30 Proven Health Habits to Live Longer and Better
It's not just about how long you live, but also how well. Here are 30 proven lifestyle habits to help you live longer and better.
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You can’t stop the passage of time. But you can minimize its impact, delay or prevent disease, and significantly increase the quality and quantity of your years. Add one of these easy live longer hacks every day—for an age-slowing overhaul to your regular routine—and then adopt as many as you can sustain for long haul.
1. Eat like a bird
Slashing calories—without restricting nutrients—dampens inflammation, improves markers of heart disease and delays the onset of age-related disease, and can help you live longer. Cut calories painlessly, with small changes; have that morning latte with skim milk, swap your afternoon pastry for a cup of berries, make portions 30 percent smaller.
2. Protect your eyes
The risk of glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye diseases skyrockets as we age. Keep your peepers healthy, with vision-protective nutrients. Lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc reduce the risk of eye diseases; find them in dark leafy greens, colorful vegetables, fruits and nuts; or add a vision-supportive combo supplement.
3. Switch to olive oil
It’s rich in heart-protective monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that lessen inflammation and lower the risk of chronic diseases. Make it your primary cooking oil, and include other foods high in monounsaturated fats; add olives, nuts, seeds and avocados to salads, soups and cooked vegetables.
4. Use sunscreen
Excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays can wreck skin, damage DNA and accelerate aging. Protect yourself: use a natural, mineral-based sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher, even on cloudy days. Limit exposure between the hours of 10 and 2, when the sun’s rays are most intense, and soak up the sun’s healing benefits with morning walks or late-afternoon hikes.
5. Repair damage
When you overdo your time in the sun (because sometimes you will) repair with herbs and supplements that protects against wrinkling, brown spots, damage and skin cancer. Vitamin C in combination with vitamin E reduces DNA damage after UV exposure; other good choices: polypodium leucotomos, alpha-lipoid acid, pycnogenol and astaxanthin.
6. Kick sugar
Sugar, refined grains and other high-glycemic foods spike blood sugar, encourage inflammation and accelerate aging. Steer clear of refined grains and flours, and swap sugar, honey, agave or other concentrated sweeteners for stevia or monkfruit.
7. Eat a salad for lunch
Swap your sandwich for a big salad that packs in antioxidants, to fight free radicals that damage cells and promote faster aging. (Plus, you’ll reduce calories and slash refined carbs). Focus on dark leafy greens, carrots, red peppers, beets, sweet potatoes, broccoli; add beans for extra fiber. Skip the creamy dressing, and toss it with olive oil and lemon juice.
8. Download a step counter app
Walking is one of the best ways to strengthen bones and protect against osteoporosis, while keeping joints safe (plus, it supports heart health, improves muscle strength and flexibility and enhances mood). Download a step counter app on your phone, and shoot for 10,000 steps every day.
9. Boost your hormones
Age-related declines in hormones are linked with bone loss, cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive changes, including depressed mood. DHEA—a precursor to hormones, including testosterone and estrogen—has been shown to reduce inflammation, support bone health, ease mild to moderate depression and improve aging skin.
Blue light from computers, tablets and other devices can disrupt sleep, and chronic lack of shut-eye stresses cells and increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other diseases. Turn off electronics two hours before bed, and hit the hay an hour earlier, to ensure eight hours of restful slumber. If you struggle with sleep, try melatonin; it eases insomnia, plus it’s a powerful antioxidant with benefits to help you live longer.
11. Sprinkle flaxseeds on everything
They’re loaded with lignans, compounds that protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer and other cancers; plus, flaxseeds are rich in fiber, linked with healthy aging and a reduced risk of hypertension, diabetes, dementia and depression. Beans, lentils and other seeds are also high in lignans and fiber. Sprinkle ground flaxseed on oatmeal or smoothies, add seeds to salads and stir-fries, and shoot for half a cup of beans or lentils a day.
12. Check your vitamin D
It’s vital for strong bones, immune response, heart health and balanced mood, and adequate levels are linked with living longer. If you’re minimizing sun exposure (which you should), supplements are critical. Choose one with 600 IUs of vitamin D3; if you avoid animal products, look for vegan version.
13. Take a spoonful of matcha
This powdered green tea is a concentrated source of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a potent antioxidant that reduces inflammation, repairs DNA, protects against sun damage and skin cancer, supports heart health and helps you live longer. Add a teaspoon or two to your morning smoothie, or drink two cups of green tea daily.
14. Smile more
An upbeat, positive attitude reduces stress and increases lifespan (plus, frowning causes wrinkles and creases in the skin). The fastest way to feel better? Smile more; studies show facial expressions impact mood, and the act of smiling can instantly promote happiness.
