March 24, 2019
These Two Bad Habits Can Make You Look Older
Health News

These Two Bad Habits Can Make You Look Older

by Berkeley Wellness  

Want to look younger? Don’t smoke or drink heavily, say the authors of a recent Danish study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health. For 11.5 years, on average, the researchers followed more than 11,600 people in the Copenhagen City Heart Study, who, at the start, had none of the following four signs of aging—all previously linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death:

Trained health professionals, unaware of the participants’ lifestyle habits and health status, assessed the presence of these aging signs over the years. Overall, smoking and heavy drinking predicted biological aging, as measured by the development of corneal arcus and earlobe creases, while smoking (but not alcohol) was associated with xanthelasmas, after controlling for potential confounding factors, such as age, weight, physical activity, education, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

For example, men who drank heavily—21 to 28 alcoholic beverages a week—were 26 percent more likely to develop earlobe creases, compared to those having fewer than 7 drinks a week. And men who had more than 35 drinks a week were 35 percent more likely to develop corneal arcus. Smoking the equivalent of 20 cigarettes a day for 15 to 30 years increased risk of this aging eye sign by 41 percent in women, compared with women who never smoked.

Alcohol and smoking were not associated with balding, however, perhaps because this trait is strongly influenced by genetics and hormones, with lifestyle factors playing a negligible role. Good news for light-to-moderate drinkers: They didn’t have more visible signs of aging than nondrinkers. (They didn’t have fewer, either, though.)

Among the limitations of the study, it can only uncover associations, not determine cause and effect—and it didn’t control for stress, which can lead to heavier drinking and smoking and is associated with poor health. Also, the researchers did not assess wrinkles, one of the most noticeable signs of aging, though there is good evidence from other research that smoking, in particular, causes premature skin aging.

Still, as the researchers noted, “Looking old for one’s age is associated with poor health, cardiovascular disease, and early death, implying that biological age to some extent can be observed visually.”

Also see 24 Tips for Healthy Aging.