These 7 Simple Anti-Aging Secrets Could Add Years to Your Life

Adding years to your life could be as simple as a few lifestyle tweaks.

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Care for others

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Two recent studies suggest surprising but heartwarming keys to a longer life. You're more likely to rack up the years if you:

Expect the best. Of 100,000 women in the Women's Health Initiative study, those rated optimistic by special questionnaires were 14 percent less likely than pessimists to die during the study's first eight years. Get inspired to become an optimist with these positive quotes.

Care for a loved one. Despite the stress involved, men and women who put in the most time taking care of a spouse cut their own risk of dying by 36 percent over a seven-year period, researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor found. Don't miss these other habits science says are anti-aging.

Set a goal for greater edge

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Whether you believe you have some purpose to fulfill on earth, or just have trips you plan to take and books you want to read, you have a survival edge over people with fewer goals. (Keep making goals with no followup? Watch for the sneaky reasons you can't finish your to-do list.) So say researchers at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago who interviewed more than 1,200 older adults. Elders with sure intentions and goals were about half as likely as aimless seniors to die over the five-year follow-up. Say these mantras to help make dreams a reality.

Expose yourself to the "sunshine vitamin"

Low vitamin D levels have been associated with osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer, so watch out for these signs you're not getting enough vitamin D. And it gets worse: According to new research, adults who don't get enough of the "sunshine vitamin" are 26 percent more likely to die early. A 12-year study of 13,000 men and women didn't finger any one cause of death, "because vitamin D's impact on health is so widespread," says researcher Michal Melamed, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

Besides drinking fortified milk, she suggests that you: Get just 10 to 15 minutes of midday sunshine (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) several days a week, applying sunscreen after those few minutes. You can also take supplements for the anti-aging benefits—but here's why you should ask your doctor before taking vitamin D.

Mind your DNA

Healthy habits can actually repair your DNA, say researchers Dean Ornish, MD, and Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, MD. Their study subjects ate vegetarian whole foods with 10 percent of calories from fat, walked 30 minutes six days a week, used stress-reducing techniques, and went to a weekly support group.

The results? Besides a decrease in LDL cholesterol and stress levels, they showed a 29 percent rise in telomerase. This enzyme repairs and lengthens telomeres, tiny protein complexes on the ends of chromosomes that are vital for immunity and longevity. Short telomeres and low levels of telomerase signal an increased risk of heart disease and cancer, plus a poor prognosis if you do get ill. Try these other anti-aging habits your 80-year-old self will thank you for.

Keep your heart pumping

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According to Dr. Oz, the two most important things you can do to stay young and healthy: Walk. When you can't walk a quarter mile in five minutes, your chance of dying within three years goes up dramatically. But even a 15-minute walk will offer these health benefits.

Second most important is building a community—avoiding isolation. Because if your heart doesn't have a reason to keep beating, it won't. If you're showing signs that loneliness is hurting your health, try these little ways to avoid feeling alone.

Cut back on red meat

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A ten-year study of 545,000 Americans found that people who eat about four ounces of beef or pork a day (the amount in an average-sized burger) are at least 30 percent more likely to die early, compared with those who consume an ounce or less daily. Though previous research has linked a diet heavy in red meat to a greater risk of heart disease and colon cancer, this is the first big study to look at how it affects your life expectancy. Find out more about what happens when you give up red meat.

Exercise Matters

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Are you showing signs you need to move more? A walk with your spouse gives you a chance to talk over the day, and activities like playing tennis together can be a bonding experience. But the bottom line: Getting active can mean a longer life for both of you because exercise has benefits beyond weight loss.

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