18 Habits for a Longer Life

December 05, 2019

"Try implementing some of these 18 things that have been shown in studies to increase your chances of a longer, healthier life."

We all want to live a long, and HEALTHY life, and that’s what Dr. Keller Wortham, MD, is talking about today. There’s no fountain of youth (and it would be weird if there were), but there are some habits we can implement which can help us improve our lifespan and stay healthy in our golden years. Keep watching for 18 proven techniques for increased longevity.

Video Highlights 

  • 00:52: Exercise
  • 02:21: Weight Management
  • 04:54: Eat More Nuts
  • 06:13: Turmeric
  • 07:17: Eat a Plant-Based Diet
  • 09:10: Coffee and Tea
  • 10:13: Quit Smoking
  • 11:37: Sleep
  • 13:07: Reduce Alcohol Consumption
  • 14:48: Manage Stress
  • 16:03: Vitamin D
  • 17:15: Get Romantic
  • 17:59: Physical Affection
  • 19:02: Wear a Seatbelt
  • 19:22: Floss
  • 20:16: Stay Social
  • 21:45: Don’t Skip Your Medical Visits
  • 21:53: Be Conscientious

Exercise

Consistent exercise is the number one way you can increase your lifespan. Now, there are a couple of different types of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic

  • Weight lifting would be considered anaerobic exercise, which is great for strengthening your bones. 
  • Aerobic exercise, which includes things like jogging, swimming, and other things that get heart rate up, are great for cardiovascular health. 

The target for exercise is about 30 minutes per day. This may seem like a lot, but if you can get in the habit, it will do wonders for your longevity. Studies have shown that even 15 minutes of exercise per day can increase your life by three years. If you can increase that by an additional 15 minutes, you can reduce your risk of death by another 3% so you can really make some gains by adding exercise to your daily routine. If you meet the 150-minutes per week goal, you are 28% less likely to die early than someone who doesn't exercise. The more time you’re able to add to your daily exercise, the more you increase those odds. So hit the road, hit the pool, grab a kettlebell, and get to work — you'll start expanding your life. 

Weight Management

Taking steps to maintain a healthy weight is the second step to increasing longevity. That one may seem obvious, but the link between calories and longevity is a fascinating thing. There are animal studies that show that caloric restriction of even 10 to 50% can increase the lifespan of that animal by up to 50%. Now, this has only been observed in mice and rats — there aren't human studies that demonstrate a proportional life expansion. But we know that when we consume calories, we're putting our body into a metabolic process that produces oxidation elements, so we're causing a metabolic breakdown and oxidation. The more calories we consume, the more oxidative stress we put our bodies through. And part of that oxidative stress damages our genes and decreases our ability to heal ourselves. It's also thought that when you're in a fasting state, which can happen if you're reducing your calories, you turn on certain genes that can help improve gene repair and can help promote certain hormones. Additionally, reduction in calories can improve muscle mass, reduce inflammation, and more. 

A note of caution: you don't want to reduce your calories too much, which could cause you to become weak, fatigued, or lose muscle mass. That can be very dangerous. But there may be a sweet spot where you consume the right amount of calories, using portion control or maybe intermittent fasting

The other part of this equation is that eating too many calories leads to weight gain. This can happen, especially if you're eating unhealthy foods, like processed foods that are very high in sugar and fats. These can lead to excess weight, and becoming overweight or obese is a major life-limiting factor. People who suffer from obesity, or who have diabetes, are almost twice as likely to die from heart attacks and strokes, which are two of the leading causes of death in the U.S. So take steps to learn how many calories you need, and maintain a healthy weight to add years to your life. 

Eat More Nuts

Now we're going to get into some specific things you can add to your diet — the first one is nuts! Adding a handful of nuts to your diet (up to three servings per day), has been shown to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease, reduce your blood pressure, and even reduce the risk of certain cancers. Nuts are amazing nutritional powerhouses, rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as certain vitamins, especially B vitamins. They are great for your metabolism, and those healthy oils are also anti-inflammatory.

So, you can decrease your risk of premature death by up to 40% by getting those three servings of nuts per day. A progressive study examining 350,000 people found that those who consumed nuts regularly were up to 25% less likely to die during that window of the study. 

Turmeric

Another great inflammation fighter to add to your diet is turmeric — or rather curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric. You can find turmeric as a normal spices, but a curcumin supplement like Smarter Curcumin will be much more concentrated. Turmeric has been around for ages, and is a component in many Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian foods. Adding it to the diet has been shown to prolong the lifespan of insects and rats in animal studies. 

