behaviour Diets exercise

5 “secrets” to living longer

Ok, the word secret might be a bit of a stretch. It’s not like they’re things we all haven’t heard before. But I think one thing that often gets lost is by how much these simple strategies contribute to ones longevity. The truth is if we dismissed 95% of the advice we hear about the latest anti-aging gimmick and focused on these 5 simple tips, we’d all significantly increase our odds of living a long and healthy life.

Don’t smoke

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years less than that of non-smokers. Not only does smoking increase the obvious risk of lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD), but it also leads to heart disease, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and many other types of cancers, including oral, stomach, colon, liver and pancreatic. If you want to live longer and can only follow one piece of advice in this article, this should be it.

Get active

In case you needed more incentive to get up off that couch a recent study that tracked participants for 14 years found that individuals who engage in just 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week (that’s 30 minutes/ day, 5 times/week) have a 31% less chance of dying compared to those who are physically inactive. When you combine this with the fact that exercise demonstrably makes your skin appear decades younger in as little as 12 weeks (unfortunately it isn’t able to counteract damage from the sun though), you’d be a fool not to get moving more.

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation

People who drink alcohol in excess have elevated rates of death from accidents, suicides, homicides, liver disease, and some cancers. There is even some evidence that people who drink alcohol in moderation live longer than nondrinkers. What exactly do we mean by moderation? Well, women should have no more than 1 drink/day and men should stick to a maximum of 2 drinks/ day. In terms of your beverage of choice it appears that red wine might offer additional cardio-protective benefits over other options.

Get enough sleep

Often overlooked, sleep can be an important factor for determining ones longevity. Studies show that insufficient sleep can lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and reduced immunity, which all can lead to premature death. In fact research suggests that getting less than seven hours of sleep per night can increase the risk of death by any cause by as much as 12%.

Eat well

You didn’t think I forget to actually talk about diet, did you? Easily the most confusing of all the tips listed in this article, there is a lot of information (and misinformation!) out there about the best diet for living longer. First off, skip the latest fad about the newest longevity-inducing superfood. There’s little evidence that most play anything more than a minor role in increasing lifespan. Around the world, cultures that tend to live longer and have less rates of disease follow diets built around plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. It’s really that simple. If you’re looking for something a little more specific, the Mediterranean diet, with its reliance on vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and peas, unrefined grains, olive oil and fish, has garnered a lot of press in recent years for its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease and preserve telomere length (a component of DNA that naturally shortens as we age).

So, despite all the amazing claims you see on TV, read on the internet or hear from your friend, the truth is that we already have a pretty good idea how best to live longer. And we’ve known for long time. It’s really just a matter to doing it.


originally published on on October 17, 2015

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