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8 bad habits that make you age faster, according to experts

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8 bad habits that make you age faster, according to experts

We can’t slow down time — but we can slow down its effects on us, according to experts.

The key is to make healthier choices in the areas that we can control — and that starts with breaking bad habits.

“One of the primary hallmarks of aging is accumulated cellular damage that leads to organ dysfunction and, ultimately, death,” Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida neurologist and longevity expert with Senolytix, told Fox News Digital.

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“The key to staying healthy is minimizing cellular damage by not throwing accelerants into the fire, which is unfortunately what most Americans do.” 

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Doctors shared with Fox News Digital the eight most common unhealthy behaviors that speed up the aging process — and tips on how to avoid them.

The key is to make healthier choices in the areas that can be controlled — and that starts with breaking bad habits, experts say. (iStock)

1. Smoking

Smoking has been proven to shorten life expectancy. 

Researchers from Action on Smoking and Health in the U.K. have reported that a 30-year-old smoker can expect to live for about 35 more years — compared to 53 years for a non-smoker. 

“Smoking speeds up aging by exposing you to harmful chemicals, reducing oxygen supply, breaking down collagen and increasing oxidative stress,” Dr. Dawn Ericsson, an obstetrician/gynecologist and medical director at AgeRejuvenation in Tampa, Florida, told Fox News Digital.

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“The harmful effects of tobacco extend beyond lung health, accelerating skin aging and increasing the risk of gum disease and tooth loss.”

Smoking introduces toxins that impair skin elasticity and collagen production, which leads to wrinkles, Osborn added.

Woman smoking

“The harmful effects of tobacco extend beyond lung health, accelerating skin aging and increasing the risk of gum disease and tooth loss,” an expert said. (iStock)

“Free radicals in smoke damage lung tissue – inducing cancer – and the walls of your blood vessels,” he told Fox News Digital.

“The incidence of heart attack, stroke and brain aneurysms is significantly higher in smokers relative to nonsmokers.”

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The quickest fix is to quit smoking immediately, the experts agreed.

“The incidence of heart attack, stroke and brain aneurysms is significantly higher in smokers relative to nonsmokers.”

To increase the chance of success in quitting, Ericsson suggested setting a “quit date,” avoiding triggers and seeking support from friends, family and health care providers.

Some also get results with nicotine replacement therapy or medications like bupropion and varenicline, she said.

2. Excess sun exposure

An excess of sun exposure can lead to aging by damaging the skin’s DNA, causing wrinkles, sagging skin and dark spots, Ericsson noted.

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Osborn agreed, also warning of an increased risk of skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, the latter of which can be fatal.

Woman putting on sunscreen

An excess of sun exposure can lead to aging by damaging the skin’s DNA, causing wrinkles, sagging skin and dark spots, a doctor said. (iStock)

“Regularly using sunscreen with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing and avoiding sun exposure during peak hours can protect the skin,” Osborn advised. 

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Other protective strategies include covering up with hats, sunglasses and protective clothing, and seeking shade during the sun’s strongest hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), according to Ericsson. 

Staying hydrated and using antioxidants like vitamins C and E can also help protect the skin. 

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3. Poor diet

A nutrient-deficient diet has been shown to accelerate aging, experts agree.

“A diet high in processed foods, sugars and unhealthy fats can cause inflammation, damage collagen and accelerate skin aging,” Ericsson warned.

Diets high in processed foods and sugars can cause inflammation and free radical damage, Osborn added. 

Unhealthy snacking

A nutrient-deficient diet has been shown to accelerate aging, experts agree. (iStock)

“The induced insulin-resistant or pre-diabetic state places you one step closer to the dreaded ‘metabolic syndrome’ — a gateway to diseases such as coronary artery disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease,” he told Fox News Digital.

To reduce aging signs, the experts recommend eating a balanced diet rich in low-glycemic index fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and anti-inflammatory fats (omega-3 and omega-9).

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“Antioxidants in these foods combat free radical damage, as do antioxidant supplements like vitamin C, green tea and omega-3 fatty acids,” said Osborn.

