No one really wants to think about aging, but let’s face it: the habits you practice now can play a role in how long you’ll live, and how much life you’ll have in your years.
The world’s oldest man, Polish immigrant Alexander Imich, died last week in New York City at the age of 111. That’s way longer than the average American male life expectancy of 76, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While Imich told The New York Times that he chalked up his longevity to good genes, there are healthy habits you can pick up to help you live a longer, happier life. Here are some ideas:
|Find a hobby|
Doing something you find truly fulfilling will give you a sense of accomplishment, and can help reduce stress.
Flossing does more than clean your teeth: Getting all that inflammation-causing bacteria off your gums can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
|Plan a vacay|
Taking a break from work can lower your risk of heart disease and add 1 to 2 years to your life.
Your body repairs cells during sleep, so skimping on it doesn’t do your body any favors. Plus, adequate sleep also affects your quality of life. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye per night.
Having sex releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, another stress reliever. Plus, a study from the University of Quebec found that women burn 3 calories per minute of sex while men burn 4.
People with stronger friendships were 50% more likely to live longer than those with weaker connections, a 2010 analysis found. That makes the impact of friendlessness comparable to that of smoking (more on that below).
You need to fuel your body with healthy foods to live a long life. Limit your intake of foods high in fat, salt, and added sugar (which can increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases) and look for superfoods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein.
|Hit the gym|
Not only is exercise good for the heart, but working out can trigger the release of endorphins, pain-relieving chemicals known to boost your mood. Shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, per the CDC.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are associated with an increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. That’s even more reason to take up calming activities, like meditation and yoga.
|Stop smoking and limit drinking|
Imich, a former smoker, swore off both cigarettes and alcohol and you should follow his lead—at lease when it comes to the cigs. Smoking causes one out of five deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the CDC. Moderate alcohol consumption is good for you, but experts recommend that women have no more than one drink per day (or up to 7 per week); for men it’s one to two drinks per day, or a max of 14 per week.