7 Simple Ways to Live a Longer
Every few years or so, a large survey comes out that highlights Americans views on longevity. The consistent message is that most of us want stick around long enough to grow (very) old.
In a 2016 survey by the Stanford Center on Longevity, three-fourths of the 2,330 adult respondents said they want to live to 100. A third of them believe they would live to at least 90.
The MDVIP Health and Longevity survey in 2016 revealed similar enthusiasm for old age. More than half of the Baby Boomers and GenXers surveyed want to live past 90; more than a quarter want to live past 100.
Now comes the reality check: Most people are neither prepared nor actively preparing – physically or financially – to live so long. We typically make it to about 75. (In 2019, the average age of death was just shy of 74 years old, about five years younger than the average life expectancy in 2019.)
There are no guarantees in life, but if you’re among the many who want to reach 90 or 100, start by working toward these seven critical lifestyle changes.
Tips to Avoid a Premature Death
1. Recommit to basic, healthy habits
Put away the junk food, stop sitting so much and get some exercise — it’s advice you’ve heard for years in the media, from your doctor, on reality TV, maybe even inside your own head. And for good reason! Regular physical activity and a sensible diet are proven ways to reduce your risk for many diseases, including the ones that cause early death.
2. Practice daily mindfulness
Many people live their lives in hustle mode. They rush to meetings and events, treat minor tasks like critical jobs and argue freely with people. These behaviors reflect a state of psychological stress that can age you at the cellular level. One antidote is mindfulness meditation, a conscious effort to slow down and clear your mind of all thoughts beyond the present moment. Early research shows it can reverse cellular aging, promote heart health and possibly help you live longer.
3. Reduce Temptation at Restaurants
If you’re trying to achieve a healthy weight, the last place you want to be is at a fondue restaurant with friends. It’s also true that you shouldn’t have to choose between your BMI and a social life; both play important roles in longevity. One temptation-control strategy before you dine out is to eat a small meal at home first, so you’re not ravenous when you open the menu. Another strategy for sensible restaurant eating is choose a place where total indulgence isn’t on the menu. Experiments show that cravings for unhealthy food kick in when you even consider an opportunity for dessert.
4. Quit smoking
Smoking is terrible for you in countless ways, including the fact that it takes years off your life. The good news: When you quit, you may regain some of that time. In one large study, life expectancy among smokers who quit at age 35 exceeded that of continuing smokers by a lot: 6.9 to 8.5 years for men and 6.1 to 7.7 years for women. Even smokers who quit at age 65 enjoyed some longevity gains: 1.4 to 2 years for men, 2.7 to 3.7 years for women.
5. Get Some Rest
People who live a very long time seem to have at least one superpower. Even if they don’t sleep well – which is increasingly common as they age – their bodies don’t succumb to the negative effects of too little sleep. For the rest of us, a good night’s sleep on most nights is essential. Adequate sleep promotes longevity and quality of life by reducing risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and mood disorders.
6. Rethink Your Drinks
High-risk drinking and alcohol abuse are on the rise in people older than 65. Numerous theories may help explain the recent surge, including highly publicized research about the cardioprotective benefits of moderate drinking. (Clearly, moderation got lost along the way.) Now we know even more about the effects of alcohol, and the news is not so good. Alcohol is a significant risk factor for several types of cancer and numerous injuries. Public health experts say those risks outweigh any potential heart-health benefits.
7. Stay in touch
Strong social ties can improve the quality and quantity of your years, especially as you age. A review of 148 studies suggests that strong social ties significantly increase your odds of survival. A feeling of social isolation, by contrast, significantly increases your risk of premature death. One likely explanation is that isolation can cause stress, which weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to illness.
Keep that top of mind the next time your partner or a family member asks you to get off the phone or wrap up a visit. You can honestly say you’re just doing your part to live longer.
Have you scheduled your annual visit?