Advertisement

10 Bad Habits That Age You

Avoid these everyday mistakes that can make your RealAge older.

Medically reviewed in May 2022

hamburger and fries
1 / 11

Who doesn’t want to look and feel younger? But there’s a chance that the decisions you make on a daily basis are making your RealAge—the actual age of your body—older. So what are some of the most common mistakes? We looked at some of the major health factors of the RealAge Test to uncover some of the biggest agers.

couch potato
2 / 11
You’re a Couch Potato

Sure, sometimes you can’t make it to the gym. But if you find excuses to avoid exercise on a regular basis, you’re sure to add years to your RealAge. “Burning less than 500 calories a day through some sort of exercise makes your risk for death from any cause extraordinarily high,” says Keith Roach, MD, associate professor in clinical medicine in the division of general medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Getting little to no exercise directly increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other health problems. The good news: You’re never too old or out of shape to start exercising. One way to get started: Walk 10 minutes a day and gradually build up to 10,000 steps.

 

friends drinking beer
3 / 11
You Overdo Happy Hour

According to Dr. Roach, there is an association between moderate alcohol consumption and decreased risk of heart disease. But downing more than two drinks daily for men (or more than one drink for women) puts pressure on your vital organs and can cause health problems like liver disease, high blood pressure, and weight gain. Binge drinking (having more than four or five drinks in one sitting) is even worse. If you don’t drink, there’s no need to start. “You’re not giving things up by not being a drinker,” says Roach. “And you’re avoiding problems of excess alcohol, which are much greater than the potential benefits.”

woman eating fries, burgers, cola
4 / 11
You Eat Like You’re a Teenager

If burgers, pizza, and ice cream are a regular part of your diet, you’re headed for major agers like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. That’s because saturated and trans fats raise LDL—the “bad” kind of cholesterol that builds up in arteries, blocking blood flow, damaging blood vessels, and causing inflammation. Do your heart a favor by chowing down on more lean protein (like chicken or fish), fruits, and veggies. Health experts recommend that most people get four to five cups of fruits and veggies a day. And don’t forget the whole grains. A diet rich in whole grains can help you avoid diabetes, heart disease, and gum disease—not to mention belly fat.

 

smoking
5 / 11
You Light Up

We probably don’t have to tell you that smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, as well as lung, blood, bladder, esophageal, kidney, mouth, throat, stomach, and uterine cancer. The good news: The health benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate. Within just 20 minutes after quitting, the American Cancer Society says your heart rate and blood pressure drop. As more time goes by you also lower your risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.

 

stressed out driver
6 / 11
You Stress Out Over Everything

We all get stressed out from time to time. But if your stress level is through the roof on a regular basis—whether from work, family problems or financial troubles—you can bet your health will take a serious hit. Memory loss, high blood pressure, weight gain, and a weakened immune system are just some of the ways your body responds to high, chronic stress. Your skin suffers, too. Stress causes free radicals to run wild, breaking down collagen and creating wrinkles. The solution: Find ways to stress less. Regular exercise and relaxing with yoga or meditation can help. But if you find it’s not enough, you may want to consult with a professional counselor.

 

man at desk in office
7 / 11
You Sit More Than Stand

Long hours with your butt planted on a chair at work and later on the couch at home can add up to big health problems. Research has linked prolonged sitting to cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. Spending time on your bum also negatively affects your blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and appetite hormone leptin, all of which are biomarkers for obesity and cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, using moderate exercise to counteract the effects of sitting all day long doesn’t work. Even if you spend an hour a day exercising, spending just five to six hours a day sitting with few to no breaks may be as bad as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes.

 

couple fighting
8 / 11
You’re Unhappily Married

Wedded bliss can keep you happy and healthy, including lowering your risk of heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure. “It likely has to do with less stress, from the emotional support of a partner to sharing affection and intimacy,” says Roach. But a marriage on the rocks can send stress levels sky high. Who suffers most? A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that women in unsatisfying marriages have higher blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI. Plus, they suffer more from depression, anxiety and anger.

woman working on laptop at home
9 / 11
You Only Tend to 'See' Your Friends Online

You may have a lot of Facebook friends, but if you don’t have close friends or family to connect with in real life, your RealAge could suffer. Not having people to turn to in times of trouble has been associated with poor health. "The worst thing is to feel alone with no one to talk to," says Roach. On the other hand, a strong social network nurtured by face time with family and friends has been shown to boost your mood, improve your ability to cope with adversity, and can strengthen your immune system. If your circle of friends is lacking, consider ways to forge new connections, whether it's volunteering in your community, joining a book club, or teaming up with a group of walkers. If it's hard to get together in person, having regular, live conversations—whether by phone or video chat—can help, too.

woman waking up in bed sleepy
10 / 11
You Skimp on Sleep

Are you a chronic sleep skipper? If you get less than seven to nine hours a night, your body will let you know it’s not a happy camper. For starters, it throws off your appetite-regulating hormones in ways that may make you eat more and gain weight. It's also been linked to heart disease and stroke. Too little sleep doesn’t do your noggin any favors, either. General brain fog means you’re more forgetful, less alert, and apt to make poor decisions. Work on improving your sleep hygiene.

 

woman brushing teeth
11 / 11
You Neglect Your Smile

Brushing and flossing may not be your favorite activities, but showing your teeth regular love is a RealAge must! Neglecting your pearly whites can lead to gum disease and tooth loss, factors that can lead to inflammation. “Chemicals, bacteria, and inflammation in your mouth can predispose you to developing heart disease,” says Roach. Good oral care (brushing and flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups) can boost health—and keep your smile bright.

More On

What Are Ways to Help People Make Healthy Choices?

video

What Are Ways to Help People Make Healthy Choices?
The key to helping people live more healthfully is to make it easy to make healthy choices and hard to make unhealthy choices. In this video, Dr. Mich...
How to Rewire Your Brain to Love Healthy Habits

article

How to Rewire Your Brain to Love Healthy Habits
It’s like clockwork: Every day you eat a cookie at the same time. Or you park yourself on the couch and turn on the TV after dinner. You don’t even th...
6 Healthy Life Hacks

slideshow

6 Healthy Life Hacks
Just because you’re pressed for time, doesn’t mean your health has to suffer. Here are some tips and tricks to make being healthy easier.
Should Everyone Be Monitoring Their Health?

video

Should Everyone Be Monitoring Their Health?
HealthMaker Mark Smith, MD, president of the California Healthcare Foundation, thinks a lot of experts overestimate the number of patients who are obs...
Why Should I Have a Snack Before Going to the Grocery Store?

video

Why Should I Have a Snack Before Going to the Grocery Store?
You should avoid going to the grocery store when you're hungry because you will buy more food, and you will also make poor food choices. Watch psychol...