Now, there aren't any human studies looking specifically at longevity in relation to turmeric, but there are many studies that demonstrate its known health benefits, including reducing inflammation in the body, and reducing cardiovascular risk. So, it's an easy leap to say that this could also help improve your longevity. 

Eat a Plant-Based Diet 

Try eating a primarily plant-based diet. Incorporate foods like lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, bell peppers, oranges, peaches, and pears into your daily routine. There are so many healthy fruits and vegetables available, and it has been shown that people who eat plant-based diets have up to a 50% reduced risk of things like heart disease, diabetes, certain kinds of kidney disease, cancer, and more. That's because a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is very high in fiber, which is great for reducing some of those risk factors. It's also very rich in phytonutrients which are really important for fighting oxidative stress. Fruits and vegetables are also jam-packed with vitamins and minerals that we desperately need to keep our metabolism healthy. 

If you don't think you get enough vitamins and minerals from your diet, or if you're having a hard time consuming enough fruits and vegetables, make sure that you add a multivitamin like the Smarter Nutrition Multi. It’s formulated to provide just the right amount of vitamins and minerals that you need to make up for the most common deficits people see in their western diets. Making sure to get all of these healthy compounds can help prolong your life. 

We didn't mention meat because many meats have been shown to reduce your lifespan, especially processed meats like sausages, ground beef, salami, and chorizo. These types of meat are really tasty, but they have been shown to increase the risk of heart disease. 

Coffee and Tea

This is great news, because for many people, coffee and tea are among our favorite drinks. Coffee and tea are fascinating. They've been around for thousands of years in different cultures, and used for a variety of reasons. They’re great as stimulants, but they also have a very distinct medical properties. People who consume regular coffee have a decreased risk of neurologic disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, as well as 20% to 30% lower risk of early death. Some of these benefits are thought to be related to the caffeine, but there are also a lot of other naturally occurring chemicals within coffee and tea that likely have associated health benefits.

Quit Smoking 

We've been talking about things that you can add, but now we're talking about a substance that you should abandon: tobacco (and nicotine). Across the board, smoking reduces your lifespan. Smokers will, on average, live about 10 years less than people who don't smoke (and it’s thought 10 years less than they would themselves if they weren't smoking). 

There are a lot of chemicals in tobacco. When you burn and inhale it, you’re getting carcinogens and increasing inflammation. It's terrible for your lungs and cardiovascular system. We know it's very addictive and may be difficult to quit. Talk to your doctor about it. There are resources available to help you. It’s not too late to kick the habit

Study results show that if you quit before the age of 35, you're going to reduce your risk of death back down to about that of the normal population, and increase your lifespan by up to eight years. If you're quitting in your 50s or your 60s, you can still gain three to five years of additional life. So, it's never too late to quit and start letting your body repair itself from the damage that the nicotine and cigarettes have done. 

Sleep

Getting the right amount of quality sleep is going to prolong your life. Sleep is crucial for allowing your body the time it needs to repair the damage that occurs just from living through an average day — from being outside, from breathing in the contaminants from the air, from working, and the metabolic processes of eating. When we sleep at night, our brains and bodies get rid of toxins. 

Certain hormones upregulate that help us repair things, while certain stress hormones decrease. Sleep helps regulate our appetite as well as other hormonal cascades. It’s incredibly important to get quality sleep. It’s been proven over and over again that people who are sleep deprived don't live as long. People who get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep have something like a 20% increased lifespan compared to people who are severely sleep-deprived. If you're having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor, and check out some of Dr. Keller’s tips on getting better sleep. There are steps you can take and things you can modify in your environment that can really help you foster healthy sleep habits.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption 

Alcohol is a toxin, albeit a very pleasurable one. People who over-consume alcohol have an increased risk of heart disease, liver disease, accidents, depression, and many things that can affect your health and longevity.

Now, if you are going to drink, red wine might be one of your best options. In fact, they've done comparison studies between men who drink red wine and men who drink other spirits, and found that those who drink red wine have 34% less risk of death than men who are drinking other spirits. It's thought that this is because red wine can be protective to the cardiovascular system, because it’s rich in polyphenols.

So, if you drink alcohol, opt for red wine. Keep in mind that there are recommended limits. Most women shouldn't have more than one to two drinks in one sitting, or more than seven drinks per week. Men should not exceed two or three drinks in a sitting, or 14 drinks per week. You definitely start to lose any benefits from alcohol at that point. 

