‘Harmless’ Habits That Are Actually Aging You Faster Than You Can Imagine

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6. Not stimulating your brain

The brain is like a muscle and it needs to be exercised, said Dr. Glen Finney, neurologist at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Make the brain practice and learn new things to keep it young and healthy, he added. There is at least one pleasant pastime that helps keep it 10 years younger.

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7. Sitting for more than 30 minutes at a time

You may think you’re relaxing, which is absolutely necessary and a good thing. But you have to get up every half an hour or so to “reset your posture,” according to Gioffre. The muscles in your back become deconditioned from sitting too much. When that happens, they can’t hold the spine in proper alignment, which is what causes bad posture, he explained. So get up every 30 minutes and put your hands together behind your back to form the letter U, Gioffre said. “This stimulates the muscle between your shoulder blades and you reset your posture without even thinking about it.”

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8. Thinking you don’t need sunscreen everywhere

“I think the most important places that people forget to apply sunscreen are the ears and the back of the neck,” Richmond said. These are extremely common sites for skin cancer, particularly in people who don’t have hair covering naturally these areas, she noted. For daily sunscreen and anti-aging prevention, most people are good at applying it to their faces, but they should also think about including the neck, chest, hands, and back of arms because these areas are often neglected and can show photoaging (premature aging of the skin caused by UV rays) even when the face looks youthful, Richmond explained.

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9. Exercising without stretching

Stretching is very important because otherwise muscles go into a contracted state from sitting, leading to cells aging faster, which eventually leads to wrinkles, Gioffre explained. “Foam rolling is even more effective because it goes one step further.” It’s like a massage that releases the tension in crushed muscle fibers and oxygenates the muscles, he explained. “More oxygen in the tissues means less wrinkling.” What can also avoid wrinkles is avoiding straws — it’s one of 20 mistakes you may be aging you.

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10. Sleeping on your side

About 41% of people sleep in the so-called fetal position — on their side with their legs curled up — and another 15% sleep on their side with legs not curled, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It’s a very common position. But there is a dark side to it. “People commonly have deeper wrinkles on the side of their face that they sleep on if they are side or stomach sleepers,” Richmond said. This is a result of pressure over time. “Generally, it is a mild difference, and not dramatic enough that I would tell people to avoid certain sleeping positions.” However, if patients are very bothered by a particular asymmetry, it’s reasonable to try to avoid sleeping face down on that side, which may provide some modest benefit over time, she noted.