Other tips include pre-planning meals and snacks — with a focus on focusing on whole, unprocessed foods — to avoid impulsive unhealthy choices, according to Ericsson.

Cooking at home, controlling portions and staying hydrated are also good ways to improve nutrition intake, she added.

4. Lack of exercise

“Lack of exercise contributes to aging by causing muscle loss, bone density reduction, weight gain and cardiovascular issues,” Ericsson told Fox News Digital.

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Regular physical activity is essential for maintaining muscle mass, circulation and cognitive health as we age, she advised.

Woman rowing

Regular physical activity, particularly strength training, is foundational to health and longevity, doctors agree. (iStock)

Osborn is also an advocate of staying active, noting that “our bodies are meant to exercise.”

“Our bodies are meant to exercise. It benefits the body and the mind.”

“Exercise turns over 100 genes associated with longevity, so don’t skip it! It benefits the body and the mind.”

Regular physical activity, particularly strength training, is foundational to your health, according to Osborn. 

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“This means you must lift weights and breathe hard during your workouts,” he said. 

WOMEN GET MORE BENEFIT FROM EXERCISE THAN MEN, STUDY FINDS: ‘MORE TO GAIN’

On “off days,” Osborn suggests doing 45 minutes of lighter endurance training, like walking, rowing, swimming or jogging, which will improve your cardiovascular fitness while allowing you to recover from heavy bouts of strength training.

To sustain a long-term exercise routine, it’s important to find activities you consistently enjoy, set realistic goals, stay flexible and “listen to your body,” said Ericsson.

5. Excessive alcohol consumption

Alcohol dehydrates the skin and can lead to liver damage and cognitive impairment, Osborn warned. 

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“It also causes problems with blood sugar regulation and is intimately associated with obesity,” he said. “As alcohol is a cellular toxin, it accelerates the aging process.”

Ericsson agreed that excessive alcohol consumption accelerates aging by causing dehydration, nutrient depletion, inflammation, liver damage and collagen breakdown.

man refuses a drink

“Aim to eliminate habitual drinking within the next 6-12 months,” a longevity expert advised. “You’ll feel better and save a lot of money in the long run.” (iStock)

“Chronic drinking can dehydrate the skin, damage the liver and increase the risk of cognitive decline,” said Ericsson.

As with smoking, the fix is to eliminate alcohol consumption, experts agreed.

DRINKING A LITTLE ALCOHOL EVERY DAY WON’T HELP YOU LIVE LONGER, SAYS NEW STUDY

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“I’m not saying to quit cold turkey, but aim to eliminate habitual drinking within the next six to 12 months,” Osborn advised. “You’ll feel better and save a lot of money in the long run.”

Other tips to stop drinking include avoiding triggers, staying busy with healthy activities and seeking professional help if needed, according to Ericsson.

6. Chronic stress

While some degree of stress is normal and healthy, chronic high stress levels can shorten telomeres, which are DNA protein structures that “play a central role in cell fate and aging by adjusting the cellular response to stress and growth stimulation on the basis of previous cell divisions and DNA damage,” according to the National Institutes of Health.

“Chronic stress can also exacerbate skin conditions and impact mental health, accelerating aging,” Ericsson added.

Woman meditating

Stress management techniques like mindfulness, meditation, therapy and regular physical activity can alleviate stress, according to experts. (iStock)

Long-term stress affects the body’s ability to repair itself and can lead to premature aging, according to Osborn.

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“Aging is a state of heightened inflammation — and once the body’s ability to temper inflammation via cortisol production has been exhausted, it reigns unchecked,” he said.

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Stress management techniques like mindfulness, meditation, therapy and regular physical activity can alleviate stress, Osborn said. 

“Strength training also reduces cortisol production (several hours post-workout) — and, by virtue, facilitates sleep, which is critical to stress reduction.” 

7. Inadequate sleep

Lack of sleep accelerates aging by reducing skin health, increasing inflammation and causing hormonal imbalance, Ericsson noted.

