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. 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. For more surprising signs of aging, check out these eight aging myths, debunked.
You can't lift the 30-pound bag of dog food into your cart
Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock 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, MD, author of the Zone Diet book series and president of the non-profit Inflammation Research Foundation. 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. You can start with the best anti-aging exercises, according to science.
Bruises take forever to heal
One important and oft-overlooked sign of premature aging is that you find yourself healing from wounds and injuries more slowly than you used to, says Ira S. Pastor, CEO of Bioquark Inc. The skin is your largest organ and normally has an amazing ability to heal itself, so if yours isn't recovering well, something is definitely going awry in the internal aging systems, he explains.
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, says Constantine George, MD, chief medical officer of Epitomedical and founder of Vedius."Some may get wrinkly sooner than others due to things such as tobacco use, excess sun exposure, poor dietary habits, and alcohol consumption," he explains. See exactly how your skin ages through every decade of your life. "This process can be slowed through lifestyle changes and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, which contain high levels of antioxidants."
You make excuses to not to go out with your friends
guteksk7/Shutterstock "For me, a big sign a patient isn't aging well is when they no longer enjoy doing the things they always loved to do," says Otto J. Janke, DC, of Janke Family Chiropractic. "Often they'll make up a reason that they no longer enjoy the sport, craft, or group that they at one time 'lived' for." Why? (Hint: It has to do with this one simple thing that is the secret to aging well.) The mental and physical aspects of our bodies are closely linked. Whether this means you get treatment for depression or are evaluated for an underlying physical problem, it's important to address your ennui because even if it isn't making your life shorter, it's definitely making it less happy.
You've stopped eating pickles because you can't open the jar anymore
"Studies have shown that poor hand grip strength is linked to age-related decline," says Jenny Wilson, PhD, psychologist, a board certified anti-aging health practitioner and CEO of My Sharp Mind. Why? It indicates a loss of both muscle and strength. Plus a weak grip may also be an indicator that your brain is aging faster. (Do you know these 12 signs your brain is aging faster than you are?) Researchers are not yet sure of the mechanism but it is linked to a loss of white matter, the part of the brain responsible for efficient information processing.
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. Fortunately, with a little diet and exercise, you'll be back in your pants in no time. Start by adding mushrooms to your diet, as they have powerful anti-aging benefits.
You're burning through giant bottles of lotion
Dean Drobot/Shutterstock Is your skin chronically dry and flaky? That could be a sign of premature aging, George says. However, there are other causes, like these 10 everyday things causing your dry skin. It can also indicate an underlying medical condition like hypothyroidism. Low thyroid function left untreated can also give you a puffy face, weight gain, thinning hair, impaired memory, painful joints, and muscle weakness—all things that will age you faster than a time machine, he adds. So if you have constantly dry skin, get it checked out by your doctor.
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. In the meantime, make sure you're not making these common sleep mistakes.
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, 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. Need ideas? Eat these 12 anti-aging foods for glowing skin and a longer life.