Even if you’ve never seen the show Star Trek, chances are pretty good you’ve heard of the Vulcan Dr. Spock, and his signature message…
“Live long and prosper.”
Ever wonder what you can do to live a longer and healthier life?
Right now, the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.7 years.1 It’s actually gone down slightly since the start of the pandemic.
Following COVID precautions and getting the vaccine will protect you from the virus. But what’s the secret to adding years to your life and life to your years?
In two recent studies, researchers looked at lifestyle habits and longevity of more than 120,000 people.2,3 They found that people who lived the longest had five things in common.
What’s the formula to live long and prosper? Raising your hand and fingers in a ‘V’ like Dr. Spok isn’t enough. But these healthy aging habits can help:
1. Eat healthy foods
You’ve heard the advice before. But do you follow it? If you want to live longer, skip fast food, sugary drinks, and processed meals for more:
- Nuts & seeds
- Whole grains
2. Be more active
How much time do you spend sitting…at work, during meals, commuting, or in front of the TV?
Add it all up, and it’s not uncommon to spend 7 to 9 hours a day sitting.
But if you want to live longer, aim to be more active. The goal…
- At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day.
- Plus, strength training or resistance exercise at least two days per week.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
If your Body Mass Index is 25 or higher, you may be overweight or obese.
It’s a major risk factor for chronic diseases, including heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.
If you want to live longer, maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to. These lifestyle habits have the biggest impact on weight:
- Eat healthy foods
- Get regular exercise
- Drink plenty of water
- Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
- Manage stress in healthy ways
4. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do
In the two studies, researchers found the people who lived the longest never smoked.
- If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
- If you do, NOW is always the best time to quit.
If you’re a former smoker, keep it that way. Your health starts to improve as soon as you quit smoking.
- After 10 years smoke-free, your risk for lung cancer drops by 50 percent.
- After 15 years, your risk for a heart attack or stroke is the same as someone who’s never smoked.
5. Avoid or limit alcohol
Even though some studies suggest red wine may help promote longevity and reduce heart disease, researchers found that moderation is key.
If you want to live longer, avoid or limit alcohol:
- No more than one drink per day for women. Zero if pregnant.
- No more than two drinks per day for men.
- A typical drink is: a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits
You can stop time. And there’s no Fountain of Youth elixir. But you can choose healthy lifestyle habits to live long and age well.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Life expectancy. National Center for Health Statistics. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/life-expectancy.htm
2. Li, Y., et al. (2018). Impact of healthy lifestyle factors of life expectancies in the U.S. population. Circulation, 138:345-355. From: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.032047
3. Mehta, N., et al. (2017). The population health benefits of a healthy lifestyle: Life expectancy increased and onset of disability delayed. Health Affairs, 36:8. From: https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1569
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