If you’re like most people, you want to be around for a long time. You want more experiences with loved ones and more time to do the things you enjoy. If you want to live longer than the average person, longevity is what you’re after. Over the past 100 years, life expectancy has increased dramatically, but long life isn’t guaranteed.
You may think that you stand a good chance of living a long time if your parents or grandparents did so. However, research shows that your genes only account for around 25% of your life expectancy or possibly even less. While long lifespans tend to run in families, this has a lot to do with environment, attitude, and behavior. While you can’t guarantee that you’ll live to a particular age, you can increase your chances, by living a healthy life. Here are some of the science-backed things you can do.
Multiple studies link low caloric intake with a lower risk of disease and a longer lifespan. In contrast, consuming too many calories is associated with increased belly fat and excess body weight. These are both linked to shorter lifespans. While there is a possibility that calorie restriction can be unsustainable in the long term, it’s clear that eating too much of the wrong foods will put you at risk of chronic illness and shorter life expectancy.
Nuts are packed with antioxidants, protein, fiber, and several vitamins and minerals. They can reduce the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. One clinical study was conducted among Mediterranean people at high risk of cardiovascular illness. The researchers found that those who ate at least three servings of nuts each week reduced their risk of premature death by 39%.
Heavy drinking increases the risk of early death. It’s linked to liver disease, heart disease, and myriad other issues. However, moderate consumption can actually reduce your risk of disease and premature death. Wine is said to be particularly helpful because of its antioxidant content. The United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism describes moderate consumption as:
- a maximum of four drinks in a single day for men and three drinks in a single day for women;
- up to 14 drinks per week for men and seven drinks for women.
If you want to maximize your lifespan, you need to avoid chronic stress and anxiety. Laughing more and developing a positive outlook on life can reduce both your stress levels and your risk of premature death. Notably, people who are pessimistic are 42% more likely to die early.
Smoking is tied to illness and early death. It can take as many as ten years off your life and triple your risk of premature death. If you already smoke, it’s never too late to stop. Quitting in your 60s may add 3.7 years to your life, and even if you quit in your 80s, you may still reap some benefits.
If you want to add years to your life, you also need to get physically active and keep moving. You can reduce your risk of early death by getting as little as 15 minutes of exercise per day. However, one study showed that people who get in the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week were 28% less likely to die early. Those who were even more active reduced their risk of early death by 35%.
Getting a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis is important. Sleeping for seven to eight hours and going to bed, and waking up at the same time each day may be linked to longevity. In contrast, sleeping too much or too little can be harmful. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may be at greater risk of obesity, diabetes, inflammation, and heart disease. Meanwhile, excessive sleep is linked to depression, inadequate physical activity, and other health conditions which can affect how long you live.
These are just some of the things you can do to improve your health and wellbeing and increase your chances of living a long life. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, building a strong support system, and doing things that make you happy also play a role. While there’s no secret to long life, these relatively simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference in your life as you get older.
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