3. Glycation. This is a fancy word for too much sugar, or rather, what happens when the sugar mixes with proteins and fats to form molecules that promote aging. Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs, are thought to accelerate the aging process by churning out free radicals and promoting inflammation. They form when you caramelize onions in a frying pan, for example, or mix a little sugar in with that omelette you're cooking. One way to avoid ingesting AGEs? Turn down the heat when you cook, says Bowden. The browning effect that occurs when you stir-fry vegetables at high heat or blacken chicken in a frying pan causes these molecules to form, especially if you're adding sugar to the mix. Limiting your intake of sugar-filled foods in general will also help, since excess sugar often binds to proteins in your body to form AGEs. The American Heart Association now recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories per day of added sugars, and men no more than 150 calories per day. Aside from increasing your risk of heart disease, AGEs appear to play a role in diabetes by causing blood to become sticky and hampering its ability to flow smoothly through capillaries and into the extremities and vital organs like the kidneys and eyes. "It's like putting sugar in your gas tank," says Bowden, "it gums up the works."
4. Stress. Why do U.S. presidents age twice as rapidly when in office than when not? Too much stress. Being under pressure initiates the release of a variety of stress hormones that make your pulse race and cause your blood pressure to rise. But the hormone cortisol, released to lessen these effects, actually creates problems when it remains chronically elevated; it has been shown to shrink a part of the brain called the hippocampus, Bowden says, which is essential for long-term memory. It can also lead to the accumulation of belly fat, causing inflammation and insulin resistance. Bowden recommends practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga to help manage stress, but even he admits that he has trouble devoting 30 minutes a day to doing so. "I usually just take five minutes every so often throughout my day to close my eyes and focus on my breathing," he says. Getting too little sleep is akin to feeling too much stress in terms of your body's increased production of cortisol, so make sure to aim for 7 to 8 hours a night.