15. Switch to cauliflower rice
Cauliflower, kale, broccoli, cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables are loaded with potent cancer-preventive compounds, as well as fiber and other healthy aging nutrients (plus, fewer carbs). Pulse raw cauliflower in a food processor, or look for frozen cauliflower rice. Here’s a popular jambalaya recipe that replaces traditional rice with cauli rice.
16. Upgrade your smoothie
Take that morning blender beverage to the next level; start with plain yogurt for probiotics, or whey protein; it’s rich in amino acids needed to produce glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that protects against the effects of aging. Include berries, spinach, mangoes and flaxseeds, for disease-preventive antioxidants.
17. Tamp out inflammation
Chronic inflammation is linked with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other age-related illnesses. A plant-based diet rich in antioxidants and healthy fats tames the flames, and for extra protection, add a daily inflammation-fighting supplement. Some of the best: curcumin, boswellia, alpha lipoic acid, omega-3 fats, quercetin, cat’s claw.
18. Learn to love sardines
They’re rich in omega-3 fats that reduce inflammation, protect the heart and brain, support vision and ease anxiety and depression. Sardines are lower in heavy metals and other toxins than larger fatty fish (plus, they’re more sustainable). Toss boneless, skinless sardines with legume-based pasta, or use instead of tuna in salads; eat bone-in varieties, for extra calcium.
19. Meditate for 5 minutes
High anxiety increases inflammation, disrupts sleep and accelerates aging. Mediation is one of the best ways to ease tension, promote calm, protect against disease and, you guessed it, live longer. Make it a routine: start with five minutes, every morning, and work up to 10 minutes (or more); a guided meditation app makes it easier and more fun.
20. Eat a cup of berries
Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries are high in antioxidants that reduce inflammation, support heart health, protect the brain and improve vision. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber, linked with healthy aging. Add them to smoothies, yogurt or salads, or swap them for dessert or sugary snacks.
21. Rethink your calcium regimen
It’s crucial for strong bones, but taking calcium supplements the wrong way can hurt your heart—a buildup of calcium in blood vessels increases the risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks and stroke. Get most of your calcium from dietary sources (broccoli, dark leafy greens, sesame seeds, dairy), and always take calcium supplements with vitamins D and K, to direct calcium to bones and keep it from being deposited in your arteries.
22. Stir tomato paste into soups
It’s a concentrated source of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, prostate cancer and other cancers. Add tomato paste to soups and sauces, ideally with olive oil; it significantly enhances lycopene absorption. Or eat fresh tomatoes every day; red peppers, red grapefruit, watermelon and guava are also rich in lycopene.
23. Be vegan on Fridays
Eating fewer animal products—especially red meat and processed meat—is linked with healthier aging and a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer and possibly Alzheimer’s. Make one day (or more) a week vegan to promote longevity. Eat less meat in general, and focus on lean meat and fatty fish, like salmon; it’s high in anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
24. Drink less
Alcohol damages cells and accelerates aging, and heavy drinking is linked with heart disease, liver disease, some cancers and increased mortality. Use alcohol in great moderation: for men, no more than one drink a day. If you’re a woman, four to five drinks a week.
25. Eat raw garlic
It’s rich in heart-protective compounds that balance cholesterol, minimize atherosclerosis, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. It’s best eaten raw to maximize beneficial compounds; use a garlic press to squeeze a clove into dips and dressings, or add last-minute to stir-fries and soups.
Regular physical activity is critical for healthy aging, and a sedentary lifestyle is linked with a higher risk of heart disease and other illnesses. Dancing not only protects the heart and bones, it improves muscle strengthen and flexibility and enhances cognitive health. Sign up for an online class, and shoot for at least 30 minutes, every day.
27. Supplement your brain
Age-related changes to the brain impact cognition, memory and mood, and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Protect cognitive function with a whole-foods diet rich in antioxidants and brain-supportive nutrients; add supplements shown to enhance brain health. Some of the best: cordyceps, huperzine-A, NAD+, phosphatidylserine.
Good oral health is vital for healthy aging, and some research suggests bacteria in your mouth and inflammation associated with gum disease play a role in cardiovascular disease. Floss, every day, and upgrade to a sonic toothbrush to keep gums healthy and mitigate inflammation.
29. Purge your pantry
Packaged, processed foods are often high in sugar, refined carbs and unhealthy fats—all of which increase inflammation and accelerate aging. Be ruthless: get rid of anything with sugar, preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Minimize packaged foods in general, and choose better-for-you, organic options with short ingredient lists and no added sugar.
30. Be grateful
An attitude of gratitude reduces stress, improves mood and can help you live longer. Every morning (after your meditation), make a list of all your blessings. And cultivate gratitude by helping others; altruists live longer, happier lives. Sign up to volunteer at a homeless shelter, donate to a worthy charity, visit a nursing home.