Studies around the world have discovered that there are certain commonalities to be found in regions where people tend to live longer. The secrets to longevity are within our grasp it would seem, and certain areas of the planet appear to have cracked the code.
But that doesn’t mean that moving to such a region will guarantee you a long and healthy life. You can apply the conditions of their lifestyles to your own life and implement the habits of those who live to a ripe old age. And while none of them are particularly earth-shattering or new, they are effective. Here’s what you need to do to give yourself the best chance of living a longer, healthier life.
Eat a good diet
The secret to longevity depends a great deal on what we eat. To maintain good health and live as long as possible, you should:
- Eat a largely plant-based diet
- Consume plenty of whole grains, nuts and legumes
- Limit your calorie intake to a moderate (not excessive) level and avoid overeating
- Avoid consuming alcohol in excess but stick to moderate levels of wine consumption
- Avoid too much protein
- Avoid excessive sugar and saturated fat
- Confine your food consumption to a 12-hour period in the day (such as between 7.30am and7.30pm, for instance)
- Drink coffee and tea
The impact of food on our health is well-documented, and eating the right kind of diet (and largely avoiding the wrong kind of foods) will go a long way towards reducing your risk of premature death and certain diseases.
Participate in regular, moderate physical activity
This one should come as no surprise, but staying physically active can add years to your life and keep you healthy and well. Physical activity is considered by many to be the magic bullet that ensures a healthy old age – and who wouldn’t want that?
Those living long lives generally exercise on a very regular basis, at a moderate level. This doesn’t necessarily mean always doing deliberate exercise, but includes any active movement that you participate in throughout your day-to-day life, such as gardening.
In a similar vein, studies have shown that those who live in highly walkable neighbourhoods (those with access to green space, with low pollution and appropriate and pleasant places to walk) were more likely to live longer than those without access to such places. Clearly, exercise is vital to good health and long life, and many people find it enjoyable, too.
Maintain strong social connections
Our social lives and connections affect our physiology – and thus our longevity – in many important ways. Friendships and connection with others are vital for our health and longevity. People living in areas with access to community support and less isolation are more likely to live longer and healthier lives. A growing body of evidence shows that social factors are a major contributor to longevity.
Maintaining a healthy social network can help you live up to 50% longer, and may decrease your risk of early death by more than 200%. It may also decrease your risk of chronic diseases, and help you deal better with stress – all great reasons to go and spend some time with your friends!
Maintain good mental health
The mind-body connection cannot be ignored when it comes to living longer, and a healthy mind leads to a healthy body. If you want to live for longer, avoid stress as much as possible, and retain a strong sense of purpose into old age. Anxiety and stress may decrease your lifespan significantly, with those suffering from stress being up to two times more likely to die from a disease such as stroke or heart disease. And having a purpose in life helps maintain essential brain activity and increases feelings of self-worth and value – both important for good health.
As well, focus on maintaining a sense of optimism, conscientiousness and kindness, as these things can be just as important as exercise and diet in living a long and healthy life. Studies have shown that happier individuals are more likely to live longer lives than their miserable counterparts.
It’s not rocket science, but smoking carries with it a very high risk of premature death. Smoking is strongly linked to the incidence of disease and heavy smokers may lose up to ten years of their life.
People quitting smoking, at whatever age, are doing themselves a favour, as stopping smoking can provide many benefits and add years to their life. It’s really never too late to quit.
Get enough sleep
Regularly getting enough sleep also has an influence on longevity, with both too much sleep and too little considered to be harmful. Getting less than 5 – 7 hours of shut-eye a night is linked to a greater risk of early death, and surprisingly, so is sleeping more than 8 – 9 hours per night. Too little sleep has been linked to inflammation, obesity and a higher risk of disease, while too much sleep has been linked to depression, low levels of physical activity and certain health conditions. Maintaining a regular routine of 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night, and going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, will positively impact your lifespan.
Your longevity is in your hands
How long you live might seem out of your control, but there’s actually a lot you can do to ensure you live a long time. You can certainly increase your lifespan by making smart choices throughout your life. Not only will these habits help you live longer, they’ll also ensure you have a better quality of life while you’re doing so.