15 Ways to Live LongerDr. Jim Collins
Today’s 60’s are yesterday’s 50’s or maybe even 40’s. We aren’t just living years longer – we are instead living decades longer. It’s important to know that while we once thought that our genes were the masters of our longevity, they are only a piece of the story. We have more control over longevity than ever thought before. Here are some simple ideas and habits to add to your daily life that may increase your longevity by one to two decades.
1 – Improve Your Diet
Fad or crash diets simply do not work for most people and they come and go. The tried-and-true way to increase longevity is through consistent behaviors including eating and drinking. Longevity relies on good health. So, add the following habits, foods and beverages to your daily intake.
- Eat until you are full and resist overeating
- Eat a handful of nuts daily
- Add turmeric to your diet through curcumin or supplements
- Eat more plant-based foods
- Get vitamin D in your diet daily
- Substitute bad fats for good fats instead of eliminating all fats
- Get green and white tea into your daily diet
2 – Get Physical
Move it or lose it. Use it or lose it. These are some of the simple sayings we often hear regarding exercise and the body. It’s true that the body was designed to move around – and a lot. It’s been shown in research that people who live a more active lifestyle are not only healthier, but they live longer. Getting physical doesn’t require a gym membership, but if that’s your thing, have at it! Here are some things to do to increase activity, stay fit, reduce risk of disease and live longer.
- Exercise 15 minutes per day – it could add three years to your life!
- Create a daily routine that you can live with
- Have more sex – it may reduce mortality by 50%!
- Skip elevators and take the stairs
- Park your car further from your destination and walk
3 – The Truth about Alcohol and Tobacco
Smoking is one habit that is far too strongly associated with disease and premature death. There are no health benefits, either physical or emotional, that come from smoking (or vaping for that matter). It’s never too late to quit smoking. Studies show that people who stop in their 50s, 60, 70, or even in their 80’s live healthier and longer.
Alcohol, on the other hand, has shown numerous health benefits when consumed in moderation including a reduction in:
- Heart disease
- Neurological disorders
Wine in particular is a good source of polyphenol antioxidants.
4 – Make Your Own Happiness
Lots of studies show that people who experience true happiness and joy simply live healthier and longer lives. Happiness reduces stress, anxiety and depression, which are all linked with poor health and earlier death. Even when individuals have been diagnosed with an illness but maintain a positive and happy outlook, they tend to do better and live longer. Here are some ways to be crazy happy!
- Do what you love more and cut out what you don’t
- Be around people who make you happy and stay away from those who don’t
- Get a pet
- Do what brings you purpose, meaning and joy
- Dance and sing
- Watch your favorite shows or movies
- Listen to your favorite music
- Stop watching the news
5 – Avoid Chronic Stress and Anxiety
Some stress is healthy for us. It makes us get out of bed and go to work. Short-term stress is not the killer – it’s chronic, long lasting stress coupled with anxiety that are associated with numerous illnesses like heart disease and stroke. They can also significantly reduce your life expectancy. Here are a few ways to reduce chronic stress and anxiety:
- Don’t take life so seriously
- Laugh in the face of bad news or problems
- Be assured that no storm lasts forever
- Rely on your faith
- Know what triggers stress and anxiety and avoid them
- Get professional help through counseling or therapy
6 – Be Social
Some of the most social people are also the healthiest around. That means they will probably live longer barring any accidents. It has been shown that having a healthy social circle of friends, family and colleagues can help us live up to a whopping 50% longer! Why? Healthy social networks are associated with:
- Good cardiovascular health
- Better brain health
- Increased immune function
- Enhanced hormonal health
All of these are associated with decreased risk of developing chronic or debilitating diseases. Having a strong social network may also help to cope with or buffer stress.
7 – Be Conscientious
Conscientiousness refers to our ability to be more self-disciplined, efficient, goal-oriented and organized. It means we pay more attention to the truly important aspects of our lives and “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Studies show that conscientious people not only live longer, but are healthier than those who are not conscientious. These people have:
- Lower blood pressure
- Healthier hearts
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Fewer joint or muscle issues
- Fewer mental health problems
Besides these benefits, conscientious people are known to take fewer risks in life. They are more calculated. They also react less emotionally to stress and see things as they are. There are more conscientious people who lead professional careers and take full responsibility for their health.
8 – Sleep the Right Amount of Sleep
To sleep or not to sleep? Too much of it is bad and not enough isn’t healthy either. What to do? The key to sleep is to develop a consistent pattern by going to bed roughly the same time each night and waking up at the same time in the morning. This helps the body heal from the day’s activities (think inflammation) and is critical for regulating cell function. Studies show that people who get the right amount of sleep are healthier and live longer.
