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.
You can’t lift the 30-pound bag of dog food into your cart
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.
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 is 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
“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? 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. 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
Is your skin chronically dry and flaky? That could be a sign of premature aging, George says. 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.
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.
People constantly guess you’re older than you really are
When it comes to assessing a person’s “true” age, as opposed to their chronological age, our brains are pretty darn accurate, says Steven Austad, PhD, chair of the UAB Department of Biology. “Ask a dozen strangers to guess your age and the average value they come up with is a pretty good indicator of your body’s biological age,” he says.
Everyone is always telling you to hurry up
Are you constantly getting left behind when walking with friends your age? It turns out that a person’s normal walking speed is a pretty good indicator of how well you’re aging, Austad says. “Walking speed is an indicator of how leg muscles are working and says something about nerve conduction speed, two factors that go into aging,” he explains. Thankfully, this one has an easy fix: Take more walks and improve your fitness level.
You have more spots than a cheetah
Sun damage is perhaps the most important cause of an older-looking face, as too much sun causes lines, wrinkles, dull skin, and the dreaded brown age spots to develop, says Joshua D. Zuckerman, MD, a board-certified plastic surgeon at Zuckerman Plastic Surgery in NYC. If you feel like you have more of these than other people your age, especially if you never wear sunscreen, it’s a good sign your skin is aging faster than you are. Start wearing sunscreen immediately and talk to a dermatologist about other options. (P.S. Skipping sunscreen is one of the worst skin sins according to dermatologists.)
Going upstairs feels like climbing a mountain
You might chalk up your difficulty with stairs to bad knees or poor fitness (which can also be signs of premature aging) but a major reason that adults suddenly get uncoordinated or unable to do physical things goes back to the type of muscle loss that comes with aging. “Your muscle health is the aging factor that’s rarely discussed, yet losing it can be a sign that you’re aging faster than your actual age,” says Suzette Pereira, PhD, research scientist and expert in muscle health with age, Abbott. “Starting at age 40, you can lose up to eight per cent of your muscle mass per decade.” Time to pull out your old weights!
Your period is super random
For women, the frequency and predictability of your menstrual cycle can be an early sign of aging, and it can start 15 years before menopause. (Do you know the quiet signs of perimenopause?) “One sign many people do not correlate with aging in females is irregular menstrual cycles in their 30s and 40s,” Gandhi says. “This hormonal irregularity is important to address since changing hormones can increase weight gain, decrease muscle mass, cause sleep disturbances, and cause your body to age faster, predisposing you to heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.”