6 Ways to Add Years to Your Life

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Need some extra motivation to kick your cigarette habit? This should do the trick: New research found that women who stop smoking before 40 live a decade longer than those who keep puffing into later life.

Recent findings from a study of over a million women found that smokers more than triple their risk of dying early compared to nonsmokers. Between 1996 and 2001 scientists from the University of Oxford in the U.K. recruited 1.3 million women aged 50–69 and questioned them about their smoking habits, medical history and social status. Twenty percent were smokers, 52 percent had never smoked, and 28 percent were ex-smokers. Women were questioned every few years throughout the twelve-year study, during which 66,000 participants died. Those who smoked throughout the duration of the study were three times as likely to die in the following nine years compared to those who didn't smoke.

But it's not all bad news—quitting today can help you down the line. The sooner you take your last drag the longer you'll likely live, says Rachel Huxley, PhD, a professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota who wrote an accompanying editorial to the study. Kicking the habit before middle age nearly eliminates the risk of premature death, and women who ditch the cigs in their 30s have even better odds of a long life. The reason: Fewer years of overall exposure to cigarette toxins that are linked to lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, Huxley says. (Ready to stop? Learn How to Quit Smoking Without Gaining Weight.)

But say you don't smoke, or you already quit—there are other steps you can take right now to help prolong your life. Here, 5 other ways to lengthen your lifeline:

Drink Wine

Wine lovers rejoice! Research confirms that moderate drinkers (one glass per day for women) slash their risk of heart disease up to 40 percent. Love vino? Try red wine from Madiran, France, which has up to five times as many procyanidins (antioxidants that improve blood vessel function) as wines from other areas, thanks to the region's traditional production techniques, which allow grapes to ferment longer. (Corks or Screwcaps? More expert tips on How to Choose the Best Bottle of Wine.)

Say Yes To Soy

Studies show that healthy women who eat soy at least once a week cut their risk of breast cancer by 50 percent. But some research suggests that processed soy may actually rev up cancer cells, so chowing down on Veggie Dogs won't cut it. Instead, stick to natural staples such as edamame, tofu, soy milk, and miso. (Need some meal inspiration? Try one of these 10 Tasty Tofu Recipes.)

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Over time, stress can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity – all things that take years off your life. Stress is easy to squash, so don't fret. Most people rank personal finances as their number one stressor, typically because they feel powerless. Try this: Keep some money in a special bank account, safe from your urge to splurge on a new designer bag. This will help you feel more secure with your finances and help reduce stress. Not sure the current economy will allow for additional savings? Learn The Right Way to Negotiate a Raise, or haggle for a discount.

Get Your Sweat On

Want to live longer? Hit the gym. Studies show that working out may lower a woman's risk of breast cancer by 37 percent, osteoporosis by 45 percent, and heart disease by 14 percent. A combination of cardio and weight training boosts metabolism and burns fat, keeping heart disease at bay. Check out The Keep-Your-Heart-Pumping Workout to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.

Lose the Muffin Top

Maintaining a healthy weight not only keeps you looking hot in your hip-huggers, it wards off heart attacks and diabetes, too. To see if you're a healthy size, check the circumference of your waist around your belly button. That number should be less than half your height. So if you're 5'2," your waist should be less than 31 inches. Looking to whittle your middle? Avoiding processed foods laden with trans fats will help. Studies show that this type of fat packs on the most belly blubber, so limit yourself to 2 grams daily. (Define your waist even more by sculpting your core muscles. Grab some dumbbells and try our No-Crunch Abs Workout.)

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