Everyday Habits That Make You Live Longer, Say Experts
Adding years to your life is one thing—but what about your health? "Many might agree that 'healthspan' can be defined as the period of one's life that one is healthy," says Tim Peterson, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis. "However, being 'healthy' means different things to different people. A better definition might include being free from serious disease." Here are five habits that can help prevent disease and add years to your life. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
A Healthy Diet
Research shows that a healthy diet can add ten years to your lifespan. "We've all heard it before: to be as healthy as you can be, choose a healthy diet," says Robert H. Shmerling, MD. "And while that's easier said than done, the impact of improving your diet may be large. That's according to a recent study that estimated the impact of dietary modifications on premature cardiovascular deaths in this country. The verdict? More than 400,000 deaths each year could be prevented with dietary improvement."
Getting Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep (at least seven hours a night for adults) is crucial for health and happiness. "The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life span," says sleep scientist Matthew Walker, PhD, author of Why We Sleep. "The old maxim: 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' is therefore unfortunate. Adopt this mindset, and you'll be dead sooner and the quality of that (shorter) life will be worse."
Managing stress can add years to your life, experts say. "A lot of people have felt on a gut level that stress makes us age faster, and our study shows that that is true," says Yale psychiatrist Zachary Harvanek, MD, PhD.
Research shows just 11 minutes of exercise a day can impact your longevity. "There is no least amount of exercise you need to do," says William E. Kraus, MD, professor in the division of cardiology medicine at Duke University. "It turns out that anything is better than nothing."
"For overall well-being and longevity, interactive sports, where there is some camaraderie, are best," says James O'Keefe, MD, director of preventive cardiology at the St. Luke's Mid America Heart Institute. "You don't have to go to the gym, put headphones on and slog through a 45-minute treadmill session. Find whatever is enjoyable to you."
Maintaining social relationships with family, friends, and community is strongly linked to a longer life. "Social connections like these not only give us pleasure, they also influence our long-term health in ways every bit as powerful as adequate sleep, a good diet, and not smoking," says Harvard Health. "Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends, and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer."
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