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“Inadequate sleep also hampers cell repair and affects cognitive function,” she said.

Sleep is crucial for the body’s regenerative processes, Osborn noted.

Woman awake

Lack of sleep accelerates aging by reducing skin health, increasing inflammation and causing hormonal imbalance, according to a doctor. (iStock)

“If you don’t sleep, you’ll have difficulty shedding that spare tire, as significant fat-burning occurs during sleep,” he said.

“You’ll also set yourself up for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.”

Memories are also formed during sleep, he noted. 

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LACK OF SLEEP COULD BE A FACTOR IN A ‘SILENT EPIDEMIC,’ EXPERTS WARN

“Sleep cannot be hacked — it is an essential part of health and well-being.”

To optimize sleep health, Osborn suggested establishing a regular schedule, creating a restful environment and avoiding stimulants before bedtime. 

“Also, minimizing consumption of carbohydrates within several hours of bedtime can facilitate sleep induction,” he said.

“Sleep cannot be hacked — it is an essential part of health and well-being.”

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“In a similar context, ditch the cell phone, laptop and tablet as early as possible to minimize blue light’s interference with the production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone.”

 Manage stress and seek professional help if needed, Ericsson added.

8. Poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene accelerates aging by causing gum disease, tooth loss, stained teeth and bad breath, Ericsson warned.

“Gum disease and tooth loss not only affect oral health, but also impact overall well-being, contributing to an aged appearance,” she added.

Optimal oral hygiene requires regular dental check-ups, proper brushing and flossing, and use of an antimicrobial mouthwash. (iStock)

There is also a link between heart disease risk and the incidence of coronary artery disease and gingivitis, Osborn noted.

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“Inflammation is not only occurring in the mouth — it’s a systemic problem,” he said. “So, if there is a state of accelerated aging in the mouth, you better believe it’s elsewhere, let alone your entire gut.”

Optimal oral hygiene requires regular dental check-ups, proper brushing and flossing, and use of an antimicrobial mouthwash, Osborn said.

Limiting sugary and acidic foods, avoiding tobacco products, staying hydrated and chewing sugar-free gum after meals can also help with mouth health, Ericsson added.

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Despite growing concerns over bird flu, many US dairy workers have not received protective equipment

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Despite growing concerns over bird flu, many US dairy workers have not received protective equipment
  • Despite growing concern about bird flu, many U.S. dairy farms have not increased health protections for employees.
  • On May 22, 2024, the U.S. government said a second dairy worker has contracted bird flu since cattle first tested positive in late March.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it believes unpasteurized milk is the primary vector for transmitting the virus in cows, though officials do not know exactly how it spreads.

Many U.S. dairy farms have not yet increased health protections against bird flu for employees during an outbreak in cows, according to workers, activists and farmers, worrying health experts about the risk for more human infections of a virus with pandemic potential.

Epidemiologists are concerned the virus could potentially spread and cause serious illnesses as farmers downplay the risk to workers while employees are not widely aware of cases in U.S. cattle.

The U.S. government said on Wednesday that a second dairy worker contracted bird flu since cattle first tested positive in late March and that investigators are looking into whether the person was wearing or offered protective equipment.

AUSTRALIA REPORTS NEW BIRD FLU CASE AT POULTRY FARM AS GLOBAL CONCERNS RISE

Nearly 24,000 farms sell milk around the country, and they offer varying protections to staff. Lobby group the National Milk Producers Federation said it encouraged farms to use protective equipment in line with federal recommendations and heard of increased worker protections.

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Three dairy workers, seven activists and two lawyers who assist farm employees told Reuters that dairy owners have not offered equipment like face shields and goggles to staff who spend 10- to 12-hour days side-by-side with cows. Three large dairy companies with tens of thousands of cows declined to comment on their procedures.

The workers – all based in New York, a major dairy producer – said they heard of the new illness affecting cattle through the media or community organizers, not their employers. One, 39-year-old Luis Jimenez from Mexico, said last week it was business as usual.

