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Healthy habits help you live longer

Nina Chen, Ph.D. CFLE, Human Development Specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension

 

Longevity appears to be more about healthy lifestyle than genes. It is 25 percent genes and 75 percent lifestyle, according to Steven Austad, author of the book Why We Age. A study from the University of Cambridge in England followed 20,000 middle-aged men and women for 11 years and found non-smokers with the healthiest eating and exercise habits lived longer than people with the worst habits. Another study at the Pacific Health Research Institute in Hawaii followed 5,820 Japanese American men for 40 years. This study found those who avoided health risk factors in midlife like smoking, being overweight, excessive drinking and high blood pressure were likely to live longer.

 

Here are some tips for healthy lifestyle habits:

 

  • Stay active and connected. Centenarians are usually active and interested in what’s going on in the community and world. Staying connected and involved keeps your brain working and increases your sense of purpose. Establish a support system and have a daily connection with close friends or family members.
     
  • Exercise your brain and challenge your mind. Your brain needs exercise just as your body does. Stay curious and mentally alert as you age. For instance, solve puzzles, play bridge, play an instrument or take painting, art, computer or foreign language classes.
     
  • Be positive. Laughter, positivity and and humor are strong medicines for mind and body. Positive thinking helps people reduce stress and enjoy life more. People with positive attitudes decrease their risk of poor health and early death by 50 percent over pessimists, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic.
     
  • Establish healthy habits. Get regular physical checkups, blood pressure and cholesterol checks. Floss daily. Don’t smoke. Drink in moderation. Move around and get regular exercise every day. If you have a busy, fast-paced life then remember to take some time to slow down – when you take a minute to just relax, you will feel calmer and more focused.
     
  • Watch your waist and exercise regularly. It is hard to find obese centenarians. Keeping a trim waistline is one of the keys to living longer because excess weight contributes more to heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Be smart about what and how much you eat. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and less red meat and fried food.
     
  • Faith matters. Older people with an active faith had lower blood pressure and lived longer, according to Dr. Harold Koenig, a study co-author at the Duke University Medical Center. Other studies show people who attended religious services regularly or who feel they are spiritual also feel healthier. Churches or religious services provide a social network and a source of comfort and support. Continue to nurture your spirituality by joining religious activities and staying connected with people, family and friends.
     
  • Be a volunteer. When volunteering, you are making friends, helping people, making a social connection and experiencing the psychological benefits of feeling needed. Neena Chappell, social gerontologist with the University of Victoria’s Center on Aging in British Columbia, indicated that people who spend time volunteering in the community are happier and healthier.

 

 

References:
Ellison, C. G., Hummer, R., Cormier, S., & Rogers, R. G. 2000. Religious involvement and mortality risk among African American adults. Research on Aging, Vol. 22, No. 6: 630-667.

Hill, T.D., Angel, J. L., Ellison, C. G., and Ange, R. J. 2005. Religious attendance and mortality: An 8-year follow-up of older Mexican Americans. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, Vol. 60B, No. 2: 102-109.

Langreth, Robert. 2009. How to live to 100. Forbes, April 7. http://www.forbes.com/2009/04/06/centenarians-exercise-diet-personal-finance-retirement-live-to-100.html (accessed June 15, 2009).

WebMD. Spirituality may help people live longer. http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/spirituality-may-help-people-live-longer (accessed July 2, 2009).

 


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Last Updated 07/22/2015