8 Healthy Habits Researchers Say Can Keep You Feeling Younger for Longer

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What would an extra 20 years mean to your life if you’re fit and healthy now? You could enjoy retirement with family and friends and embrace more activities in your twilight years.

From committing to daily exercise, choosing healthy foods, or quitting smoking, living longer might take a bit more effort, but it’s worthwhile if you want to add 20 years to your life.

According to a study presented by the American Society of Nutrition, some habits stood out as the determining factor in adding up to 24 years to your life, based on survey results from over 700,000 people enrolled in the Veteran Affairs Million Veteran Program. Not sure you can completely upend your lifestyle? Even adding just one or two habits can result in a 3 – 8 year increase in lifespan according to researchers.

1. Exercise

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Heart health is vital as you get older. Cardiovascular exercise (cardio) gets the heart pumping, helping to keep it strong.

Commit to a brisk daily walk and work out at least three times a week for a minimum of 30 minutes. Find an activity you enjoy that will help keep you motivated, like Zumba or Latin dance, body combat, or circuit training. Start slowly and build your fitness. Invest in a fitness watch so you can measure your progress.

2. Regular Resistance/Weights

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As we age, we lose muscle mass. This is especially true for women during the menopause stage of life.

Building strength also maintains balance. Purchase dumbbells or a kettlebell and follow tutorials online or attend local classes. Weights or resistance training using body weight helps build muscle and improve balance. Pilates and Vinyasa yoga are excellent for building strength.

3. Not Using Opioids

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Opioid addiction can shorten your life. According to the study, opioid use was associated with a 30-45% increase risk of death.

Even if you want to stop, the drugs take hold. As you become used to taking them, you crave more to get the “fix.” Opioids have a toxic effect on the body and affect your emotional and physical well-being.

Opioid users may forget to eat and take care of themselves. They may also not be able to keep a job, leading to deeper issues such as homelessness.

4. Managing Your Stress Levels

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Everyone experiences a certain amount of stress because we need it to motivate us. The body’s fight-or-flight stress response is supposed to be short-term so we can escape “danger.”

However, too much cortisol in the body can cause health problems. Practice mindfulness and meditation and work to lower your daily stress levels.

5. Drinking Enough Water

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Most health professionals agree we should drink at least six to eight glasses of water daily, or about 2.5 to 3 liters. Water helps eliminate waste, brings nutrients to the cells, and protects organs and joints.

It’s vital to maintain bodily functions for good health. Caffeine-free herbal teas can count towards your daily target. You should also restrict coffee intake as caffeine dehydrates the body.

6. Eating a Healthy Diet

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There’s a lot of conflicting expert advice on what constitutes a healthy diet. The main criteria include limiting red meat and eating plenty of heart-healthy vegetables and fresh fruit, like berries, daily. Avoid foods containing saturated fat or high cholesterol, reduce sugar intake, switch to healthy oils like olive oil, and choose monounsaturated spreads.

Many healthy foods contain antioxidants and are anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, which helps protect the body from disease.

7. Prioritizing Good Sleep

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No matter your age, a good night’s sleep helps repair the body, invigorating the cells and refreshing the brain. Sleep helps us maintain focus, energy, and exercise levels.

Sleep experts worldwide suggest getting six to eight hours of sleep and practicing healthy habits, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time daily.

8. Maintaining Positive Social Relationships

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Loneliness is unpleasant and contributes to ill health. Having people around keeps us engaged with life. We need to feel loved, valued, and purposeful in our daily lives. Maintaining positive social relationships also keeps our minds active.

It doesn’t matter if your “tribe” consists of friends, family, colleagues, or people you meet during your hobbies, as long as you reach out and form positive relationships with others.

5 Bad Habits to Avoid

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On the flip side, here are five bad habits to avoid if you want to increase your longevity.

1. Eating The Standard American Diet

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Eating the standard American diet is the first on the list of bad habits to change. The all-American diet is full of carbohydrates and high in saturated fat and calories. The problem with this diet is the increased dangers of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Saturated fat can cause visceral fat to sit around the body’s primary organs and clog the arteries with plaque that restricts blood flow to the heart.

2. Excess Alcohol

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Excess alcohol use causes long-term health problems. It increases blood pressure, weakens the immune system, causes mental health problems like depression, and creates social isolation.

Alcohol contains harmful toxins, and the long-term effects include liver disease and other chronic illnesses. Binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning.

3. Smoking

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You’d have to live under a rock not to know that smoking can cause significant health issues. Common health concerns of long-term smoking are heart and lung disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) like bronchitis and emphysema. COPD can immobilize you and put you on an oxygen tank to enable better breathing. Smoking is one of the riskiest habits on this list to shorten your life.

4. Eating Saturated Fats

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Saturated fats clog the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart. They can raise the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increase the risk of a stroke or heart disease. It’s not only about removing butter and lard from the diet. Foods like cheese, fatty cuts of meat, pies, sugary treats, and cream are all high in saturated fats. Reduce red meat intake or change to eating plant-based foods and use olive oil for cooking. Buy foods low in saturated and high in monounsaturated fats to improve your health.

5. Sitting All Day

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Some health experts say that sitting all day is the new smoking. We weren’t “designed” to sit for long periods, especially hunched over a laptop. An inactive lifestyle can lead to serious health issues like heart disease. Add physical activities to your day, breaking from sitting every 30-60 minutes. Get a standing desk, or be adventurous and use a treadmill under your desk to keep moving as you work.


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Source: American Society for Nutrition

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