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8 Habits You May Not be Aware of that Speed up Aging

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We’re all probably aware that things like smoking and obesity shorten our lifespan, but what we may not be aware of is that there are many other seemingly harmless habits that are secretly aging us every day.

Wearing a “Worry Wart” badge

We can’t escape stress, but we can try to rein in our worrying tendencies. Worry not only make us unhappy, anxious, and mentally exhausted, not to mention the extra ice cream and comfort foods it entices us to ingest, but it actually ages the body. The constant release of cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline literally wear us out by lowering the immune system, raising blood pressure, and interfering with sleep, memory and mood.

What you can do – Try to put worries in perspective by looking at the big picture. Take a few deep breaths when anxiety rears its ugly head. Do something physical; take a walk or a few yoga poses. Meditation really does help as does setting aside a regular “worry time.” The key is not to let worry be a constant companion.

Being a sunscreen slacker

Sure, you remember to put on sunscreen when heading to the beach, but what about driving to work, walking the dog, or doing errands. Repeated daily exposure to the sun can actually cause significant premature aging. Researchers in Australia recently found in a study of 900 participants that those who consistently applied sunscreen daily had smoother, more resilient and younger looking skin. So not only does skipping the daily sunscreen raise the risk of skin cancer, it also weakens skin cells and can surprisingly make us more prone to bruising and skin injury.

What you can do – Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with an SPF of at least 15, preferably 30. Use a nickel size dollop for the face an amount equivalent to a shot glass to cover all exposed areas of the body every day. Once it becomes a habit, it will only take a few minutes and can save your skin years of premature leathery skin.

Having a “Sweet Spot” for sugar

We know sugar can pack on the pounds, but health experts now believe that sugar is secretly aging us. Sugar damages our skin by drying out the collagen and elastin that are naturally present, resulting in dull, dry, sagging and wrinkle prone skin.  This process, known as glycation also causes dark circles and puffiness. Both of which are not only unattractive, but make us look and feel older. These effects begin at about 35 and rapidly increase after that, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

What you can do – Let’s face it sugar is tough to eliminate completely, but trying to minimize consumption will pay off in a big way. Aim for no more than 10% of daily calories and watch out for those hidden sugars! Read labels and try to limit sweet treats to a few times per week.

You think exercise is only for weight-loss

Whether you need to lose weight or not, exercise literally helps turn back our body clock. Regular and consistent exercise, even something as simple as a daily 30 minute walk can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, improve memory and concentration, increase muscle tone and best of all significantly reduce chronic stress. As a bonus, regular exercise will help the pounds stay off and protect our muscle mass and bone density.

What you can do – Go for a daily walk with a friend or Fido, take up a physical hobby or join a group sport or class. Get an exercise buddy or find an event to compete in. Anything that will motivate and make exercise more fun will help keep you active.

You hold a grudge

Holding on to a grudge or anger are not only damaging to your mental health, but they can age you physically as well. If you can let things go, you may be adding years to your body. Studies have shown a link between forgiveness and physical health. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine showed that a lack of forgiveness lowered sleep quality, increased stress causing hormones, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar resulting in weight gain and an increased likelihood of needing medication. In short, learn how to let go, and you may live longer.

What you can do – Recognize that holding on to anger and resentment hurt you more than the other person. Forgiveness does not mean that you need to be a victim or give trust where it’s not warranted. Learn to let things go and you may indeed live longer…not to mention happier. And that’s the best revenge anyway.

You’re too busy for your friends

When you were younger, your friends probably figured prominently in your calendar, but as we acquire more responsibility, demanding jobs, partners, parenting and household duties the time for friends slips away. But making time for friends isn’t a luxury. Studies have shown that sustaining friendships are better predictors of longevity than even family. Strong friendships can help alleviate depression, deal with mental stress as well as reduce our risk of many chronic conditions all of which age us prematurely.

