Home Aging Healthy Aging
Charlotte Hilton AndersenUpdated: Oct. 11, 2019
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD
Have you stopped eating pickles because you can't get the jar open? Are your pants tight in the waist but loose on your legs? We've got news for you...
You have hair loss—and not just on your head
Seeing a little (or a lot) of scalp peeking through your hairline is a well-known sign of aging but surprisingly, it isn’t limited to your head, says Bindiya Gandhi, MD, an integrative and functional medicine specialist inDecatur, GA. If you’re younger and you notice things getting a little sparse on your arms, legs or *ahem* other places, it can indicate your body is aging faster than you think. Gray hair is also a sign of premature aging. You may ask yourself, what causes gray hair? Well, here are the 7 sneaky reasons you’re going gray too soon.
You can’t lift the 30-pound bag of dog food into your cart
Muscle strength is directly correlated to how you age, since you actually lose muscle mass the older you get, making you progressively weaker, says Barry Sears, PhD, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation inPeabody, MA. This isn’t destiny, however. You can increase your strength and build back some muscle mass by lifting weights or doing some other strength training exercises. Here are 12 signs your brain is aging faster than you are.
Bruises show up more frequently
One important and oft-overlooked sign of premature aging is that you find yourself bruising more easily and healing from bruising more slowly than you used to, says Adam Friedman, MD, Professor and Interim Chairof Dermatology atGeorge Washington School of Medicine and Health Science in Washington, DC. ”A sign of photoaging on sun-exposed areas is easy bruising, called solar purpura, which results from chronic damage to the support structures around the small blood vessels in the skin,” he says. “Even the simplest of trauma cause them to rupture and the thin fragile skin from chronic sun damage doesn’t confer much protection to the vessels.” As a result, bruises are much easier to make.
You’ve got more wrinkles than your best friend from high school
A telltale sign of aging is wrinkles and sagging skin, and the rate at which you get them can indicate you are aging faster than you should be for your age. Genetics can play a role, but a big factor in loose, wrinkly skin are lifestyle choices, saysAnthony Youn, MD, a plastic surgeon inTroy, MI and author of several books includingThe Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How To Really Look Ten Years Younger. “Your diet can definitely impact how quickly you age,” he says. “There have been studies that have confirmed that a diet filled with anti-oxidant rich foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables results in healthier skin and less wrinkles than a diet high in saturated fats, processed foods, and sugary foods.” Smoking, excessive sun exposure and alcohol consumption also speed up the signs of aging on our skin, the American Academy of Dermatology reports. Here are 16 more signs your face is aging faster than you are.
You make excuses to not to go out with your friends
Depression doesn’t necessarily increase with age but it can travel with poor aging, says Karol Ward, LCSW, a New York City-based social worker. “People can become depressed if their physical health declines, and they are unable to engage socially or physically the way they used to,” she says. Some people may makeexcuses for not going out with your friends because they feel like they can no longerkeep up, she says. “Telling the truth about how you feel, with people you trust, is a good way to combat feeling isolated and depressed,” she says.
You’ve stopped eating pickles because you can’t open the jar anymore
Decreased hand grip strength may be linked to an increase risk of loss of independence and possibly earlier death, saysMaria Cole, an occupational therapist at theSpaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Framingham, MA. OnestudyinThe Lancet found that individuals with decreasing grip were 16% more likely to die from any cause than their counterparts whose hand grip strength remained strong and stable during the study period. “Additional research is needed to determine if working on increasing your hand strength will improve your health,” she says. “We do know as we age, we lose muscle mass however some lose it more than others.” Don’t wait for your hands to become weak, she says. “Using weights for forearm strengthening and hand exercises like squeezing a ball are ways to prevent weakness.” An occupational therapist can help find exercises that work for you.Decreased grip strength is just one of the clues that ourhands can tell us about our overall health.
Your favorite pants are tight in the waist but loose in the legs
Gaining fat around your midsection is a common sign your body is aging quickly, Sears says. Add that to the muscle and bone loss that also accompany aging, causing your thigh muscles to shrink and your height to decrease, and you have the recipe for some really poor-fitting pants. The pants are the least of your worries, however, as these signs can indicate other health problems including metabolic syndrome and arthritis. Women who carry fat mostly in their torso are nearly two times more likely to develop heart disease than women who carried fat mostly in their legs, finds a study in the European Heart Journal. Fortunately, with a little diet and exercise, you’ll be back in your pants in no time. Here are the best anti-aging secrets dermatologists won’t tell you for free.
You’re burning through giant bottles of lotion
Is your skin chronically dry and flaky?“As our skin ages, its ability to turn over, make all the good proteins and fats that solidify the top layer (stratum corneum) and keep moisture in diminishes, and accelerated skin aging from unprotected sun exposure will accelerate this,” Dr. Friedman says. However, there are other causes for excessive skin dryness like over washing and not using moisturizer. “Environment can also play a role – dry cold temperatures, low humidity, and radiator heat create the perfect storm for dry skin,” he says. Severe dry skin can also be associated with underlying medical issues, such as hypothyroidism and diabetes, he cautions. “Both, if not controlled, can worsen dry skin and ultimately accelerate the aging of your skin which is why it’s important to check in annually with your primary care physician for age-appropriate screening and evaluations.”Revealed: These are the best facial moisturizers for your skin type.
