9 Ways to Live a Longer and Better Life
It’s hard to keep track of the latest research on what’s good for you and what isn’t. But there are definitely strategies that will help you live a longer, healthier life. Check out this article by Leslie Kramer from Guideposts magazine.
Just 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise can cut your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Sticking to a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity can reduce the incidence of cancer by as much as 30 to 40 percent, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Exercise also strengthens your immune system, relieves stress and boosts your mood.
2. Eat fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients that keep your body and brain functioning properly—in particular, antioxidants. What’s so great about these compounds? One theory is that our cells age because of damage by unstable free radicals, which has been linked to cancer, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s. Antioxidants soak up free radicals, slowing the aging process. Berries, beans and red grapes are excellent sources of these protective compounds.
3. Get your chocolate fix
Cocoa, chocolate’s main component, contains antioxidant flavonoids that decrease buildup in blood vessels and can lower your blood pressure. These cardiovascular benefits reduce the risk of heart disease. Stick to dark chocolate, which has the highest percentage of cocoa.
4. Adopt a pet
Why does having a pet extend your life? Interacting with a pet lowers your blood pressure and stress hormone levels, says gerontological nursing professor Rebecca Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri. Owning a pet also helps you get more exercise—your dog needs to be walked, right?
5. Get enough sleep
The National Sleep Foundation says that sleep deprivation has lasting impacts on our health, contributing to everything from hypertension to depression to obesity. During sleep, your immune system is strengthened in ways that don’t occur when you’re awake. That’s why scientists believe getting a good night’s rest enhances your ability to fight disease.
6. Brush and floss daily
Studies show a connection between gum disease and potentially life-threatening problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia. Brush twice a day and floss daily, as the American Dental Association recommends, and you’ll preserve more than your pearly whites. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
7. Drink green tea
Want a wonder drink? Try green tea. It has a high concentration of polyphenols, among the most powerful antioxidants known. The polyphenol EGCG inhibits the growth of cancer cells and helps prevent hardening of the arteries. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medicine Association, adults in Japan who consumed higher amounts of green tea had a lower risk of death and a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Check with your doctor first; green tea can interact adversely with certain medications.
8. Make lifelong friends
Having close friends in your older years helps you live longer, researchers at Flinders University in Australia found. A study showed that contact with relatives had little measurable effect on longevity but senior citizens who maintained strong ties with friends and confidants had a significantly higher survival rate over a 10-year period.
9. Cultivate a positive attitude
Having an optimistic outlook decreases your risk of early death by up to 50 percent compared with more pessimistic folks, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. Pessimists are more prone toward depression, which could impair the immune system, says Toshihiko Maruta, M.D., lead investigator of the Mayo Clinic study. Positive people are also better equipped to deal with adversity and tend to have lower blood pressure than pessimists. So relax! It’ll help you in the long run.