What can you do – Carve regular friend time in your schedule, even if it’s just once a week. Do it digitally if you have to. While in person is best, communicating via email or Facebook count too. Reach out to old and new friends and put effort into cultivating log term relationships that nurture and support.

You love the remote

A British Journal of Sports Medicine study of 11,000 adults discovered that every hour in front of the TV shortens your life expectancy by 22 minutes, even more for the remote addicts among us, those who average more than six hours a day live on average five years less than non-TV watchers. It’s not so much about the TV watching, as it is the inactivity. But while you might not be able to change a sedentary job, you can control how much couch time you get.

What you can do – The simplest strategy is simply to watch less TV! But there are some tricks you might want to try. Watch TV while walking on the treadmill or exercising, but one of those portable stepper machines and work off those chips while you’re at it. Or try getting up to walk around during every commercial break.

You can’t remember the last time you had sex!

Yes, sex feels good, but it’s also fantastically healthy.  Research shows that an active sex life can help strengthen your immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce pain, relieve depression and the Journal of the American Medical Association now reports sex may even lower your risk for certain types of cancer. During sex, the body releases chemicals such as endorphin, serotonin, and other immune and mood boosting substances that not only make you healthier and happier, but can actually make you look years younger.

What you can do – Things like getting more sleep and exercising can increase sex drive and energy. Also, you might try reading erotic or romantic material, getting a quick massage or dressing the part to get in the mood. For the practical minded…schedule it. Swap out that favorite TV show for some extra “love time.” Your body…and your partner will thank you.

This post was originally published on Lifehack.org

Featured photo credit: delta creme donuts – lucianvenutian via flickr.com

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Will This Knowledge Give You Power…or Anxiety?

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To know…Not to know…To know…Not to know…

That’s the question.

Fascinating new research now gives us at least some ability to discover our risks for certain diseases, conditions, tendencies…but do we really want to know.

Well, that depends…on your philosophy, your desire and willingness to be proactive (even if it means significant lifestyle changes,) and your tendency toward worry and anxiety.

The company 23andMe has been working on personal DNA testing for years, but now thanks to some funding and advancements information about current and future health concerns is affordable and accessible to all of us. (Currently $99)

Want to know if you’re at higher risk for Parkinson’s or Breast cancer? How gluten affects your body? Which medications you’re likely to have a bad reaction too?

What about your children? Do you want to know what their risks are or if you’re a carrier and what you’ve possibly passed down to your children?

23andMe also gives you recommendations and keeps you updated on new advancements. There’s also a really neat ancestry component that lets you find relatives you may not have known existed through DNA matching…Fascinating.

Also a bit scary and Orwellian to some.

It’s not perfect science and it’s definitely not comprehensive. It’s certainly no guarantee either. For many conditions, lifestyle plays a far greater role than does genetics, but…

Since I firmly fall into the “Knowledge is power” camp, I want to know as much as I possibly can about my health risks so that I can address them, monitor them and prepare for them as much as possible. Since I’m also a card-carrying member of the “Plagued by anxiety and worry” camp, I’ll have to deal with that part too.

Yes, genetic advancements may open the door for some disturbing and possibly dangerous possibilities. But the reality is genetic research and personal DNA is the future of medicine, so we might as well use it to our advantage to whatever extent we can.

My birthday is right around the corner…and you can bet that this is at the top of my list of gifts that I’m giving myself.

What about you? Do you want to know?

 

More:

(Watch how Dr. Nancy Snyderman looks at her breast cancer risk on the Today show)

(Fabulous article “INSIDE 23ANDME FOUNDER ANNE WOJCICKI’S $99 DNA REVOLUTION,” on FastCompany.com)

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When Even the Best Intentions Go Awry

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It happens to all of us I think… You think you’re doing everything right, then life slaps you down with very rude, “Ha! And you thought you were in the driver’s seat…Wrong!” It happens. It sucks. But it happens.

