One hundred years ago, the average adult in the United States could expect to live to about age 54. Today, it’s 79 and, if you make it to age 65, the likelihood is “very high” that you’ll live to be 85. Make it to age 85? It’s reasonable to expect to live to age 92.
This data, provided by the National Institute of Health, shares how scientists are continuing their research into how people can live longer – with “solid evidence” showing how the “best way to boost the chance of living a long and active life is to follow the advice you likely heard from your parents: eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and stay away from bad habits.”
So, here are six healthy habits to incorporate daily to prolong your life.
No. 1 Know Your Habits
By their very nature, habits are things we habitually do, often without thinking about them at all. So, step one is to become aware of your own habits. If you watch too much television, rather than getting up and moving around, or you nosh on chocolate throughout the day, become aware of those habits. Awareness, as NewsInHealth.com points out, is step one towards change.
No. 2: Create a Plan and Stick with It
Once aware of your less-than-healthy habits, create a plan that includes reasonable goals and the concrete actions you’ll take to achieve them. This may include stocking up on fruits and vegetables and/or a daily walk in the park. It may help to record your food intake, exercise, sleep patterns and stress levels. Be encouraged by the fact that, the more you use self-control, the easier it gets, overall.
No. 3 Exercise Regularly
When asked to rank habits to live longer, a geriatric researcher at the NIH put exercise at the top. This is especially true when the goal is to lengthen active life expectancy. This goes beyond merely extending life and focuses on lengthening life without disease, or physical and mental disabilities.
As we age, we naturally lose muscle. Joints can ache more, and energy is reduced. That makes it tempting to move around less, but that “can raise your risk for disease, disability, and even death.” It’s natural to not be as physically active as when you were younger, but it’s important to work with your doctor to find the types of exercise you can to do maintain both health and mobility. Even frail older adults can benefit from regular exercise, an NIH-funded study found. You can find tips from NIH on how to get and stay physically active as an older adult.
No. 4 Shed Extra Pounds
Having a body mass index of more than 30 shortens active life expectancy, and you can calculate yours here. Researchers still must do more work on how, specifically, calorie-restricted diets or other diet changes affect longevity but being obese is clearly a risk factor. Here, they offer tips on choosing the right weight loss/management program.
No. 5 Don’t Smoke—or if You Do, Stop
Not smoking is described as a “pathway to a longer, healthier life.” It’s not an easy habit to break, the NIH article acknowledges, adding that “from the moment you stop smoking, there are health benefits. So it’s worthwhile making that effort.” Talk to your doctor about strategies.
No. 6 Focus on Future Benefits
It may be hard to, say, not pour a second alcoholic drink or not reach for an extra slice of pizza. For some people, it can help to think about the future and how a specific change might heal you and enhance your life. For example, by not smoking for just 24 hours, your risk of a heart attack already drops.
And, be kind to yourself. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s important to simply keep moving ahead. Finally, remember the following about healthy habits from the NewsInHealth.com post: “You’re never too out of shape, too overweight, or too old to make healthy changes. Try different strategies until you find what works best for you.”