A worker using an automated machine helps milk Holstein cows at Airoso Circle A Dairy in Pixley, California, on October 2, 2019. Workers who attach and detach milking equipment to cows get their faces close to unpasteurized milk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it believes unpasteurized milk is the primary vector for transmitting the virus in cows. (Reuters/Mike Blake/File Photo)

“They’re not doing anything,” he said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April and May advised workers to use personal protective equipment (PPE) if they may be exposed to sick livestock, after a Texas dairy worker tested positive for bird flu. On May 6, the agency asked states to make equipment available to workers.

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CDC wants “to make sure that farm workers across the country, whether they are at a farm with an affected herd or not, have access to PPE,” said Nirav Shah, principal deputy director, last week.

New York state said it is assessing CDC’s recommendation and has not yet distributed equipment. Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, where cattle were infected, said they distributed equipment to eight dairies combined. Kansas, Idaho and Wisconsin said they have equipment, but no farmers asked for it.

Michigan, where the second dairy worker tested positive, said many farms have protective gear but the state is coordinating a way to make it available for those that need more.

Dairies became more aware of bird flu’s risks in late April after the U.S. government began requiring that cows test negative before crossing state lines, said Emily Yeiser Stepp, who oversees a National Milk Producers Federation program that covers workforce development.

Still, “reaching out into some of our rural networks takes a little longer,” she said when told of workers who said they were not informed of recommendations for protective equipment.

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CLOSE CONTACT WITH COWS

The U.S. confirmed bird flu in dairy cattle in nine states. Scientists have said they believe the outbreak is more widespread based on findings of H5N1 particles in about 20% of retail milk samples.

Bird flu has caused serious or fatal infections globally among people in close contact with wild birds or poultry. In cows, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it believes unpasteurized milk is the primary vector for transmitting the virus, though officials do not know exactly how it spreads.

Health experts advise dairy workers to wear gloves and disposable coveralls that can block milk splashes on their bodies or clothing.

Jimenez said his coworkers are under pressure to work so quickly that they sometimes do not have time to wash their hands before meals and often drive home in their work clothes.

Workers attach and detach milking equipment on cows, putting their faces close to unpasteurized milk. Most are immigrants and many do not have health insurance.

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“When you’re milking, splashes can’t be avoided. When it splashes in our eyes, we wash it out with water,” said another New York worker, who requested anonymity because he is undocumented.

Lucas Sjostrom, a farmer and executive director of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, uses robotic machines to attach milking equipment to cows, but said he is being extra conscious that human workers wear gloves while transporting unpasteurized milk. Minnesota has not reported bird flu in cows.

In Indiana, another state without confirmed cases, farmer Steve Obert said he has not increased precautions for workers, though that could change if his herd tests positive. Extra protective equipment is not comfortable to wear, he added.

“We’re rather isolated and I don’t think the risk is really great,” said Obert, executive director of the industry group Indiana Dairy Producers.

BLOOD-RED EYES

The infected Texas worker suffered conjunctivitis and broken blood vessels that turned his eyes scarlet red, according to a photo published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He reported wearing gloves when working with cows but not respiratory or eye protection, the journal said.

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Scientists are watching for changes in the virus that could make it spread more easily among humans. Epidemiologists said it could cause more serious illnesses if it mutates or infects someone with a compromised immune system.

Some dairies with infected cows have resisted allowing federal officials on their farms because of financial concerns, said Gregory Gray, a University of Texas Medical Branch professor studying cattle diseases.

The CDC said it would like to test more farm workers, but it is not required.

New Mexico had anecdotal reports of workers with symptoms similar to conjunctivitis, but most were not tested, according to internal state documents that were dated April 26 and obtained by Reuters under a public records request. The workers were not tested because they did not seek healthcare, the New Mexico Department of Health said.

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Policy changes are needed to encourage workers to seek treatment, such as emergency income assurance for those who test positive, said Brian Castrucci, an epidemiologist and CEO at health policy group the de Beaumont Foundation.

“I don’t want to wait until we have a dead dairy farm worker until we ratchet up what we’re doing,” he said.

