The average life expectancy for an American is 78 years, but with bad habits—yes, even those little ones you think do no harm in the long run—this can be cut down.
Unhealthy habits like eating a sugary dessert each day, always taking the car on short trips instead of walking, the occasional cigarette, and two alcoholic drinks every night can shorten your life.
The good news is that there are simple healthy habits that will increase your life expectancy.
You probably won’t be surprised by the majority of the suggestions, but research shows these healthy habits can dramatically increase your life expectancy.
Get ready to live long and prosper.
12 Healthy Habits to Extend Your Life Expectancy
1. Eat a healthier diet.
It’s no surprise that the quality of your food has a huge impact on your life expectancy.
Researchers have known for decades that processed foods, sugar, fat, and salt have a detrimental effect on the longevity of our bodies. The advice is simple. Fill up your tank with healthy foods and you’ll live longer.
Japanese diets are one of the highest in fruit and veggies, and the Japanese regularly live to be 100 years old. Studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet—packed with healthy fats—also dramatically lowers heart disease, one of our leading causes of death.
Fresh, home-cooked foods cause less inflammation than processed meals, and they offer more nutrients that keep you healthy.
So try to eat more plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and grains. Heart-healthy oily fish, low-fat meats, and whole-grain cereal are also great ways to keep your body filled with antioxidants, omega-3, vitamins, minerals, and fiber—all the nutrients that keep your body healthy from the inside.
2. Quit smoking.
Smoking is directly linked to an earlier death, and it’s never too late to quit.
Smokers are more likely to die ten years earlier than nonsmokers. Leading causes of smoking-related deaths are cancer, breathing issues such as bronchitis and asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.
These are preventable illnesses. If you smoke—stop. Studies show that quitting at any age will lead to extra years of life. In fact, one study indicates that quitters aged 60 and above added 3.7 years to their lifespan when they quit.
3. Get regular exercise.
Exercising is a great way to burn off excess weight, release happy hormones, and keep your body functioning properly.
Studies have found that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day can add years to your life expectancy by reducing cancer and life-limiting diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Thirty minutes of cardio is hardly anything. A half-hour brisk walk each morning can make the difference.
There are no drawbacks to exercise—even little bursts of energy like running up the stairs, cleaning, dancing at the bar, and gardening all count. Keep yourself active and you’ll add years to your life.
4. Don’t drink too much alcohol.
Drinking alcohol seems like a no-no when it comes to adding to your life expectancy, but if you stick to low-risk limits, drinking is not thought to decrease your life.
In fact, red wine contains antioxidant compounds that protect your heart, and the social aspect keeps you in good mental health too. Just don’t overdo it and be sure to have alcohol-free days, topping up on water instead.
If you don’t drink, there’s no reason to start now. You can get all the antioxidants you need from red berries instead.
5. Maintain a healthy body weight.
Keeping a healthy body weight is an essential way to increase your life expectancy.
Obesity—or even being just a bit overweight in the long term—increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Researchers believe that people with a body mass index (BMI) in the healthy range of 18.5–24.9 had a lower risk of dying early.
Maintain a healthy weight for your height and build and you’ll live longer.
6. Floss every day.
Here’s an unusual one. Extend your life expectancy by flossing each day. A study from New York University uncovered that flossing each day reduces the number of bacteria in your mouth. Researchers suggest that when gum bacteria enters your bloodstream, it causes inflammation and thickening in your arteries.
Who knew? Floss every day to increase your lifespan.
7. Use more turmeric.
There are plenty of suggestions out there about which foods keep you healthy, but turmeric is always at the top of the list.
Turmeric contains the bioactive compound curcumin. It’s been used for thousands of years to fight infection, viruses, and fungal disease, and researchers have more recently uncovered turmeric’s antioxidant properties that fight inflammation.
Turmeric also tastes great—add some to your foods or take a good-quality supplement.
8. Stress less.
Happiness boosts your health. Anxiety, stress, and depression are known to shorten your lifespan. Stressed women are thought to be twice as likely to die from heart disease and for men, the risk is three times as high.
Try to find activities that lift your spirits and reduce stress. Call friends for a laugh; start a hobby you’ve always wanted to try; even watching a funny film can cheer you up and make you feel more optimistic.
If you feel guilty about enjoying some happy stress-free time, look upon it as in investment in your longevity.
RELATED: 40 Tips for a Happy Healthy Life
9. Enjoy your social life.
Friendships are proven to keep you living longer; in fact, some studies suggest that a healthy network of friends can help you live 50% longer. You don’t need loads of friends, so don’t add random acquaintances on Facebook—just three good friends are enough to keep you living long and happy.
It’s thought that the ability to share problems, receive moral support, and give support in return lessens stressful impacts on your body and reduces the likelihood of depression.
Here’s to those good friends.
10. Increase your conscientiousness.
Creatures of habit often outlive their “winging it” counterparts. A disciplined life that’s organized and efficient is a key way to increase your lifespan.
It’s thought that a responsible attitude and a risk-adverse nature means you’re more likely to see a doctor when you need treatment rather than putting it off, and that you eat, behave, drink, and sleep in a responsible way.
A study called The Longevity Project followed 1500 children over 80 years and found that the conscientious, well-organized ones were more likely to be healthier, be happily married, and have satisfying work. They lived longer as a result.
11. Drink coffee or tea.
Tea is full of compounds that lower your risk of killer diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Coffee is linked with a lower risk of brain disease, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Drinking regular tea and coffee also contributes to good hydration, which is necessary for a healthy, well-functioning body.
Don’t drink too much, though, because more than four cups of caffeinated coffee can lead to jitters, insomnia, and anxiety.
12. Develop a good sleeping pattern.
Sleep is essential; you can’t overestimate the negative effects of too little sleep.
During the REM phase of sleep, your body heals and regulates its cells, so try to get at least six hours a night. Sleeping just five hours is linked to an earlier death—and conversely, getting too much sleep can lead to inflammation and a shortened lifespan, too.
A regular sleeping pattern where you wake up and sleep at the same time each day is the most beneficial. We all feel better after a good night’s sleep. The feel-good factors are obvious. We look healthier, feel more alert, don’t need to snack and are less likely to fall ill.
Live Long and Prosper
Most of the tips above are common sense. We all know that a good diet, exercise, and sleep contribute to a longer life, but we tend to put these healthy habits off.
If you want to live a long, healthy life, start cleaning up your act today—these little healthy steps lead to a longer and happier life journey.