A key factor in healthy sleep involves duration. Sleeping less than 5-7 hours per night is associated with premature death. Sleeping more than 8-9 hours, on the other hand, might decrease one’s lifespan by 38%. Too little sleep is associated with the following:
- Increased inflammation
- Increased risk of diabetes
- Increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease
- Higher risk for heart disease
- Higher risk for obesity
Excessive sleep is associated with:
- Decreased physical activity
- Undiagnosed health conditions
9 – Get Spiritual
People who attend a place of worship on a regular basis have lower rates of hypertension and lower mortality of a host of illnesses including digestive, circulatory, and respiratory diseases and cancer. What’s the association between spirituality, health and longevity? People attending places of worship:
- Have a greater sense of being, meaning, and purpose
- Are part of a larger, supportive community of like-minded people
- May be protected from stress and anxiety
- Offer their problems to a higher power
The bottom line? Attending church, Mass or services on a weekly basis can add four to five years to your life!
10 – Look on the Bright Side of Life
There are always plenty of things in life to be grateful for like family, friends, your career, retirement, kids, grandkids, and so on. Research has shown for decades that positive people are healthier and live longer, more fulfilling lives. Positive people know when to pause, take a deep and cleansing breath, and exhale.
Another way of putting this is that optimistic people also live healthier and longer. They have a reduced risk of dying from heart conditions because they don’t harbor stress and anxiety. They have learned to let things go. Pessimists, on the other hand, don’t age as healthy as they could and do tend to die sooner than optimistic, positive people. These people:
- Don’t dwell on the past
- Live in the moment
- Are more mindful
- Don’t freak out about the future
- Plan ahead
- Are realistic
- Don’t exaggerate
11 – Get Routine Physicals and Health Screenings
You won’t know how healthy or unhealthy you are without a physician’s help. It’s important to get your annual checkup. Lots of health issues can appear within a year that didn’t get identified last year. Form a good, honest and open relationship with your doctor or healthcare provider. Some studies show it’s the relationship with your provider that is healing in itself. Routine medical tests and screenings are one of the most effective ways to add years to your life.
12 – Shut Your T.V. Off!
My good old dad used to call our television the “idiot box”. Ever hear that? While I had no clue what he was talking about as a kid, I sure know now. How is watching television associated with poor health and an increased risk for premature death?
- Watching TV makes you inactive unless you’re on the treadmill or bike
- People tend to eat more junk food while watching TV
- TV can be stressful (cable news, negative images, bad language)
- TV helps you avoid doing more productive things
- TV can make you antisocial
13 – Avoid Unnecessary Risks
People who don’t engage in high-risk activities are healthier, live longer, and maybe they are even smarter! Think about younger people. It isn’t heart disease, cancer or stroke that will shorten their life expectancy. It’s risky behaviors involving accidents, injuries and acts of violence. Be conscientious and weigh the benefits in life against their risks. You’ll be happier, healthier and will probably live longer.
14 – Enjoy the Great Outdoors
Humans require sunshine and the vitamin D it so generously offers. Supplements are a good way to enhance the amount of vitamin D we need, especially those of us living in sun-starved states. Getting sunlight for even 15 minutes at a time is healthier than no sunshine at all. Try to expose your hands and face to the sunlight. They tend to absorb more vitamin D.
People who get outside and enjoy not only the sun, but nature itself, tend to be more positive, enthusiastic, and healthier people. And because of this, they also live longer.
15 – Be “Other” Oriented
People who take the focus off themselves and do good for others are happy and well-adjusted people. They also have less stress and anxiety in their lives because everything isn’t about them. When you help others, you are actually helping yourself. People will also experience these benefits:
- Feel better about yourself
- Improve another life
- Make the world a better place
- Connects you to others
- The possibility of “paying it forward”
How can you be other oriented and help people on a daily basis? Try to do the following:
- Smile at people
- Be friendly and helpful
- Volunteer for a charity
- Donate something
- Redirect gifts from others
- Comfort someone
- Teach someone
- Listen to people
- Buy food for the homeless
- Volunteer for your church or school
- Send uplifting emails
- Demonstrate patience
- Help a child or senior in need
- Demonstrate love
Final Thoughts on Ways to Live Longer
Only a few short decades ago, scientists were convinced that we are hostage to our gene pool and our longevity solely relies on our genetic makeup. That was wrong. There is a great deal of new science, biology and genetic research indicating that our health and longevity are in our own hands more than ever. And, there are several things we can do to maintain good health and increase our life expectancy. Here are some take-aways:
- We are what we eat, so modify your diet for optimal health
- Our bodies need to move and not remain stationary, get up and get active
- Don’t smoke, and drink alcohol in moderation
- Be happy
- Avoid sources of chronic stress and anxiety
- Be social
- Be conscientious
- Get adequate sleep
- Get spiritual and attend weekly worship services
- Find the positive in everything
- Get annual checkups and routine screening
- Shut that TV off!
- Don’t be a risk-taker
- Get outside in the sunshine
- Do good for others
And in doing so, I hope you live a healthier, more satisfying, meaningful and long life!