Longer life is a major selling point for drugs and supplements from companies around the world.
However, long life is not a secret drug or new science – with the right guidance, anyone can take the right steps to live longer.
That’s what this article intends to provide.
Each of these main categories of wellness contains a lot of specific nuances that people should be aware of. Often, people are told to eat better or calm down without knowing how to do it, or why they should care.
This article assimilates some of the key studies on living longer by walking you through the evidence and the practices – and maybe by the end, you’ll start to re-think and adopt them yourself for a happy longer life.
What Can You Do To Live A Long Life?
According to data collected by the CDC, the average life expectancy of all races and sexes increased by about 31.5 years between 1900 and 2017.
In other words, the first thing you should know about living a longer life is that some of it is already covered – just by existing in the 21st century with modern doctors, standards of hygiene, and amenities, we’re all living decades longer than we used to.
Why bring it up? As you’ll find out by reading this article, living longer is as much about doing the right things as thinking the right way.
This is the first thing we want you to realize: the idea of a “long life” is relative.
This is why we titled this article with the specific words, “longer life.” This is about how you can live the longest that you can, not compared to anyone else in history.
In 2020 and beyond, living longer isn’t just about the number.
The way we want to explain longer life is to explain what you can do to achieve healthy aging.
That’s where we focused our research to come up with these 5 main factors in living longer and living well.
Understand Your Nutrition Needs
A running theme in this article will be prioritizing your needs.
If any diet tries to convince you that they have the one size fits all answer to nutrition, you can chalk it up to being a fad diet that’s trying to sell you a subscription or a cookbook.
Nutrition is more about selectively meeting your needs and it’s more important than simply losing weight. The first step is understanding caloric intake.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the ideal caloric intake for males is about 2,000 to 2,400 from adulthood to old age, fluctuating slightly based on activity level by 200 to 400 additional calories.
For females, the numbers fluctuate the same amount, but in the base range of 1,600 to 2,000 calories.
Those are the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines that most people in the United States are not meeting.
Rather than obsess about the number on the scale, aiming for the right calorie intake is a more promising strategy since it addresses the core problem.
Some questions still remain.
- What kinds of foods help you stay healthy?
- What supplements should you take?
This is such a big part of the question of living longer that it has its own heading below.
For now, the important conclusion is that healthy eating, weight, and diet should be individualized.
Understanding your own needs is the first step towards living longer.
According to Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, an NIH geriatrician and specialist when it comes to health and aging,
“If I had to rank behaviors in terms of priority, I’d say that exercise is the most important thing associated with living longer and healthier.”
Those are strong words and we’d like to echo them.
Living longer doesn’t just mean staying healthy today.
It means creating a routine that keeps your body healthy as it ages.
This means that understanding how to live longer also entails understanding what happens to your body as it ages.
The health benefits of exercise can be assessed in numbers.
These numbers then tend to represent trends in the US population in terms of disease prevalence.
We’ll break it down for you.
Regular moderate exercise (doctors recommend 30-60 minutes a day for most people) helps control your weight by burning calories. That’s one direct effect.
It improves circulation and raises the body’s oxygen levels, helps your body process sugars, strengthens and lengthens muscles, and improves mood.
These are the direct effects. The trends that come from those effects can be viewed across the population.
The graph below, for instance, from the US National Library of Medicine, measures how higher and lower METs change the prevalence of health conditions like diabetes and hypertension.
We don’t want to get too technical on you.
METS or metabolic equivalents broadly measure the effect of activity level on health.
The blue bars represent the least activity and show the highest prevalence of diseases across the board.
The relative risk of death also increases proportionally to these activity levels getting lower.
By understanding that exercise has direct effects on health that cause trends in the population that lower the relative life span, it should be easy for anyone to convince themselves to exercise the recommended 30 minutes per day.
Sleep The Right Amount
Sleep is a well-known factor in daily health.
Maintaining natural circadian rhythms helps maintain metabolism, which helps people regulate their weight, their insulin levels, and other essential aspects to staying healthy.
Many studies support this, including this well-known research study by Tevy et al., published by the department of health.
These direct effects of maintaining healthy levels of sleep suggest a connection between consistent sleep and changes in the natural deterioration of metabolism pathways as we age.
This clearly establishes the connection we’re making between your behavior and the possibility of living longer. But even knowing that sleep is important, two questions remain: how much should I sleep? Is all sleep equal?
That answers the first question.
- What about the second: is all sleep equal?
- The answer, of course, is “no.”
There’s a huge difference between healthy and unhealthy sleep.
If you want your sleep to contribute to your longevity, you need to aim for healthy sleep.
Unhealthy sleep is easy to recognize. Poor sleep includes breaking up your 7 hours by waking up in the night, feeling restless in the morning, or having breathing problems during the night.
