Skip to content

The #1 Way to Lengthen Your Life, Says Science

Here's how to have a happier, healthier, longer life.

As long as humans have been alive, we've been interested in how to potentially extend the experience. For many years, increasing your lifespan was the provenance of speculation and science fiction. But recently, actual science has determined that making certain changes to your routine can demonstrably extend your life by years. Here's the latest on the #1 way to lengthen your life, according to science. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


The #1 Way to Lengthen Your Life

fruits vegetables

A new study has found that you can extend your life up to 13 years by eating the right diet. 

In research published this month in the journal PLOS Medicine, scientists calculated how much longer a person might live if they replaced the "typical Western diet" — one that's heavy in processed foods and red meat — with an "optimized diet" that involved no red or processed meat or sugar-sweetened beverages, reduced dairy and egg consumption, and more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. The researchers found that if a man started eating the optimized diet at age 20, he could add 13 years to his life; a woman who did the same could lengthen her life by a decade. 

And it's never too late: Men and women who started the healthier diet at age 60 could lengthen their lives by nine and eight years, respectively. Even 80-year-old people could add about 3.5 years to their lives by adopting a plant-based diet.

RELATED: Over 60? Here's How to Live Decades Longer


Could Reduce Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer

heart disease

"The estimated life extension is mainly due to a reduction in the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer," says the study's lead author, Lars Fadnes of the University of Bergen in Norway.

"The notion that improving diet quality would reduce the risk of chronic disease and premature death is long established, and it only stands to reason that less chronic disease and premature death means more life expectancy," Dr. David Katz, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle medicine and nutrition, told CNN.

The team also looked at a "feasibility" diet, a sort of compromise between the typical Western diet and the optimized diet. Twenty-year-old men and women would live seven and six years longer on the feasibility diet, respectively, while 80-year-old men and women would add about 1.5 years to their lives. 

RELATED: Most People Get Diabetes Like This, Doctors Say


Cut That Sugar

Sugar in spoon

Added sugar is the number one factor in your risk of dying from diabetes.

The link between increased sugar and diabetes risk is right up there with "smoking causes lung cancer" on the list of immutable medical truths— despite what soda manufacturers are trying to tell us. (You'll read more about sugar-based hocus-pocus in the next chapter.) But researchers at the Mayo Clinic have come right out and said that added fructose—either as a constituent of table sugar or as the main component of high-fructose corn syrup—may be the number one cause of diabetes, and that cutting sugar alone could translate into a reduced number of diabetes deaths the world over. 

RELATED: Secret Weight Loss Tricks to Melt Visceral Fat, Science Says


Exercise Also A Life-Extender

man in 40s works out with weights in a gym

That study joins other research published recently about an easy switch that could extend life: Getting just 10 minutes of daily exercise. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people over 40 who add only that amount of activity to their everyday routines could live longer. 

"We know exercise is good for us. This study provides additional evidence of the benefits at the population level: if all adults in the United States (over age 40) were to exercise just a bit more each day, a large number of deaths could be prevented each year," epidemiologist Pedro Saint-Maurice, the study's lead author, told CNN.

RELATED: The #1 Worst Habit For Your Heart, Says Cardiologist


Add 10 Minutes of Activity to Each Day

happy older couple walks in grassy area

"We have reported previously that even a little bit of exercise can result in health benefits," Saint-Maurice said. "We can make our nation healthier by encouraging everyone to add an additional 10 minutes of activity or more each day." And to live your healthiest life, don't miss this life-saving advice I'm a Doctor and Here's the #1 Sign You Have Cancer.

RELATED: Over 60? Here's How to Look Decades Younger

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
Filed Under