6 Lifestyle Choices to Promote Health and Longevity

Live Longer with These Good Habits

When you want to live a long and healthy life, there are things you can modify as well as things you can't. While you couldn't choose your genes, you can make choices that will reduce your health risks and possibly add years to your life. These six lifestyle modifications are ones that have the best evidence of giving you more healthy years.

1
Getting Regular and Adequate Amounts of Sleep

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Getting a regular amount of sleep is important to give your body a chance to restore and regenerate. Not only does it recharge the proverbial "batteries" but it also attends to all of the metabolic functions required by the body, such as regenerating old cells, getting rid of wastes and repairing cell damage. Sleeping less than seven hours a night has been shown to have negative effects throughout your body.

Sleep apnea can lead to greatly increased health risks, so be sure to get a sleep study and follow up with recommendations for a CPAP machine and other interventions. Changes in your sleep patterns can also be a sign of a change in your health, so see your doctor for a checkup if something changes.

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2
Eating Regular Well-balanced Meals, Including Breakfast

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A healthy balanced diet can help provide energy and lower your risks for the leading killer diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancers. It can also help you maintain a normal weight.​ Certain diseases or conditions have proven relationships with specific nutrition or dietary elements.

These different diseases can be affected positively and negatively by what you eat. However, it's also important not to jump on every diet fad. The basics are summed up by Michael Pollan, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

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3
Engaging in Regular Physical Activity

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Thirty minutes a day of regular physical activity contributes to health by reducing the heart rate, decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease, and reducing the amount of bone loss that is associated with age and osteoporosis. Strength training is also an important part of maintaining your body.

Once you are past age 65, the requirements don't go down, and you may benefit by adding balance exercises and flexibility exercises. If you wonder how to get started, see exercise for beginners for suggestions and guidelines.

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4
Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight

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Obesity is associated with a shorter lifespan and also with an increased risk of other major diseases. The good news is that just being somewhat overweight does not reduce your longevity. You can keep your weight in balance by eating a healthy diet and not loading up on empty calories.

Physical activity helps the body use calories more efficiently, thereby helping in weight loss and maintenance. Additionally, 60 minutes of regular physical activity will help in maintaining weight

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5
Not Using Tobacco Products, Including Smoking or Chewing

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Smoking accounts for over 400,000 deaths a year in the United States alone. Even worse, another 16 million are living in misery with a smoking-related illness. If you want to live an enjoyable life for however long you live, don't smoke or chew tobacco.

Chronic exposure to the nicotine in tobacco may accelerate coronary artery disease, peptic ulcer disease, reproductive disturbances, esophageal reflux, hypertension, fetal illnesses and death, and lead to delayed wound healing.

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6
Using Alcohol in Moderation or Not at All

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Moderate alcohol consumption (one drink for women, two for men) is associated with a lower risk or heart disease. Higher levels of alcohol can lead to health and behavioral problems, including an increased risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, some cancers, accidents, violence, suicide, and deaths in general.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking.

Flegal KM, Kit BK, Orpana H, Graubard BI. Association of all-cause mortality with overweight and obesity using standard body mass index categories. JAMA. 2013;309(1):71. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.113905.

National Institute on Aging, A Good Night's Sleep

United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020." 

United States Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

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