These everyday things are making you age prematurely. But you can take action.
None of us wants to age quicker than we have to, but while we all know that things such as sunbathing or smoking can cause wrinkles, not many of us realise everyday activities are ageing us both inside and out.
Dr Sara Gottfried, author of Younger: The Breakthrough Programme to Reset Our Genes and Reverse Ageing, says: ‘The scientific reality is that 90 per cent of the signs of ageing and disease are caused by lifestyle choices, not your genes. In other words, you have the capability to overcome and transform your genetic history and tendencies.’
That means if we change some of our everyday habits, we can reduce their ageing effects.
1 Blue light
Dr Gottfried says: ‘When you disrupt your delicate inner clock by reading a tablet or checking your mobile phone until late at night, it plays havoc with your sleep.
‘Lack of sleep disrupts your internal biochemistry. Not only are you at greater risk of having accidents, your short-term memory becomes toast, along with your focus and attention. You’re more likely to overeat and feel depressed.’
Dr Gottfried explains that sleeping for five hours or less a night equates to ageing an extra four to five years.
‘Sleep deprivation is linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and early mortality,’ she says. ‘You should turn off screens at least an hour before bed.’
‘Sitting accelerates ageing if you’re a woman,’ Dr Gottfried says. ‘Sitting for six hours or more per day increases your risk of cancer by 10 per cent and your risk of early death by 34 per cent.
‘Exercise only partially offsets the damage. Women who sit a lot and don’t exercise much are nearly twice as likely to die early than those who sit fewer than three hours per day and are physically active.
‘Even if you’re already exercising an hour each day, your workout can’t offset all the damage of excessive sitting. You must sit less.’
3 Weight gain
Dr Gottfried says: ‘One of the fastest ways to age is to put on weight. Around 80 per cent of weight is directly or indirectly linked to the food that we put in our mouths, and the remaining 20 per cent is due to lifestyle factors such as exercise, sleep and genetics.
‘There’s a particular approach for de-ageing that works best — eat mostly plant-based food, with animal-based food as a condiment, and choose anti-inflammatory forms of protein and dairy.
‘Avoid processed foods and foods excessively high in carbs, such as chips and chocolate cake. Eat homemade food and real carbs like sweet potatoes, squash and quinoa.’
In general, the effects of alcohol and caffeine are greater if you are genetically programmed to break them down more slowly. And these people are at greater risk of heart disease when they drink coffee, whereas those who metabolise caffeine quickly receive a longevity benefit.
‘You might not think about what you drink and why, but some beverages accelerate ageing,’ Dr Gottfried says. ‘Avoid drinks that contain sugar, artificial sweeteners and high caffeine. No more fizzy diet drinks, energy drinks or juice.’
She adds: ‘To find out if caffeine is ageing you, switch your morning coffee for a drink that is at least half lower in caffeine such as green tea. Notice what happens to your energy levels and how well you sleep. If you feel less wired and your sleep improves, you are probably a slow metaboliser.’
5 The air we breathe
‘We breathe in around three thousand gallons of air each day. If that air quality is poor, your health will suffer in more ways than you may realise,’ Dr Gottfried says. ‘At first, breathing polluted air may cause your eyes and nose to burn. It also contributes to asthma.
‘Particles in polluted air can hurt your body, irritating your airways, making you cough, decreasing your lung function and increasing blood clotting, risk of cardiovascular disease and sooner or later making you die prematurely.’
Dr Gottfried explains that while you can’t get rid of pollution, you can make healthy lifestyle choices helping your body cope and improving air at home by using paints which are low in toxic chemicals, and regularly opening your windows to let fresh air in.
6 Chronic stress
When we are under a great deal of stress, our bodies go into fight or flight mode and stress chemicals are released. This creates biological changes by shortening sections of DNA called telomeres — these can cause cells to die or become damaged. This can cause grey hair.
Recent research also shows that chronic stress contributes to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
To combat stress, try physical exercise, brain training, medication and a calmer lifestyle.
Edited by Donna Smiley
l Younger, by
Dr Sara Gottfried is published by Vermilion, priced £14.99.