Despite our incredible advances in science, technology and medicine over the decades, recent reports show that life expectancy levels are now falling in both the U.S. and U.K. Perhaps this is why longevity is becoming more topical at the moment. It seems that everywhere we turn, there is a new device or pill claiming to have the potential ability to add more years to our lives.
But in the midst of all this innovation, surely there are some simple steps we can take in our daily lives that are scientifically proven to help us live longer? If we go beyond the traditional “eat well, exercise and stop smoking” advice that our doctors tell us, there are actually several easy steps that almost anyone can take to live many long, fruitful years.
- Read a book.
According to a 12-year study performed at Yale University and published in Social Science And Medicine, book readers experienced a 20 percent reduction in mortality compared to non-book readers. Reading for only thirty minutes each day helped people live an average of 23 months longer compared with non-book readers, regardless of gender, wealth, education or health.
- Get a dog.
A recent study in Sweden showed that dog owners were 23 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, and they also experienced a 20 percent lower risk of mortality from all causes. The authors were unable to explain this link, but it was felt the additional physical activity and emotional connection between dogs and owners played the most critical roles. As a disclaimer, co-author Dr. Tove Fall wisely shared the advice that “not everyone is up to owning a dog.”
- Get your fiber.
High fiber diets may help to keep us regular, but the additional effects of taking 35 grams of fiber every day from fruits and vegetables can be astonishing. According to a 2014 study published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 35 grams of daily fiber is associated with lowering our chances of heart disease by 54 percent, and also reducing our risk of dying from all causes by 37 percent. The authors pointed out that fiber-rich fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals which may also support the heart, prevent cancer and treat inflammation.
- Take a brisk walk.
Hippocrates once said, “Walking is man’s best medicine” and he may have been right. According to the Mayo Clinic, regular brisk walking has a myriad of health benefits that support both our physical and emotional wellbeing. In 2015, a study presented to the European Society of Cardiology reported that 25 minutes of daily brisk walking can add up to seven years to our lives. In addition to walking, it was also shown that any regular leisure time activity can potentially increase our life span by two to seven years.
- Kill your TV.
Common sense tells us that too much TV is bad for our health. But is this really true, and how much is too much? Aside from working and sleeping, watching TV is the most commonly reported daily activity in many developed countries, with the average American watching five hours of TV each day. A large 40 year meta-analysis in 2011 confirmed that prolonged TV viewing is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality. The association was linear and strongest among people watching TV for over three hours per day.
- Practice yoga and meditation.
Have you noticed that many yoga and meditation instructors appear younger than their years? The health benefits of these practices are gradually being accepted by modern medicine, and the longevity effects were recently proven. A study performed last year in India concluded that we can not only slow down the aging process, but also reverse the effects of aging by adopting yoga and meditation-based lifestyle interventions.
- Take a sauna.
While it is important to seek appropriate medical advice before using a sauna, the health benefits were recently demonstrated in a 2015 JAMA study. They discovered that frequent use of a sauna was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease and all-cause mortality, with the lowest risk in those bathing for twenty minutes each session at least four days per week.
- Locate your sense of humor.
A recent Norwegian study showed that women with a good sense of humor had 48 percent lower mortality rates, but the authors were unable to find a similar link for men. However, they did notice that men with a good sense of humor were less likely to die from infectious disease, and concluded that “a sense of humor is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource.”
- Eat whole foods.
A few years ago, Mediterranean diets consisting largely of vegetables, olive oil and fish were found to be associated with a 10-20 percent reduction in all-cause mortality. More recently, whole foods (meaning foods that have been minimally processed) have caught media attention, and last year’s BROAD study showed that a whole food plant-based diet led to improvements in body mass index, cholesterol levels and many other chronic disease risk factors.
- Find a satisfying job.
A famous study by Erdman Palmore in 1969 discovered that the single best predictor for life span in our latter years was job satisfaction. He concluded that people who felt useful and were doing meaningful work during their latter years of employment were most likely to live longer. A widely respected gerontologist, Palmore is now professor emeritus of medical sociology at Duke University in North Carolina.