If you don’t drink now, don’t start drinking just for health benefits. If you do drink already, try to moderate it, and make healthy choices. 

Manage Stress

Take a deep breath. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathing exercises are just one of the ways to help reduce stress. There are lots of others too, including: yoga, regular exercise, good sleep, and massages (even DIY massage). Stress reduction lowers cortisol levels, and cortisol is a stress hormone that can have some pretty bad health effects, including inflammation and weight gain. 

If you can reduce stress in your life, you're going to reduce the effects of cortisol and thus prolong your life. Women who are stressed, for example, are two times more likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke. And people who have lower levels of cortisol are thought to have lower levels of premature death. So, do whatever you can to reduce your stress levels. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important vitamin for many biological processes. It's estimated that people who have high vitamin D levels may live up to five years longer than those who don't. Now vitamin D is complex because creating it is a multi-step process. To get enough vitamin D, we need sunlight, healthy kidneys, and a healthy liver. Foods that are rich in vitamin D are not foods that people consume frequently. If you’re deficient in vitamin D, it’s often a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement to get your levels back to where they should be. 

Smarter Vitamin D provides 5,000 international units per vitamin D serving, which is a great amount to help boost your vitamin D levels if they’re depleted. It’s derived from plants, and it includes vitamin K which is important when taking vitamin D. If you're concerned about your vitamin D levels, have your doctor check on them — it’s a very easy blood test  to do. So get those levels up and increase your lifespan by up to five years.

Get Romantic 

This one may come as a surprise, but sex prolongs your life. They have done studies examining couples who committed to having more frequent sex over a period of several weeks, and saw that their blood pressure levels went down, their stress decreased, and their sense of well-being improved, all of which can increase your life expectancy. So you and your spouse can increase both your lifespans by making this a priority. 

Physical Affection

If sex isn’t an option, or just not a priority to you, you can also get significant health benefits from simply cuddling. Just warm human touch — it doesn't even have to be sexual or sensual — reduces stress and increases levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin is often known as the bonding hormone, since it has to do with feelings of love and affection. It’s also a feel-good hormone that can promote a sense of wellbeing and reduced levels of stress. 

So, get some hugging or cuddling in with friends and family or your romantic partner, and you'll get some of those benefits. In fact, in studies, they've looked at couples who committed to cuddling and found that women experienced reduced cortisol levels and men had reduced amylase. Both of these are stress markers in the blood. 

Wear a Seatbelt

Thousands of people die every year just from car accidents where they likely would have survived if they had been wearing a seatbelt. So, click it and not only will you not get a ticket, you'll also live longer. The stats are available and clearly demonstrate that you can reduce your risk of premature death this way. 

Floss

This one may seem a bit silly, but it’s actually incredibly important. Your mouth is a cesspool of bacteria, and when you don't floss, these bacteria grow and find places to hide out and make their way into your bloodstream in small amounts, where they cause inflammation. As we talk about all the time, inflammation in the body creates stress and damages many things, especially the cardiovascular system. So, you can actually reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by flossing

Stay Social

In-person social interaction promotes longevity. Social media platforms are good in their own ways, but they don’t have the same health benefits as one-on-one time with friends and loved ones. Community lowers stress, increases serotonin, and can improve your life. Statistics show that people who have a healthy social network, or even just three intimate or close friends, can live up to 50% longer than those who don't. 

Even if you don’t have a lot of social ties, one or two relationships can reduce your risk of early death by up to 200%. So it may seem a little fluffy, but having a strong social network can most help promote longevity. 

Don't Skip Your Medical Visits 

Having a routine doctor’s visit is so important because it allows you to go over health risks, symptoms, and lifestyle factors with your doctor, which can result in early detection of potential issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. So don't skip your regular doctor’s visits. Catch any issues early on and keep yourself alive for as long as possible.

Be Conscientious

What does that mean exactly? Being conscientious really means being aware, being observant, being thoughtful, and setting goals. We know this is a little vague, but when you're conscientious, you tend to put action to your goals. You’re more likely to accomplish things you set out to do, which can help not only your health, but your sense of well-being. Often people who are conscientious take fewer risks that could lead to serious accident or illness. Try to be aware of your body, be thoughtful about yourself, and thoughtful about others... it can go a long way toward prolonging your life. 

Try implementing some of these 18 things that have been shown in studies to increase your chances of a longer, healthier life.

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