Living long is a goal that all of us share. We want to thrive–to remain healthy, vital and productive the whole way through. In other words, we want not only to add years to our lives, but also to add life to our years. After all, what good is it to last long enough to know our great grandchildren if we lack the energy, strength and mental acuity to enjoy them?
Fortunately, there are many known ways to increase our lifespan. What´s –more, the diet, exercise and lifestyle habits that extend our lives also increase our health, energy and mental well-being. It´s a two–for–one deal. Over the past several years, health scientists have learned a lot about the specific practices that boost health and longevity.
The following is a list of the top 10 ways to live longer (and live better!)–a list that is based on this cutting–edge research.
Live long and prosper!
1. Eat more fruits and vegetables
Last year a team of British Researchers assessed health habits and tracked deaths in 20,000 men and women over a five–year period. They found that those who exercised, did not smoke, ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and drank moderately lived 14 years longer, on average, than those who had none of these health habits. Not smoking was found to be the biggest life extender. Eating more fruits and vegetables was second. So if you don´t smoke, then eating more fruits and vegetables is the most effective way to live longer.
Why are fruits and vegetables such a fountain of youth?
There is no single reason. One benefit of fruits and vegetables is that they contain a lot of fiber, so they fill you up with fewer calories than most other foods. Therefore, those who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day are less likely to become overweight and die early from a heart attack, a stroke or diabetes.
Another benefit of fruits and vegetables is that they are packed with antioxidants, which neutralize the free radicals that damage cellular DNA, a core piece of the aging process.
What is the optimal amount of fruit and vegetable consumption to promote longevity? Studies suggest that five combined servings per day is enough for you to reap the health benefits. Meeting the five–a–day target is not always easy. EnergyFirst Greenergy represents a convenient way to increase your intake of fruit and vegetable nutrients to hit the five–a–day target. EnergyFirst Greenergy is a nutritional supplement combining concentrated green superfoods, essential vitamins, alkalinizing minerals, disease–fighting antioxidants, phytonutrients (non–essential plant nutrients, many of which function as powerful antioxidants), and chlorophyll.
2. Get more aerobic exercise
The second most effective way to extend your life is to get more aerobic exercise. A recent Finish study found that the death rate among aerobically unfit older men was 2.75 times higher than the death rate among their aerobically fit counterparts. Numerous other studies have produced similar results.
Aerobic exercise reduces the risk of virtually every natural cause of death. It prevents heart disease by increase the elasticity of arteries, boosting good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure. It prevents diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing body fat levels. It prevents cancer by strengthening the immune system and the body´s antioxidant defense system. And the list goes on.
Even a small amount of moderate–intensity aerobic exercise is beneficial. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking a few times a week will cut your risk for the diseases mentioned above and a host of others, including Alzheimer´s disease. But more is better. According to health experts, an hour of vigorous aerobic exercise is the ideal target for maximum longevity.
3. Eat less sugar
Experts believe that the obesity epidemic threatens to reduce the life expectancy of the average American for the first time in decades. Heart disease, which is directly related to overweight, is the number one cause of death in the United States. Although fat–and especially saturated fat has typically received the most blame for causing America–s weight problem, increasing evidence suggests that sugar might be the true culprit. Therefore reducing the amount of sugar in your diet is one of the best ways to avoid dying early from a weight–related condition.
A comparison between fat intake and obesity rate in France and the U.S. provides compelling evidence that fat is not the true culprit. The rate of obesity is more than three times greater in our country than in France. Yet the French actually eat more fat than we do (42 percent of calories versus 37 percent) and more saturated fat, as well.
The one glaring difference between the American and French diets is the amount of sugar in each. We get more than 17 percent of our daily calories from sugars added to foods, whereas the French get only 10 percent. In teenagers the problem is even worse: more than 20 percent of calories come from sugar in the diet of the typical American adolescent.
The problem with sugar is that it provides a lot of calories without providing a lot of satiety, or fullness. While fat contains more calories than sugar, fat is much more filling. A high–fat diet actually is less likely to cause weight gain than a high–sugar diet, because after you eat a steak, you´re full, whereas after you drink a can of soda, you´re still hungry. I´m not advocating a high-fat diet, of course; I´m just pointing out the fact that too much sugar is even worse than too much fat.
