50 Easy Habits That Help You Live Longer, According to Science

We asked medical experts for the most impactful things you can do right now to live longer—and stay healthy enough to really enjoy your golden years.

Previous
1/50 View as List
Next

Go for a jog

nd3000/ShutterstockAmong all the things you can do to achieve longevity, one of the most critical is to exercise. Aerobic activity, like running, is crucial for getting your blood pumping and your heart working. A recent study showed that a one-hour run adds seven hours to your life, up to four hours per week. People who run have a 25 to 40 percent reduced risk of early death, and live about three years longer, the study says. Of course, people who run are often healthier in general, but running appears to have its own health benefits. "Running helps burn off or keep blood sugars normal, which is important because they keep your kidneys, eyes, nerves and blood vessels healthy," says Jennifer Kuca Hopper, MS, an exercise physiologist and director of employee wellness, worklife, and fitness at Piedmont Healthcare. Running also regulates blood pressure, increases lung capacity, reduces stress, and increases bone density, she says.

Eat more plant protein

abc1234/ShutterstockA recent study from Harvard found that people who ate a diet high in processed meats like sausage and hot dogs, were at a higher risk of death—but those who got their protein from plants had a lower risk, especially of heart disease-related deaths. "The study said that for every three percent increase in calories from plant protein there was a reduction in risk of death by 10 percent," says Shayna Komar, RD, a dietitian at Piedmont Healthcare. Plant proteins supply all nine amino acids the body can't make on its own, and "unlike animal proteins, plant-based proteins can help lower blood pressure, lower risk of heart disease, and decrease risk of cancer," she says. Find out the top 10 sources of plant protein.

Get more sun—but not too much

Maxplay-photographer/ShutterstockThe "sunshine vitamin"—vitamin D, that is—has been shown to fight to disease, improve bone health, and ward off depression. One study even found it to extend lifespan (of a worm, but still) by 33 percent. But because vitamin D comes from the sun, and our modern lives don't let us spend much time outside, we might not be getting enough. Concerns over skin cancer are well-founded, and sunblock is generally a good idea. But, "getting 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure a day should be adequate for vitamin D production," says Jyotir Jani, MD, a primary care physician with Piedmont Healthcare. "Of course, that is not through sunbathing but by being outside with normal clothing." Here are more weird ways the sun affects your body.

Drink coffee

Arrleyd80/ShutterstockTo the relief of caffeine lovers everywhere, your daily cup of joe may actually have health benefits that could extend your life. "Some research indicates moderate coffee intake may fight against type-2 diabetes, and may even reduce the risk of dementia and heart disease," says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE and author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies. A study from Harvard found that those who regularly drank coffee had a reduced risk of death. Komar says coffee also stimulates the nervous system, raising metabolism and increasing the oxidation of fatty acids, which can help with weight loss. Read more on why coffe1e's a miracle drug.

Eat nuts

savitskaya-iryna/ShutterstockAlthough you may think nuts are unhealthy because they are calorically dense, the exact opposite is true—they can actually extend your life. A study from Harvard found that daily nut-eaters were 20 percent less likely to die during the study. Specifically, the rates of death from cancer, heart and respiratory disease were reduced. Other research has shown walnuts have a huge role in heart health because of the amount of antioxidants they contain. They can also boost brain health, says Barbara Shukitt-Hale, PhD, a USDA Scientist in the Laboratory of Neuroscience and Aging at the USDA/Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. Plus, nuts are a great source of plant-based protein, Palinski-Wade says. Here are four more reasons to snack on nuts.

Spice it up

tarapong-srichaiyos/ShutterstockCertain spices have been touted for their health benefits. "Tumeric has incredible anti-inflammatory properties, which may fight against joint pain and promote a healthier heart," Palinski-Wade says. "Inflammation can accelerate the aging process, so anything that reduces inflammation may help to slow it." Research has found that an antioxidant in tumeric might extend lifespan (in flies, at least), although a recent review questioned some of its benefits. In any case, cooking with the spice may be a healthier alternative to salt or sugar. Another healthy substitute is cinnamon. "Cinnamon may improve insulin sensitivity in the body, helping to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes," Palinski-Wade says. "Regular consumption may also lower LDL cholesterol levels." Find out more herbs and spices that improve your health.

Don't smoke

Julia-Velychko/ShutterstockYou probably know this one already. "Smoking cessation is the single most important action that an individual can take regardless of age," Dr. Jani says. It's the leading preventable cause of death in the US, according to the CDC, and the cause of almost every severe health issue, from heart disease to cancer. "Not to mention smoking makes you age faster with increased wrinkles!' Dr. Jani says. In addition, "smoking literally causes internal damage to your genetic code as well as blood vessels and multiple organ systems." And although vaping may be used as a tool to help smokers quit, the jury is still out on its safety, so it's better not to start. These are the 23 best ways to quit smoking.

Drink alcohol in moderation

Ievgenii-Meyer/ShutterstockHeavy drinking increases health risks, but drinking in moderation—particularly red wine—could help you live longer. One study found those who drank lightly (no more than one glass a day for women and two for men) to have reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. "Red wine has a small amount of one antioxidant called resveratrol," says Komar. "It is good for overall health, protection from heart disease and decreasing inflammation." Palinski-Wade says wine may also improve blood lipid levels and reduce the risk of dementia. Tap into more benefits of alcohol.

Pump up your pepper intake

Gita-Kulinitch-Studio/ShutterstockA recent study found that people who eat spicy chili peppers were 13 percent less likely to die than those who don't. Although the link doesn't prove cause and effect, there are some health benefits to specific properties in peppers. "Hot peppers may reduce blood pressure levels thanks to the capsaicin they contain," Palinski-Wade says. "Elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease, and even dementia, so regular consumption may lower this risk."

Stress Less

pathdoc/ShutterstockThe impact of stress on our overall health is huge, so reducing stress is one way to lower our risk of many deadly diseases. A study from the University of California found that chronically stressed women had significantly lower levels of klotho, a hormone that regulates the aging process. Another study found stress increased the risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition, Dr. Jani says, stress leads to "chemical changes in the body that cause increased harmful particles called free radicals to be released, which can cause damage to organs, raise blood pressure, result in emotional change, and damage genes resulting in mutations that raise the possibility of cancer or psoriasis." Whoa! Reducing stress can also help improve sleep and interpersonal relationships, reduce overuse of drugs and alcohol, and lower stress hormones, says James Dewar, MD, vice chairman of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Shut down stress in the moment with these strategies.

Previous
1/50 View as List
Next

Want to stay smart and healthy?

how we use your e-mail
We will use your email address to send you this newsletter. For more information please read our privacy policy.