Healthy Habits That Lead To Improved Longevity

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Living life to its fullest starts with and relies on paying attention to your body and mind. In surveys and studies, many older adults report that better quality of life or the life in one's years is more important to them than the years in one's life.

Some research estimates that a person's DNA accounts for only about 25% of lifespan variations. That would mean that environmental factors and lifestyle choices could account for the rest. 

At whatever point we start making even small changes towards consistent and healthy eating habits, incorporating moderate exercise or other physical activity can reduce significant health issues, including heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even dementia.

The proof abounds. By adding healthy habits those who live into their nineties and hundreds not only have remarkably fewer instances of age-related chronic disease - heart disease, cancer, and diabetes - but they're less prone to develop other ailments, too.

Regular screenings

Young people tend to have fewer chronic illnesses than older ones, but prevention is key, Wen said. “If you screen positive for prediabetes, for example, there are steps that you can take to prevent progressing to diabetes.”

Annual checkups also enable you and your doctor to get to know each other, she added. “The best time to see your physician is not when you already have symptoms and need help – it’s on a regular basis to build and establish that relationship so that your physician can get a baseline of your health.”

Consistent physical activity

Getting enough physical activity can lower your risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, Wen said.

“There’s an overwhelming body of research that supports regular aerobic exercise for not only living longer but also to maintain cognitive function longer,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York City and clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine.

The World Health Organization has recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity weekly, while pregnant people should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic and strengthening per week.

A healthy BMI

Body mass index is a measurement of body fat that assesses a person’s weight category and potential risk for health issues, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maintaining a healthy BMI can lengthen your life by more than a decade, a 2018 study found, and has been linked with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Regular physical activity and eating healthy foods can help you with this goal.

Proper nutrition

Eating more plant-based foods provides a great source of antioxidants, Goldberg said. “Oxidation is a sign of stress in our system and can lead to changes in the buildup of plaque in the arteries and such,” she said. “And this oxidation is also associated with aging.”

Don’t smoke Or Quit

Smoking is strongly linked to disease and early deathOverall, people who smoke may lose up to 10 years of life and be 3 times more likely to die prematurely than those who never pick up a cigarette.

Keep in mind that it’s never too late to quit. One study reports that individuals who quit smoking by age 35 may prolong their lives by up to 8.5 years. Furthermore, quitting smoking in your 60s may add up to 3.7 years to your life. In fact, quitting in your  80s may still provide benefits, and even more benefits.

Moderate your alcohol intake

Heavy alcohol consumption is linked to liver, heart, and pancreatic disease, as well as an overall increased risk of early death. However, moderate consumption is associated with a reduced likelihood of several diseases, as well as a 17–18% decrease in your risk of premature death.

Wine is considered particularly beneficial due to its high content of polyphenol antioxidants. Results from a 29-year study showed that men who preferred wine were 34% less likely to die early than those who preferred beer or spirits. In addition, one review observed wine to be especially protective against heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, and metabolic syndrome.

To keep consumption moderate, it is recommended that women aim for 1–2 units or less per day and a maximum of 7 per week. Men should keep their daily intake to less than 3 units, with a maximum of 14 per week. It’s important to note that no strong research indicates that the benefits of moderate drinking are greater than those of abstaining from alcohol. In other words, there is no need to start drinking if you don’t usually consume alcohol.

Get enough sleep

A regular sleep schedule is also crucial to your body’s overall functioning. Numerous studies have shown that inadequate sleep is linked to serious health conditions including hypertension, inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity — all of which contribute to a shorter lifespan. On the other hand, too much sleep can also be bad for your health, as it has been associated with a greater risk of stroke and heart disease. To improve your longevity, try to go to bed at the same time each night, and aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

Be more conscientious

Conscientiousness refers to a person’s ability to be self-disciplined, organized, efficient, and goal-oriented. Based on data from a study that followed 1,500 boys and girls into old age, kids who were considered persistent, organized, and disciplined lived 11% longer than their less conscientious counterparts. Conscientious people may also have  lower blood pressure and fewer psychiatric conditions, as well as a lower risk of diabetes and heart or joint problems. This might be partly because conscientious individuals are less likely to take dangerous risks or react negatively to stress — and more likely to lead successful professional lives or be responsible about their healthConscientiousness can be developed at any stage in life through steps as small as tidying up a desk, sticking to a work plan, or being on time.

Reduce stress

While stress is an unavoidable part of life, elevated anxiety and worry can have a significant toll on the body and disrupt almost all of its processes. Research suggests that chronic stress can increase risk of depression, anxiety disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation, and obesity, as well as shorten life expectancy. According to one Finnish study, for instance, heavy stress reduced men's and women's lifespans by over 2 years. Luckily, there are several ways to manage stress and protect your mental health, from journaling and yoga, to therapy and meditation.

The bottom line

Longevity may seem beyond your control, but many healthy habits may lead you to a ripe, old age. These include drinking coffee or tea, exercising, getting enough sleep, and limiting your alcohol intake. Taken together, these habits can boost your health and put you on the path to a long life.

Author
Dr. Mark L. Meyer Dr. Meyer graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelor of Science, High Honors, in cellular and molecular biology, Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude. He attended the Yale University School of Medicine, where he also completed a categorical residency in Internal Medicine, served for one year as an Emergency Department attending physician, and held the title of Clinical Instructor in the Department of Surgery. During this time, Dr. Meyer obtained a J.D. from the Yale Law School, concentrating on medical ethics, scientific research law, and FDA law. He then completed a fellowship in Cardiovascular Diseases at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, where he obtained Level 3 Nuclear Cardiology training.

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