Special Report

'Harmless' Habits That Are Actually Aging You Faster Than You Can Imagine

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1. Checking your phone all the time

You may think this is a good habit because you are up-to-date with the news and stay in touch with hundreds of people, but you are not doing your neck, or skin any favors. Looking down at your phone for too long can eventually lead to “tech neck,” which can cause ongoing pain, according to Daryl Gioffre, a chiropractor and founder of the Gioffre Chiropractic Wellness Center in New York. This tilted position of the head can lead to stress injuries and muscle strain in the long-term, he explained.

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2. Using your phone for everything

Today’s phones are multi-functional devices — they are alarms, computers, navigation systems, calendars, TVs, games, and more. Recent research has shown that 36% of teenagers and 26% of parents wake up to check their mobile devices for something other than the time at least once a night.

Overuse of technology can eventually lead to what is now called “digital dementia.” The term was first used by German neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer in 2012 to describe how being so attached to our mobile devices can result in the breakdown of cognitive abilities similar to people who have suffered a head injury or mental illness, including short-term memory loss.

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3. Applying sunscreen only in the summer

“Although the UV rays may be less intense in the winter, they are always present and pass through clouds,” said Dr. Heather Richmond, a dermatologist at the Dermatology and Laser Surgery Center in Houston.

Damage from UV radiation is cumulative throughout your lifetime and causes gradual photoaging — wrinkles, loss of elasticity, brown spots, and uneven skin tone. “Additionally, UV radiation causes damage to the DNA in our skin cells and may ultimately result in skin cancer,” Richmond said. Daily sunscreen 365 days per year is critical to protect your skin against these changes, she noted.

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4. Wearing a hat instead of sunglasses

Hats are always helpful for protection of the scalp, face, and neck from the sun. “However, sunglasses are recommended as well since, depending on the angle, the eyes or areas around the eyes may not be in consistent shade, depending on which hat is used,” Richmond said. “In addition to protecting against fine lines around the eyes, sunglasses also protect the eye itself from sun damage, which can lead to [vision] changes,” she added.

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5. Listening to loud music

Most people will turn up the volume when a song they like is on. It’s fun and enhances the experience, right? But listening to loud music with your headphones for a long period of time may increase the risk of noise induced hearing loss, a condition where sensitive structures in the inner ear are damaged by loud sounds. The condition affects up to 40 million adults in the U.S.