The greatest source of sugar in the typical American diet today is beverages. Twenty percent of the calories in the average person´s diet come from beverages, and most of these calories come from sugar. Eliminating sugar–sweetened beverages from your diet is one of the most effective dietary changes you can make if you´re seeking to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight for a long life. Other major sources of sugar are candy, breads, and other baked goods.
If you have a sweet tooth, it won´t hurt to allow yourself one small treat each day. But stopping there is one of the best ways to live longer.
4. Build some muscle
New research has demonstrated that muscle strength is one of the most significant indicators of age, and that increasing one´s muscle strength is one of the most effective ways to slow the overall aging process. For example, a study from the University of Pittsburgh found that, in a group of 70–79 year olds, the strongest men and women had the lowest risk of dying over a five–year period.
Why such a strong connection between muscle and longevity?
The aging–related decline in muscle mass, called sarcopenia, is known to greatly reduce performance in daily living activities in the elderly and is also linked to overweight, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer´s disease. Muscle mass typically begins to decline after age 30, while muscle strength typically starts a downward spiral at approximately age 50.
Any type of consistent resistance training will slow sarcopenia, enhance functional performance in one´s golden years, and reduce degenerative disease risk–but strength training will do all of these things better than bodybuilding–style training. For this reason, it´s best if your exercise routine includes both aerobic exercise, such as bicycling, and some form of strength training, such as weightlifting.
Research has shown that efforts to gain muscle mass and strength get a big boost from high–quality whey protein supplements such as EnergyFirst ProEnergy whey protein isolate. For example, a study recently published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism looked at the effects of whey protein supplementation on muscle growth in men undertaking a six–week resistance training program. In this study, subjects combining resistance training with whey protein supplementation increased their lean muscle mass and strength significantly more than subjects who completed the same exercise program without supplementation.
5. Eat fewer calories
More than 70 years ago, scientists discovered that worms lived significantly longer when their food intake was reduced. Subsequent research found that mice also live longer when they eat less. Now scientists are hard at work trying to figure out how calorie restriction increases longevity in these animals and whether it also does so in humans. There are several theories about how calorie restriction slows aging. One theory is that calorie restriction increases levels of hormones that maintain energy balance, and that these hormones also act on certain genes that control the rate of aging.
Another theory is that the DNA in cells experience less free radical damage when calories are restricted. This theory got a big boost from a recent study showing that a 25 percent calorie reduction for six months significantly reduced DNA damage in overweight men and women.
Aiming for a longer life through calorie restriction is not without its pitfalls, however. First, a 25 percent reduction in daily calorie intake causes a considerable increase in hunger, at least until you get used to eating less.
There is also an increased risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies when you eat so little. To minimize this risk, your reduced-calorie diet needs to be based in nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and should be supplemented with an additional source of vitamins and minerals.
6. Get more sleep
Human beings naturally spend one third of their lives asleep. This would not be the case if sleep were not vital for our health. In recent years, scientists have learned more about the benefits of sleep and the consequences of not sleeping enough.
Sleep plays an important role in regulating a variety of hormones in our bodies. When we don´t get enough sleep, these hormones become imbalanced. For example, sleep deprivation increases circulating levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which promotes fat storage in the midsection. At the same time, sleep deprivation reduces the availability of leptin, a hormone that controls hunger. As a result, sleep deprivation increases appetite and eating, further promoting weight gain.
Brain imaging studies have shown that brain function is significantly altered after sleep deprivation. Memory is impaired and the brain has to work harder to perform high–level skills such as using language and making decisions. Cortisol and another stress hormone called glucocorticoid are elevated in sleep–deprived individuals, impairing the brain´s ability to form new connections. Over time, the stress of not getting enough sleep causes parts of the brain to literally atrophy. Other research has shown that sleep deprivation has an equally profound effect on the brain´s emotional centers, and may even contribute to some psychiatric disorders.