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Half of Americans not equipped to provide life-saving treatment in a crisis, poll finds

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Half of Americans not equipped to provide life-saving treatment in a crisis, poll finds

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Only half the people in the U.S. feel they could be helpful in an emergency situation, a new poll found.

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center surveyed a national sample of 1,005 Americans, finding that only 51% of them knew how to perform hands-only CPR if needed.

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In cases of serious bleeding, only 49% said they could assist, and 56% said they would be equipped to help someone who was choking.

The data was collected via phone and email from April 5 to April 7 of this year.

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“The key takeaways from our survey are that patient outcomes would improve if the general public learned some basic life-saving measures in the areas of hands-only CPR, choking rescue and bleeding control,” Nicholas Kman, M.D., emergency medicine physician at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and clinical professor of emergency medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, told Fox News Digital.  

“We can save lives while we wait for first responders to arrive.”

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Only half the people in the U.S. feel they could be helpful in an emergency situation, a new poll has found. (iStock)

“For every minute that passes, the chance of survival drops, and if they do survive, there’s less chance of a good neurologic outcome.”

Data shows that 70% to 80% of cardiac arrests occur in the home and 20% happen in a public place, according to Kman.

HELP DESPERATELY NEEDED: AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION LAUNCHES ‘NATION OF LIFESAVERS’ PROGRAM

“Outcomes are poor when the arrest is unwitnessed at home,” he told Fox News Digital.  

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“Just think, the person with the medical emergency could be your loved one in your house. You may have to provide life-saving treatment until first responders arrive.”

Heimlich maneuver

Data shows that 70% to 80% of cardiac arrests occur in the home and 20% happen in a public place, a researcher said. (iStock)

Based on the survey findings, Kman advised the public to get trained in life-saving measures — particularly hands-only CPR, choking and serious bleeding.

“Look for training that may be offered through community days at hospitals, schools, libraries, community organizations, religious institutions, volunteer groups, festivals and sporting events,” he suggested.

“We’re responsible for each other.”

Organizations and websites such as the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association and Stop The Bleed may offer these courses for free or low cost, Kman noted.  

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After learning the skills, it’s important to practice them, the doctor said.

“We would love the public to learn how to do hands-only CPR and practice the skill of doing CPR every six weeks,” Kman said.

Performing CPR

Based on the survey findings, researchers advised people to get trained in life-saving measures, particularly hands-only CPR, choking first-aid and serious bleeding assistance. (iStock)

“As with any skill, practice builds confidence. If we don’t practice it, we lose that skill.”

The OSU survey did have some limitations, Kman acknowledged.

“The survey was a convenience sample of a cross-section of Americans,” he told Fox News Digital. 

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“Most demographics were equally represented, but different regions do better at this than others, and their cardiac arrest results and survival reflect that,” he continued. 

“States and countries that prioritize training the public have higher survival rates.”

Emergency room

“When you’re trained in these lifesaving skills, you’ll know how to recognize the signs that someone needs help and buy time until the [first] responders can get there,” a doctor said. (iStock)

Dr. Kenneth Perry, an emergency department physician in South Carolina, was not involved in the survey but said he was surprised that more people don’t feel unprepared.

“Even for medical professionals, having a medical emergency occur without preparation can be a very stressful event,” he told Fox News Digital. 

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“It is very important for people to have basic lifesaving skills.”

“It is very important for people to have basic lifesaving skills.”

The easiest and most helpful skill that people should learn is how to operate an automated external defibrillator (AED). These are located in many public places, such as gyms, malls and even some public walkways, according to Perry.  

“These devices are the best way to save a person who is suffering from cardiac arrest,” he said.

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“If the person has an abnormal heart rhythm that can be brought back to normal with electricity, this device will save that patient.”

This is a very time-sensitive process, however — it must happen as early as possible, the doctor advised. 

“Early defibrillation is directly correlated with the best outcomes for patients who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.”

Ultimately, Kwan, said, “we’re responsible for each other.”

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“When you’re trained in these lifesaving skills, you’ll know how to recognize the signs that someone needs help and buy time until the responders can get there.”

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