The average human lifetime has been increasing steadily over the course of centuries, as we’ve found ways to improve medicine, sanitation, safety, work conditions, and overall self-awareness, at least in first world countries. Today, the average life expectancy at birth is about 68.5 years for males and 73.5 years for females — but plenty of people are living well past 80 and even 90. What’s the best way to ensure you’ll live longer? Below are 10 tips to keep in mind.
1. Manage Stress
When you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to get sick due to a compromised immune system. You’re also more likely to see bags under your eyes turn into wrinkles, or grey hairs peek out amid your natural color. When you’re stressed, fatigue is an everyday feeling, and you having fun seems like a distant memory of your college days.
Then there’s all the research that shows that chronic stress can contribute to heart problems, diabetes, obesity, cancer, asthma, depression, and even Alzheimer’s. The reason why stress can have such a huge impact on our bodies is because it shortens telomeres, the protective caps at the end of chromosomes, which are associated with health and longevity. When telomere length is compromised, our cells age faster.
But here’s the thing: You don’t have to be miserable. Learning to cope with stressful events, depression, or anxiety can make a huge difference on your health and longevity. Slowing down can benefit you even on a cellular level; it prevents them from aging and dying sooner, and can stop your telomeres from shortening.
“[S]tressful events can accelerate immune cell aging in adults, even in the short period of one year,” said Dr. Eli Puterman, an author of a study on stress. “Exciting, though, is that these results further suggest that keeping active, and eating and sleeping well during periods of high stress are particularly important to attenuate the accelerated aging of our immune cells.”
What’s the single best thing you can do for your health? Exercise. A recent study found that working out and staying active reduces the risk of pretty much every single chronic disease out there — from cancer to obesity. Exercise lowers symptoms in knee arthritis patients by 47 percent, dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50 percent, diabetes by 58 percent, and anxiety by 48 percent. Feeling stressed and fatigued? Go for a run; it will do you wonders. Studies have shown that more intense exercise is better for you than mild to moderate, but any amount of walking or standing will help.
3. Don’t Smoke
Smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, skin problems, teeth impairment, and accelerated aging. According to the CDC, overall mortality for male and female smokers in the U.S. is up to three times higher than for non-smokers; cigarette smoke accounts for one of every five deaths each year. For every month or year you quit, you add more years onto your life.
4. Don’t Do Hard Drugs Or Drink Too Much
Another no-brainer is to stay away from hard drugs like heroin or cocaine (marijuana is a different story; some research shows it may actually be good for you, especially in reducing anxiety and relieving headaches). Drug overdoses and drug-related deaths are pretty high up on the list of causes of death in the U.S., particularly among young people. On that note, becoming an alcoholic will wreak havoc on your liver and other organs, as well as your brain and mental health.
5. Think Young!
Feeling young can make you young — at least that’s what one recent JAMA Internal Medicine study from the University College London found. The researchers learned that people who felt three or more years younger than they were actually had a lower death rate than people who felt their own age or more than a year older. These results are pretty fascinating, and they’re inspiration for us to not worry about turning one year older; it’s what’s inside that counts!
6. Avoid A Sedentary Lifestyle
Sitting all day is just as bad as smoking. You can, however, fight this by getting a half-hour workout in daily, using a standing desk at work, taking walks on your lunch break, and getting up every few minutes to stretch and move around. As you get older, it’s even more important to be physically active. Doing things like cleaning, washing dishes, gardening, or walking will cut your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and depression.
7. Good Foods (Mediterranean Diet)
An easy way to eat well is to follow a Mediterranean Diet, which is rich in heart-healthy fish like salmon, protein-packed nuts, and scores of vegetables. Research has shown over and over that sticking to this food regimen could make you live longer, along with providing you with health benefits like protection against heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Eating well doesn’t have to mean eating bland, boring foods like raw vegetables. It can mean washing down whole grain pastas, seafood, bread and olive oil, and eggplant parmesan with glasses of wine. Europeans like the French and Greeks are notorious for eating well but staying skinny — and it’s because they eat everything in moderation.
8. Be A Student For Life
Don’t fall into the trap that as you grow older, your mind gets fuzzier and your memory is shot. Instead, change up your boring daily routine to add something new. Go to lectures, museums, and read challenging books to keep your mind sharp. Learn a new language. Travel someplace new. Keeping your mind young and sharp has actually been shown to help you live longer.
9. Keep Close Friends
It’s true: Loneliness and social isolation can be harmful to your mental, emotional, and even physical health, while having a close network of friends around can do you good. One recent study published this year found that loneliness could lead to an early death at the same rate that obesity does. Having social support can reduce your stress levels, risk of suicide, and depression. Especially in the modern day and age when people communicate solely through digital means and live alone, staying in touch with your friends is important.
10. Stay positive!
Finding a purpose in your life will help you live longer, according to a 2014 study. Whether you’re in college, working, or retired, making goals for yourself and challenging yourself is going to improve your outlook on life, which will make you happier and keep you healthier. At the end of the day, it’s all about being positive, focusing on the good things, and never giving up. So next time you’re feeling lost and stuck, make some short-term and long-term goals for yourself. Then take the steps to achieve them. Having a sense of purpose will increase your productivity and positivity and help you feel better about yourself, reducing stress in the meantime.