Longevity Secrets: 8 Tips for Living a Longer and Healthier Life
1. Lose that excess weight: If you’re overweight, slimming down can protect against serious illnesses that take years off your life. That’s because fat cells actually secrete hormones and other substances that fire inflammation. Chronic or excess inflammation harms the body and causes most chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver problems, cancer, dementia, and autoimmune disease such as thyroid disorder, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis…conditions that may cut your life short by at least 10 years or more.
Belly fat is particularly bad for you, so focus on reducing that muffin-top, or deflating that spare tire. Trimming 5% to 10% of your starting weight is a realistic goal with excellent health benefits, including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol levels and lowering the risk for diabetes.
2. Eat a healthy diet: Plenty of research suggests that eating healthy foods can help extend your life and improve your overall health. Studies reveal that a healthy diet can help you sidestep ailments that plague people more as they age, including heart disease, hypertension and cancer.
Eat protein regularly (and try not to always go for meat or chicken; instead, aim to include plenty of fish and pulses), always choose wholegrain sources of carbs and strive to eat more vegetables which are full of antioxidants and fibre, but low on calories.
The people of Okinawa, Japan, seem to have it right as they host the largest population of centenarians in the world. The region’s traditional diet is why. It’s high in green and yellow vegetables and low in calories. Plus, some Okinawans made a habit of eating only 80% of the food on their plate.
3. Get exercising: People who exercise live longer on average than those who don’t. Regular physical activity lowers your chances of getting heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and depression.
It may even help you stay mentally sharp into old age.
Try to aim for about5 hours of moderate exercise per week (just 25 minutes a day or two 1-hour sessions plus one half-hour). But it seems that any amount of exercise will benefit your health and longevity; a recent review reported a 22 per cent lower risk of early death in individuals who exercised (even though they worked out less than the recommended 150 minutes per week).
4. Prioritise sleep: Getting enough quality sleep can lower your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders. It’ll also help you recover from illness faster. Sleeping for less than five hours a night may ight boost your chances of dying early, so make sleep a priority (aim for seven hours at least each night if you can or, if it’s less, try to get a cat-nap in the early afternoon).
The link between weight and sleep is much stronger than people know; the hormones responsible for appetite are altered when we are tired. For instance, leptin (the fullness hormone) decreases when we haven’t had sufficient sleep. The hormone ghrelin which provides us with a signal to eat, increases when we are in need of sleep so you may find yourself being hungry more often. Cut out caffeine after 2pm, use techniques to reduce stress and limit screen time for about an hour before bed.
Read Michael’s top tips for getting a good night’s zzz’s here and also our special Sleep Report, which you can download for free.
5. Cut down on booze: Too much alcohol increases belly fat, boosts blood pressure, and can cause a host of other health problems. Some of us drink to relax or to numb uncomfortable feelings; if you suspect that you need to look at your relationship with alcohol, and that it may not be serving you well, have a read of our recent blog which helps you to examine just that. If you drink alcohol, limit it to just one or two evenings a week. Or even consider giving up for now; there are great alcohol-free options available on the market now. Read our blog on how to live alcohol free here.
6. Give up those fags: Smoking contributes to heart disease, osteoporosis, emphysema (and other chronic lung problems), plus stroke. It makes breathing during exercise much harder and thus can make activity less enticing. It appears to compromise memory too.
The good news is that people who quit smoking can repair some, if not all, of the damage done.
After a smoker quits, the risk of heart disease begins to drop within a few months, and in five years, it matches that of someone who never smoked. A 50-year British study shows that quitting at age 30 could give you an entire decade back. Read more here.
7. Be safe: Accidents are the third most common cause in the world and the top cause for people ages 1 to 24. Often alcohol can be involved. In fact, I was recently shocked to hear that so many holidaymakers die when on ‘drinking holidays’ in Majorca. A friend of mine recently returned from there and said that, even at the very start of the holiday season (a few weeks in), fifteen people had already died from accidents where alcohol was involved (usually from falling off balconies late at night).
Wearing safety gear is an easy way to boost your odds of a long life (such as wearing a high-vis vest when walking at night).
Seatbelts reduce the chances of death in a car wreck by 50%.
Most fatalities from bike accidents are caused by head injuries, so always wear a helmet.
8. Manage stress: The ability to cope with stress is partly genetic and partly learned so each person is different. What may be stressful to one person may be enjoyable for another so look to yourself to find out what affects you most.
Stress increases the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies, which causes havoc in our lives (affecting things like sleep, weight and our relationships). Have a read of how stress could actually prevent you from losing weight here.
You’ll never completely avoid stress, but you can learn ways to control it. Try exercise, yoga, deep breathing or meditation. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference.
That’s our 8 tips for living a longer and healthier life but we’ve also got a short list of supporting tips that you should also consider.
Stay Connected and Maintain a Sense of Purpose
Other tips to help you live longer include maintaining social connections (whether through a hobby, group of friends or work) as the research shows that strong social ties lead to a longer life.
Also maintaining a sense of purpose seems important. Doing something that has meaning to you may lengthen your life – that could mean caring for someone you love (or an elderly neighbour), doing a hobby you love (such as art, writing or golf), attending a course with like-minded people, or finding purpose in your job. Japanese researchers found men with a strong sense of purpose were less likely to die from stroke, heart disease, or other causes over a 13-year period than those who who did not.
Last, but not least, it goes without saying that we all benefit from attending regular health screenings and check-ups to help detect any illness as soon as possible (which improves treatment in almost all cases).