to vary your social life!
6. Not Challenging Yourself
There was a point over the summer when I told myself I wasn't going to do anything intellectual again after doing my degree. This was because I had to delay my finals for the year until the summer thanks to an unfortunate hand accident, so I felt TOO challenged. Now I am in a less histrionic mood, I realise that not challenging myself isn't good either. If you are not learning, you aren't helping your brain age well. Now, this learning can extend to foreign languages, heading to Coursera to take a short course, or doing puzzles and quizzes. Providing you pay attention to your brain, you are reducing that Alzheimer's risk further.
7. Not Eating Enough
We all have different body shapes and we are all naturally going to have different bodies. The media likes to make out that we should all have flat abs, a thigh gap, etc. Guess what? Some of us can achieve that through a healthy lifestyle, some of us won't. Not eating enough to achieve media perfection (which is often photoshopped) increases your risk of osteoporosis. Stay balanced and enjoy food. Like Oscar Wilde said, "Everything is good in moderation, including moderation itself."
Now don't worry, there is no need to live by hard and fast rules to stay looking young and healthy. However, it is a good idea to check yourself every so often to make sure your habits aren't affecting your body. Enjoyment is important, as is nutrition, lots of sleep, and great friends. What do you like to do to keep your body looking and feeling young?