Many people think that life expectancy is largely determined by genetics.
However, genes play a much smaller role than originally believed. It turns out that environmental factors like diet and lifestyle are key.
Here are 5 habits linked to a long life.
1. Eat plenty of healthy plant foods
Consuming a wide variety of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans, may decrease disease risk and promote longevity.
For example, many studies link a plant-rich diet to a lower risk of premature death, as well as a reduced risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression, and brain deterioration.
These effects are attributed to plant foods’ nutrients and antioxidants, which include polyphenols, carotenoids, folate, and vitamin C.
Accordingly, several studies link vegetarian and vegan diets, which are naturally higher in plant foods, to a 12–15% lower risk of premature death .
The same studies also report a 29–52% lower risk of dying from cancer or heart, kidney, or hormone-related diseases.
What’s more, some research suggests that the risk of premature death and certain diseases increases with greater meat consumption.
However, other studies report either nonexistent or much weaker links — with the negative effects seeming specifically linked to processed meat.
Vegetarians and vegans also generally tend to be more health-conscious than meat eaters, which could at least partly explain these findings.
Overall, eating plenty of plant foods is likely to benefit health and longevity.
2. Stay physically active
It should come as no surprise that staying physically active can keep you healthy and add years to your life.
As few as 15 minutes of exercise per day may help you achieve benefits, which could include an additional 3 years of life.
Furthermore, your risk of premature death may decrease by 4% for each additional 15 minutes of daily physical activity.
A recent review observed a 22% lower risk of early death in individuals who exercised — even though they worked out less than the recommended 150 minutes per week.
People who hit the 150-minute recommendation were 28% less likely to die early. What’s more, that number was 35% for those who exercised beyond this guidance.
Finally, some research links vigorous activity to a 5% greater reduction in risk compared to low- or moderate-intensity activities.
3. Don’t smoke
Smoking is strongly linked to disease and early death.
Overall, people who smoke may lose up to 10 years of life and be 3 times more likely to die prematurely than those who never pick up a cigarette.
Keep in mind that it’s never too late to quit.
One study reports that individuals who quit smoking by age 35 may prolong their lives by up to 8.5 years.
Furthermore, quitting smoking in your 60s may add up to 3.7 years to your life. In fact, quitting in your 80s may still provide benefits.
4. Moderate your alcohol intake
Heavy alcohol consumption is linked to liver, heart, and pancreatic disease, as well as an overall increased risk of early death.
However, moderate consumption is associated with a reduced likelihood of several diseases, as well as a 17–18% decrease in your risk of premature death.
Wine is considered particularly beneficial due to its high content of poly-phenol antioxidants.
Results from a 29-year study showed that men who preferred wine were 34% less likely to die early than those who preferred beer or spirits.
In addition, one review observed wine to be especially protective against heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, and metabolic syndrome.
To keep consumption moderate, it is recommended that women aim for 1–2 units or less per day and a maximum of 7 per week. Men should keep their daily intake to less than 3 units, with a maximum of 14 per week.
It’s important to note that no strong research indicates that the benefits of moderate drinking are greater than those of abstaining from alcohol.
In other words, there is no need to start drinking if you don’t usually consume alcohol.
5. Prioritize your happiness
Feeling happy can significantly increase your longevity .
In fact, happier individuals had a 3.7% reduction in early death over a 5-year study period .
A study of 180 Catholic nuns analyzed their self-reported levels of happiness when they first entered the monastery and later compared these levels to their longevity.
Those who felt happiest at 22 years of age were 2.5 times more likely to still be alive six decades later.
Longevity may seem beyond your control, but many healthy habits may lead you to a ripe, old age.
These include drinking coffee or tea, exercising, getting enough sleep, and limiting your alcohol intake.
Together, these habits can boost your health and put you on the path to a long life.
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