1. Don't Smoke
Lifelong smokers generally fall into one of two categories. They have either come to terms with the damage that their habit is causing and have convinced themselves that they will quit “one day”, or they have deluded themselves into thinking that they will be fine. Where the latter is concerned, they usually reference grand aunties or grandparents who “smoked every day until they were 90 and died in a car accident”. It’s true. Some people really do smoke all of their lives without issue. But some people also get shot 10 times and survive. Does that mean it’s okay to take a full magazine to the chest? Of course not! If you smoke, you will die sooner—the research is pretty unequivocal on this matter. The average smoker lives 10 years less, and some of them die decades before their time. What’s more, they often struggle with serious lung disorders in their old age, and those final years are far from pleasant. It’s never too late to quit. Stubbing out those cancer sticks before the age of 40 will reduce your risk of dying from a smoking-related disease by 90%.
2. Eat A Whole Food Diet
It seems that new diets books are being published every day, and all of them are claiming to have found some kind of magic formula that will help you to lose weight and live longer. There may be some truth to these claims, especially when it comes to weight loss. But where longevity is concerned, it’s all about whole foods and calorie control—there is no ambiguity. A diet rich in whole foods will ensure that you consume plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It will also minimize your salt, sugar, and saturated fat intake while keeping healthy fats high. We all know that whole foods are good for us and will prolong our lives, but because hamburgers taste better than broccoli and pizza is more appetizing than salad, we ignore this simple fact and look for quick fixes instead. If that sounds like you, and you can’t commit to a whole food diet, just do these two things instead: • Swap processed foods for whole foods whenever possible—every little helps. • Eat more fiber. The importance of adequate fiber intake has been understood and preached for decades, and yet it’s said that only 5% of Americans eat enough. It’s no surprise then that some of the biggest killers in the United States (including colon cancer and heart disease) are closely associated with insufficient fiber intake. Processed food removes all of the fiber, and you won’t find much of it in meat, dairy, fast food, or sugary treats, either. These are the foods that many of us have become reliant on, and it’s why we are not getting enough fiber.
3. Exercise Daily
In a world of quick fixes and black/white extremes, it seems that we’re constantly switching from complete inactivity to obsessive gym visits. This yoyo attitude to exercise is very unhealthy, as it means we’re either not doing enough or doing too much. It’s important to exercise and move your body, but that doesn’t mean that you need to go from the sofa to the gym, nor does it mean that you need to run a marathon or become a bodybuilder. As long as you’re moving every day, whether that means doing yoga or going for a walk, you will be getting adequate exercise. It could be enough to prolong your life and if the alternative is to spend all day on the sofa, it could add years to your life expectancy.
4. Surround Yourself with Friends
All-cause mortality is much higher in people who live alone and have few—or no—friends. It makes for a depressive read, but it’s true and it’s something that researchers have discovered time and time again. There are several potential reasons for this. One is the fact that high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression are known to reduce an individual’s life span and are also seen in lonely people. It could also be that some lonely people just don’t have friends to drive them to doctor’s appointments, take them to the hospital, or help out in an emergency. In any case, the science is quite clear—if you want to live longer, don’t let those friendships fade away.
5. Put Health First
When it comes to life expectancy, there is a clear disparity between rich and poor—the have and the have nots. After all, healthcare is expensive, and if you don’t have the money to pay the bills, you’ll be more inclined to avoid those appointments and tests. You can’t snap your fingers to make money appear out of thin air, but you can start prioritizing your health so that you don’t need those expensive treatments and medications. Many Americans living near the poverty line refuse to see their doctor or their dentist for even the smallest of issues, as they are worried that it will develop into something much more serious. “It’s only a little pain. What’s the point of paying to get it checked? I’m sure it will go away”. But then that pain develops into an infection, the infection spreads, and before you know it, you’re being charged for amputation and treatment for blood positioning. The point is that your health and wellness should always be your first priority. If you are able to reject the things that harm your health (cigarettes, alcohol, fast food) in favor of the things that improve it (medications, quality food, health insurance, tests) then costs won’t spiral out of control and you’ll live a longer life.