The answer is more complicated than counting the number of candles you blew out on your last birthday cake. Your daily habits can either add or subtract years from your life—like how much you exercise, or how stressed you allow yourself to be. Read on for 14 things you can start doing today to live a longer, healthier life.
Ease your stress
Chronic stress makes us feel old—and actually ages us: In a 2012 study, Austrian researchers found that work-related tension harms DNA in our cells, speeding up the shortening of telomeres—which protect the ends of our chromosomes and which may indicate our life expectancy. Of course, it’s impossible to completely obliterate stress. “What’s important is how you manage it,” says Thomas Perls, MD, associate professor at Boston University school of Medicine. Practice yoga, pray, meditate, relax in the shower or do whatever else chills you out.
Drop some pounds
Being obese increases the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease, possibly shaving up to 12 years off your life, per an analysis in the journal Obesity. But being too thin can hike your risk of osteoporosis and poor immune function. So aim to stay at a weight that’s healthy for you.
Having more education lengthens your life span, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs, for a number of reasons. Extra schooling may help you become better informed about how to live a healthy life. And educated folks, as a group, have a higher income, which means greater access to good health care and insurance.
More and more research points to the value of having friends, and not just on Facebook. An Oxford University study found that being married makes you less likely to die of heart disease, which researchers suggest may be due to partners encouraging the other to seek early medical treatment. Same goes for friendships: Australian research showed that people with the most buddies lived 22 percent longer than those with the smallest circle. “Having positive, meaningful, intimate relationships is critical to most people’s well-being,” says Linda Fried, MD, dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.
Work out often
Exercising regularly—ideally at least three days of cardio and two days of strength training a week—may help slow the aging process, Canadian doctors reported. “Being physically active is like keeping the car engine tuned,” Dr. Fried says. “Even if there’s decline with age, it’s less severe.” You were never an athlete? Don’t worry: Starting to work out now can reduce your likelihood of becoming ill going forward, a 2014 study suggests.
For evidence that you can—and should—make slumber a priority, look no further than a 2013 study from the University of Surrey in England, which compared a group who got less than six hours of sleep a night with a group who got 8 1/2 hours. After just one week, snoozing less had altered the expression of 711 genes, including ones involved in metabolism, inflammation and immunity, which may raise the risk of conditions from heart disease to obesity.
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Your partner in ministry,
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