You sleep like a baby—fitfully, with frequent wakings, and not through the night
Insomnia or problems getting a good night’s sleep can be a sign your body is aging quickly. Often this is due to high levels of cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. “Cortisol rises are inevitable as we age, however, with many people it rises too quickly, usually due to stress,” explains Sue Decotiis, MD, an anti-aging and regenerative medicine specialist in NYC. It’s important to get your stress level in check as too much cortisol not only ages you faster but can promote weight gain, lower your immune function, and can lead to many chronic diseases. Here are 22 other daily habits that might be making you age prematurely.
Your face looks sunken or gaunt
Bone loss is, unfortunately, a normal part of aging, and when you lose bone mass in your face, it gives you that characteristic “elderly” profile with sunken cheeks, thin lips, and prominent temples, Dr. Decotiis says. Some people hasten this process by smoking, having poor nutrition or poor cardiovascular health, or losing too much weight, making them look older than they already are, she explains. To counteract bone loss, eat and exercise properly and maintain a healthy weight. Learn the 9 secret signs your bones are in trouble.
People constantly guess you’re older than you really are
When it comes to assessing a person’s “true” age, as opposed to their chronological age, our brains are pretty darn accurate, says Steven Austad, PhD, Chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biology. “Ask a dozen strangers to guess your age and the average value they come up with is a pretty good indicator of your body’s biological age,” he says. Here are 30 anti-aging secrets that could add years to your life.
Everyone is always telling you to hurry up
Are you constantly getting left behind when walking with friends your age? It turns out that a person’s normal walking speed is a pretty good indicator of how well you’re aging, Austad says. “Walking speed is an indicator of how leg muscles are working and says something about nerve conduction speed, two factors that go into aging,” he explains. Thankfully, this one has an easy fix: Take more walks and improve your fitness level. Here are7 tricks to make your daily walking habit even healthier.
You have more spots than a cheetah
Sun damage is perhaps the most important cause of an older-looking face, as too much sun causes lines, wrinkles, dull skin, and the dreaded brown age spots to develop, says Joshua D. Zuckerman, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Zuckerman Plastic Surgery in NYC. If you feel like you have more of these than other people your age, especially if you never wear sunscreen, it’s a good sign your skin is aging faster than you are. Start wearing sunscreen, dress in sun-protective clothing, and talk to a dermatologist about other options. These are the best anti-aging products at every price point.
Going upstairs feels like climbing a mountain
You might chalk up your difficulty with stairs to bad knees or poor fitness (which can also be signs of premature aging) but a major reason that adults suddenly get uncoordinated or unable to do physical things goes back to the type of muscle loss that comes with aging, explainsLaura Lapolla, a physical therapist at the Spaulding Outpatient Center in Framingham, Mass. “Less muscle mass equals smaller and weaker muscles making it harder to lift yourself up the stairs,” she says. Staying active by moving more and sitting less can help, she adds. “One good exercise to do related to climbing stairs is getting up from a chair,” Lapolla says. “Do this movement trying to limit the use of your hands 10-20 times a day including some at faster speeds to build muscle strength and power for climbing stairs.” There are many surprising things that may cause you to lose muscle.
Your period is super random
For women, the frequency and predictability of your menstrual cycle can be an early sign of aging, and it can start 15 years before menopause.“One sign many people do not correlate with aging in females is irregular menstrual cycles in their 30s and 40s,” Dr. Gandhi says. “This hormonal irregularity is important to address since changing hormones can increase weight gain, decrease muscle mass, cause sleep disturbances, and cause your body to age faster, predisposing you to heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.” Next, check out these 49 anti-aging foods that might add years to your life.
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- Bindiya Gandhi, MD, an integrative and functional medicine specialist inDecatur, GA
- Adam Friedman, MD, Professor and Interim Chairof Dermatology, George Washington School of Medicine and Health Science, Washington, DC
- Maria Cole, occupational therapist, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Framingham, MA
- Barry Sears, PhD, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation inPeabody, MA
- Sue Decotiis, MD, an anti-aging and regenerative medicine specialist in NYC
- Steven Austad, PhD, Chair of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biology.
- Joshua D. Zuckerman, MD, plastic surgeon, Zuckerman Plastic Surgery, NYC
- Anthony Youn, MD, plastic surgeon, Troy, MI
- American Academy of Dermatology: "What causes our skin to age?"
- Karol Ward, LCSW, social worker, NYC
- Maria Cole, occupational therapist, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Framingham, MA
- Lancet. "Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study."
- Laura Lapolla, physical therapist, Spaulding Outpatient Center, Framingham, Mass.
- European Heart Journal: "Association between regional body fat and cardiovascular disease risk among postmenopausal women with normal body mass index."
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on September 19, 2019
Originally Published: October 11, 2019
Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, MS, is an award-winning journalist, author, and ghostwriter who for nearly two decades has covered health, fitness, parenting, relationships, and other wellness and lifestyle topics for major outlets, including Reader’s Digest, O, The Oprah Magazine, Women’s Health, and many more. Charlotte has made appearances with television news outlets such as CBS, NBC, and FOX. She is a certified group fitness instructor in Denver, where she lives with her husband and their five children.