Our lifestyle has a tremendous influence on how we age. The rate of aging is affected by how our genes react to our environment. In this case, your environment is really your habits. Certain habits accelerate aging while others keep you young. Most people do not even realize that their habits are having a negative effect on their health and aging them.
Research Shows that Bad Habits Age You
An interesting study was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2010. Researchers looked at the effects of combining common bad habits on the aging process. The bad habits in question were smoking, excess alcohol consumption, inactivity and poor diet. Researchers tracked 4886 people of at least 18 years of age from a United Kingdom-wide population in 1984 to 1985.
For the purpose of the study, a diet was considered poor when participants ate less than 3 servings of fruit or vegetables in a day. A person was considered inactive if he or she did less than 2 hours of physical activity per week. A participant was considered to be consuming excess alcohol if he drank more than 21 units of alcohol a week or she drank more than 14 units of alcohol per week. When you look at it, this criterion covers a broad range of the population. This was really the typical lifestyle of most people.
The combined effect of these habits substantially increased the risk of death. It made people who engaged in them seem 12 years older than people in the healthiest group.
Another study was published in PLoS Medicine in 2008. Researchers examined the relationship between lifestyle and mortality in a population study of 20244 men and women aged between 45 and 79. The participants had no known cardiovascular disease or cancer during the baseline survey in 1993-1997. A follow-up was done in 2006.
The researchers once again examined behaviors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, poor diet and inactivity. Once again, the researchers found that a combination of these behaviors aged a person by 14 years as compared to participants who had neither of the bad habits.
Our Habits Make Us or Break Us
These results are in line with earlier studies that examined the combined effects of health-related habits on longevity. The findings don’t mean that everyone who maintains a healthy lifestyle will live longer than those who don’t, but it will increase the odds. The sad thing is that most people do not even realize the bad habits that have stealthily taken over their lives.
We need to identify bad habits and substitute them with health enhancing habits. You cannot make a habit go away. You can only substitute one habit with another.
Here is an awesome video from Jack Lalanne that touches on the negative effect of our bad habits.