Everyone wants to age gracefully, and most of us would like to put off “aging” for as long as possible. But there are likely a number of things you’re doing in your everyday life that are actually aging you faster. To preserve as much of your youth as possible, avoid the following five habits!

#1 Skipping the Sunscreen

Exposure to the sun’s UV rays is a big cause of the wrinkles, blemishes, and uneven skin tone that we tend to associate with age. Most of us will throw on some SPF when we go to the beach or plan to spend a significant amount of time outside, but skipping sunscreen on a daily basis can go a long way towards premature skin aging.

Before you leave the house each morning, apply an SPF 15 or greater sunscreen to at least your hands and face – even in the middle of the winter.

#2 Stressing Out

High levels of stress can wreak havoc on your health, appearance, and mental state. Stress skyrockets your body’s production of cortisol and norepinephrine, two hormones that can increase your blood pressure (leading to hardening of the arteries and even stroke) and cause your immune system to go haywire.

Plus, constant stress leads to not only anxiety and mood changes, but also changes to how your brain processes memories. As if the normal progression of age weren’t enough, not taking a moment to chill out when you’re feeling stressed can actually reduce your memory capacity long-term.

#3 Not Getting Enough Sleep

Your body does much of its self-repair as you sleep, and staying up past your bedtime to catch your favorite reruns or buy another round at the bar does your body no favors. In fact, too little sleep (or poor quality sleep) has been linked with heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, not to mention the cognitive effects of too little sleep, like difficulty concentrating and poor memory recall. Plus, men who get too little sleep may suffer from additional symptoms caused by testosterone deficiency, as the body produces most of its testosterone supply while you’re asleep.

Everyone’s sleep needs are different, so there’s no “perfect” amount of sleep you should be aiming for. Still, you want to be getting enough sleep that you feel rested, but not so much that you become tired from over sleeping.

#4 Overdoing the Sweets

A rich dessert now and then won’t destroy your health, but overindulging in sugar can lead to increased wrinkles, and even degenerative disorders like rheumatoid arthritis. Why? When your body breaks down sugars, it produces advanced glycation end products (cleverly called AGEs).

These AGEs break down collagen in the skin and connective issues, which can prematurely age both your skin and your joints.

#5 Smoking

You probably know all of the respiratory and cancer risks of picking up a pack of cigarettes, but did you know that smoking can age your skin significantly? Research has found that smoking cigarettes contributes to the development of wrinkles and sagging skin.

The correlation between smoking and wrinkles is largely due to the fact that compounds in cigarette smoke lead to destruction of the proteins elastin and collagen, which are responsible for keeping your skin smooth and supple.

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