All of these findings are especially worrisome in light of the fact that Americans are sleeping less than ever. A century ago, the average adult got nine hours of sleep each night. Today the average person sleeps just seven hours.
7. Supplement smartly
In a new study published in Nutrition Journal, researchers looked at various indicators of nutrient and health status to determine whether regular supplement use is of any potential benefit. The researchers administered questionnaires and physical examinations with 278 daily users of multiple nutritional supplements. Data for 602 non–supplement users and 176 users of multivitamin/mineral supplements only were obtained from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The most commonly used supplements were a multivitamin/mineral, Ultimate B–complex, Vitamin C, carotenoids, Vitamin E, calcium with vitamin D, omega–3 fatty acids, flavonoids, lecithin, alfalfa, coenzyme Q10, glucosamine, and a herbal immune supplement.
The study authors reported that "Serum nutrient concentrations generally increased with increasing dietary supplement use. After adjustment for age, gender, income, education and body mass index, greater degree of supplement use was associated with more favorable concentrations of serum homocysteine, C-reactive protein, high–ensity lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides, as well as lower risk of prevalent elevated blood pressure and diabetes."
In other words, it appears that regular users of nutritional supplements are healthier than the general population.
Stress is a killer. Processing stress is very taxing for the body. If the body is subjected to too much stress too often, things begin to break down. Chronic stress is known to cause the brain to degenerate. Over the long term this increases the risk of Alzheimer´s disease. Stress also increases body fat storage, promoting weight gain and all of the health problems that result from overweight. Workers in stressful jobs are more prone to all kinds of health problems and do not live as long as those with less stressful careers. In short, stress takes years off your life.
To minimize the effects of stress on your health, make effective stress management a top health priority. Identify the top stressors in your life and take steps to address them. For example, is your long commute giving you gray hair? Move closer to your job, or find a new job closer to home, or look into telecommuting if possible. Make time in your day for activities that help you process stress and relax. Exercise, meditate, set aside quality time with your family, watch a funny TV show–hatever works for you.
9. Strengthen your relationships
You´ve heard the saying, "No man is an island." It means that humans are social animals. We are not designed to thrive in isolation. That´s why people who have close friendship and strong social support networks are happier, have lower stress levels and are consequently healthy than people who are more socially isolated. For example, a recent study of elderly women found that those with the largest social networks were 26 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer–related dementia.
Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle promotes social isolation. Reversing this trend requires an active, sustained effort. To get more stress–reducing, happiness–increasing, life extending benefits from your relationships, actively nurture your most rewarding friendships, cut off stressful relationships, learn to communicate in a mature, open and assertive manner and prioritize quality social time in your life.
10. Drink in moderation or not at all
Alcoholic beverages have been a part of the human lifestyle for thousands of years. While excessive alcohol consumption has caused and continues to cause many problems for individuals, families, and cultures, the health benefits of moderate drinking have long been recognized
If you don´t drink alcohol at all – great!
If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
What is the definition of "moderate drinking"? No more one to two drinks per day. Any more and the negatives effects of alcohol on the liver, the brain, the waistline and elsewhere start to outweigh any potential positives.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve heart health by increasing levels of HDL cholesterol and lowering levels of LDL cholesterol, and also through other mechanisms. A recent study from the Medical University of South Carolina found that middle–aged women who began drinking one alcoholic beverage per day experienced a 38 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk after four years compared to women who were non–drinkers.
In addition to boosting heart health, moderate alcohol consumption is proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing systemic inflammation. Some suggest that moderate drinkers even tend to live longer than both heavy drinkers and teetotalers.
Wine is better choice of alcoholic beverage than others because it is rich in antioxidants. Red wine contains significantly higher levels of antioxidants than white wine.
Finally, it´s important to state clearly that it is not necessary to consume alcohol for optimal health. If you´re currently a non–drinker, don´t feel pressure to change due to these recent findings.
The Fountain of Youth
The 16th Century Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon spent years searching for the mythical Fountain of Youth, whose waters were believed to confer the gift of immortality. He found out the hard way that there is no Fountain of Youth.
However, there are many things we can do to extend our lives. You´ve just learned about 10 of them. Put them all together and you will add years to your life–and life to your years.