There are two categories of problems that turn healthy sleep into unhealthy sleep. We’ll go over them so you can check yourself for the best chance at healthy sleep you can get.
Sleep disorders and health conditions that can be diagnosed fill the first category.
There are more than you might think.
They could include attention disorders, anxiety conditions, or a host of mental issues.
Bipolar disorder (now more often called “manic depression”) is sometimes classified as a sleep disorder because of how disruptive mood can be to natural circadian rhythms.
Other bodily problems can disrupt sleep without being technically a sleep disorder. GERD, for instance, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, can cause heartburn in sleepers as a result of a weak lower esophageal sphincter.
This can wake people up in the night and turn what should be a 7-hour sleep rhythm into hour-long periods of unhealthy sleep that leave people feeling restless.
Achieving the right amount of healthy sleep is essential to making sleep count, which is an essential part of living longer.
Treating these underlying conditions that could be disrupting sleep is a necessary step.
Not all of us prefer to stay social and what it means for each one of us to “be social” differs tremendously.
For some people, it means staying out till dawn at multiple house parties; for others, it could mean mustering up the courage to meet a friend for lunch.
Whatever your definition of social may be, interacting with people has a pronounced effect on mental health, which is a huge factor in healthy aging.
Some studies, such as one conducted by Lisa Berkman, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, go so far as to call social isolation a major mortality factor.
It may not seem evident at first, but interacting with people is an essential part of the human experience.
We’re group animals by nature, so it makes sense that there would be some mental benefit to interaction.
While it’s important not to judge yourself too harshly against standards of “the perfect body” and other marketing concepts, the fact that there’s a research-based corollary between spending time with people and maintaining a healthy weight is too strong to ignore.
Stay Conscientious About Stress
Stress is a huge factor in longevity since it affects both your daily health and your ability to do the things you need to do to stay healthy, like interact with people and exercise.
Everyone experiences stress differently though, so it’s important to get a conscious sense of how it affects you individually.
Coping becomes difficult when other stresses come into play.
These include sudden changes that upset the balance of our lives, such as divorces and bankruptcies, as well as traumatic changes like an accident or a death in the family.
Knowing how stress affects each of us can prepare us to face it, which can have a lasting impact on health directly by maintaining better body rhythms and indirectly by encouraging us to stay healthy in other ways.
How Can We Increase Human Lifespan?
We’ve talked a lot about the things you need to do to stay healthy and live longer.
As a race, the lifespan depends on more of us doing the things that keep us healthy for longer.
You may be asking: how do I do that? That’s what this next section will answer.
What should I eat to live a long life?
After researching cultures around the world, The University of Washington came up with 2 main criteria for eating for longevity: eating a plant-based diet and eating mindfully.
Mindful eating means stopping before you’re full (the study recommends stopping at 80%).
Eating with the family is also a huge part of mindful eating since eating with family and conversation encourages mindfulness more than eating in front of computers and phones.
Distractions have been shown to make people eat more on average.
Maintaining a plant-based diet is the other essential aspect of mindfulness.
Research suggests aiming for 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, including an emphasis on mineral-rich leafy vegetables and beans. This diet improves digestion and reduces stress.
How to Reduce Stress and Sleep Better
We’re putting stress and sleep together because they’re together in your body. The name of the game for both is consistency.
Follow these steps listed by the CDC to improve sleep, which is the number one factor in a person’s stress.
- Consistent sleep schedule, even on the weekend
- Create a comfortable bedroom environment that’s dark and relaxing
- Eliminate the distraction of devices at least an hour before bed
- Eat conscientiously, especially before bed
- Maintain a consistent exercise schedule
Following these steps can alter your body’s rhythms for the best by maintaining consistency and creating an environment that supports your body’s natural ability to cope and heal.
There’s nothing more important to longevity than this.
The Takeaway For Living A Longer Life
There are many obvious unhealthy choices that a person can make, such as smoking and drinking too much and eating processed food.
We didn’t overly emphasize these things because they’re easy to assume. Instead, we focused on the ins and outs of eating well, coping with stress, maintaining healthy sleep, exercising regularly, and staying social.
The biggest takeaway is consistency. Forming the right habits – and for the long term.
None of these aspects of health can make a difference to a person’s life span unless they are practiced regularly.
Use this information to create a schedule that encourages daily decisions that not only help you live longer but live the healthiest life possible.
And if i can introduce to one other scientist that has some astounding research on the science of aging then it’s Dr. David Sinclair – have a watch of this – you will thank me later.
The Science Of Ageing
Then go forward diarize, stay consistent with your new healthy habits and check back and let me know how you’re getting on.
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.