Who doesn't want to live a long, happy life? For decades, people assumed genetics were the key determiners of lifespan, but research points to two environmental factors as longevity primers: diet and lifestyle.
Healthy eating and positive habits can add years or even decades to your life, and that's not hyperbole. As it turns out, humans are more in control of their destiny than perhaps initially thought. Evidenced-based reasoning points to five habits or lifestyle choices that can promote a longer and potentially happier life.
1. Maintain a Healthy Diet and Avoid Overeating
It's no secret that Americans eat more per day than necessary, over 3,600 calories on average. Overeating increases the risks of chronic diseases and premature death.
Limited data exist on the link between calorie intake and longevity, but animal studies suggest reductions in calorie intake can increase lifespan. Also, calorie restriction can reduce the risks of obesity and its associated problems. However, severe calorie restriction is unhealthy and unsustainable. Studies point to several adverse side effects of long-term calorie restriction, including lower body temperature, increased hunger, and diminished sex drive.
A healthy diet is about more than calorie intake. While caloric restriction might work for the short term, it is best to determine your caloric need and focus on eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
The healthiest diets contain a mix of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. Studies consistently prove that a plant-rich diet lowers the risks of premature death, cancer and heart disease, and depression and brain deterioration.
2. Stay Active and Exercise Regularly
Any healthy lifestyle must include physical activity. Experts recommend people get a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week, 30 minutes per day for five days.
However, one study suggests a minimum of 15 minutes per day can have benefits. According to the findings, the short daily commitment can add up to three years to life expectancy. The authors also suggested people could reduce the risk of premature death by an additional 4% by adding more 15-minute increments.
3. Avoid Smoking and Alcohol
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Research suggests that people who smoke are three times more likely to experience premature death and lose at least a decade of life.
Reports also link heavy alcohol consumption to early death and chronic disease. However, the same research suggests moderate consumption can reduce the risks of certain diseases and premature death.
4. Limit Stress and Anxiety Through Socialization
People know the risks of chronic stress and anxiety. What many people may not realize is socializing can reduce stress and their reactions to it. One study speculates that even three social ties are enough to reduce your risk of premature death by over 200%.
5. Focus on Your Happiness
Several studies point to a connection between happiness and longevity. Your satisfaction with your life, lifestyle choices, and relationships correlate with your happiness level.
There is often too much emphasis put on calories in the discussion of health and longevity. Diet matters, but exercise, social connection, lifestyle choices, and overall happiness also contribute to a longer life. Balancing all these things can provide you with the longest and happiest life imaginable.