The Most Important Thing
Quitting smoking is the single best way to improve health and increase longevity. The sooner a person quits the better. A recent study indicates up to an 8 year increase in the life span of women that quit smoking by age 35. Smoking contributes to heart disease, osteoporosis, chronic lung disease, and stroke. Quitting can repair some, if not all, the damage caused by smoking. Research has shown that the risk of heart disease decreased within a few months of quitting and 5 years post-quitting the risk is equal to that of someone that never smoked.
1. Stay active
Staying active, both physically and mentally, is another important habit that leads to a longer life. While sources vary in the amount of physical exercise recommended, generally at least 3 to 4 hours of moderate exercise weekly is needed to maintain good health. However, just as important as physical exercise, exercising the mind is important as well. Challenging the mind by learning, or at least trying, new things on a regular basis helps to ward off dementia. Diminished brain function leads to decreased physical mobility and poorer health in general.
2. We are what we eat
Food choices have a direct impact on living longer. Eating a diet high in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and low in saturated fats helps to maintain health and reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Limiting the amount of red meats and getting protein from plant sources such as beans, nuts, and grains will also help control the intake of unhealthy fats. But when a juicy steak is calling, make a smart choice with a lean cut of beef and don’t overcook it. Charring or overcooking meat, chicken, and fish can cause a buildup of cancer-causing substances.
3. Weighing in on weight
A BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered to be the ideal range for a longer, healthier life. Excess weight increases stress on the heart and joints. A higher BMI is associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, sleep disturbances and a variety of other conditions. By maintaining a healthy weight and BMI a person is also more likely to remain physically active.
4. Just one, please
Limiting alcohol consumption is the fifth important factor in achieving a longer, healthier life. No more than one glass of wine per day for women or two for men can help to avoid weight gain, liver disease, and decreased kidney function which is all associated with excessive alcohol intake.
5. Here’s to a long and healthy life
While genes, age, and gender do play a part in longevity; that part is actually fairly small. Lifestyle choices will make the biggest impact on health and longevity. So, stop and think before pouring that next glass of wine or lighting up that cigarette; before deciding the couch feels really good and going for a walk sounds like a lot of work. A quick 30-minute run followed by a nice bunch of veggies may just tack on a few more good years.
Happy and healthy
Having a healthier lifestyle in daily habits will add up quickly. Healthier people are happier people in general and will live longer lives.