You suddenly find yourself on this shaky ground of “What the heck happened?” What do you do?

Well, that’s both personal and circumstance driven. Your “what to do” may be different than mine. And it’s most definitely different if you’ve lost your job than if you’ve lost a loved one, when you’re going through a divorce or dealing with a health crisis, and so on.

Retreat. Rethink. Regroup. Reframe. Revise. Renew. Revive. Start over.

I share this as sort of a roundabout way of shining a light on a dilemma we all face while explaining my rather sparse and sporadic posting and social media presence over the last month or two. Yes, happened to me too.

Long story short:

A very healthy, rarely sick, energetic “doer,” (that’s me,) finds she has disappeared and in her place is a very sick, barely functional human with some strange unexplained affliction. This is the point in life’s smack down when we finally realize, that yes, this is actually happening to us.

Fast forward a few (actually more than a few) months of tests, research, meds, medicinal herbs and various supplements and there seems to be some measure of improvement, but not truly getting better, certainly not back to fully functional.

So, doctor’s orders: Rest, rest, rest, no work, no exercise, no stress…

My response: Are you kidding me? I don’t think I know how to do that!

This was followed by much complaining, rationalizing, bargaining, resisting… The usual response when we find ourselves in circumstances we desperately don’t want to be in…

After the dirt settles we realize that we only have two choices:
Bite the bullet and do whatever needs to be done no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it is…
Or drift along in victim mode.

No choice really.

So…What do I do?

I chose Retreat, Rethink, and Renew.

Go to bed early, take naps, yoga, a bit of walking, meditate, disconnect as much as possible, radically eliminate and minimize, let many things slide, basically stop working (hence the sporadic blog posts,) and ask for help.

Is it hard? Incredibly so.

Is it working? Slowly, but yes.

What comes next? I have absolutely no idea.

We’ve all heard this before…Change or die.

Pretty much sums it up. Sometimes literally. Sometimes figuratively.

How about you…When life smacks you down, what do you do?

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What’s the Key to Longevity?

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If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.

~ George Burns

As we develop a better understanding of stress, the mountain of research is showing empirically what George knew instinctively – Stress is killing us.

Both literally in that it damages our physical health so directly that it is in fact shortening our lifespan and figuratively in that it causes us such angst and discontent that it becomes a barrier to our true enjoyment of life as well.

When we begin to acknowledge that stress is not ancillary, not a phase or a temporary condition to be “managed,” but a real and dangerous threat, then we can begin to take meaningful action to remove that stress from our lives.

For now, take a deep breath and enjoy today. Otherwise what’s the point of being here?

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How Utilizing the Minimum Effective Dose Will Save You Time and Effort

I had never heard the term Minimum Effective Dose (MED) before I read “The 4-Hour Body,” by Tim Ferriss. But now I’m fascinated with the concept. Anything that saves time and effort is a win.

The minimum effective dose (MED) is defined simply; the smallest dose that will produce a desired outcome.

Time give’s some examples to illustrate in “real life” terms.

You need 212°F to boil water. Anything higher is just a waste of energy. You can’t get “more boiled.”

You need 15-30 minutes of sunlight to get your required vitamin D, anything more may just result in sun damage.

 

Some other examples:

If you can get most of the benefit of weight training from 1 set, do you really need to do 3? (Your call, your body, your time.)

How much time do I need for social media? If 30 minutes a day gets me decent results, is it really worth spending an hour and a half?

I get a solid benefit meditating for 20 minutes a day, anything more just makes me antsy.

I see results with (and can maintain) 30 minutes of exercise most days. More makes me tired and anxious about the time I’m using.

 

It’s basically the law of diminishing returns. And it can really be applied to many areas of life.

The trick is to figure out the minimum time, effort, or resources that will give you the result you want (or some approximation of it,) and stop at that point. Anything extra is an inefficient use of energy that could be used for something else.

How might you apply this strategy?

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