When I wrote my book, 10 Essentials of Highly Healthy People, I included information on how people can make decisions that will affect the quantity and quality of their lives. Here’s a redux of a number of studies on longevity (adapted from an article from Fox News).
1) Get Enough Sleep.
Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are at high-risk for obesity, high-blood pressure, and heart disease. Not surprisingly, all of those things will shorten your life-span.
Furthermore, sufficient sleep allows the body to repair cellular damage and strengthen the immune system.
So how much sleep do you need? Studies vary, however, the majority have shown that more than 8 hours and less than 6 hours sleep each night is harmful.
Most scientists recommend 7 to 8 hours per night to stay healthy.
2) Spend time with friends.
A 2005 study from Australian researchers looked at 1,500 people, age 70 and older, over a 10-year period and found that those who had strong social networks were most likely to be alive at the end of the study period, compared to those who do not have close ties with friends.
It also found that the people with whom the study participants shared a close friendship also tended to live longer.
Oddly, close relationships with children and relatives did not have the same life-lengthening effect.
3) Dump Your Stress.
Stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, weight gain, poor mental health and, more importantly, it can shorten your lifespan.
The best way to beat stress? Take a break from the daily grind, even if it’s only for a short period of time.
Can’t get off work for a full week? Try taking a long weekend here and there and do something you enjoy or to just relax.
4) If your married, have sex
So true – especially for people in committed, long-term, monogamous relationships, that is. Especially married relationships.
Sex releases several hormones and endorphins in the body, boosting your mood and fighting disease. It also increases intimacy and bonding, and fights loneliness and depression.
It also can be a good workout – if you put some extra effort into it.
5) Have a Purpose-Driven Life
One study has found that if you have a purpose in life, lofty or not, you’ll live longer. It doesn’t seem to matter much what the purpose is, or whether the purpose involves a goal that’s ambitious or modest.
Much other research has found that having a purpose in life is also crucial to maintaining psychological wellness and can be important for physical health as well. What’s the link?
According to the researchers, it could be that having a greater sense of purpose helps multiple systems of the body function better, conferring protection in the face of illness.
6) Enjoy a Pet
Caring for a pet is another way to extend your life.
Studies have shown that the companionship and unconditional love that pets give people a boost after a tough day, during life stress and after the loss of a loved one.
Petting a dog or a cat not only lowers the petters blood pressure, but also the animals.
And, taking your dog for a walk is great exercise.
7) See Your Primary Care Physician for Preventive Medicine
Women and men should see their doctors regularly, especially for annual physicals.
Women also need to get annual pelvic exams beginning at age 18 or when they first become sexually active, whichever comes first. They also need to get annual mammograms beginning at age 40.
Men over the age of 40 should check with their doctor about whether they need annual colonoscopies and prostate exams.
The key to beating any disease, especially cancer, is catching it early.
8) Think Positive
Yes, it is cliche, but so very true. Numerous studies have found that optimists live longer, stay healthier and are more likely to beat illness than their grumpy counterparts.
So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
9) Invest in a Happy Marriage
A 2006 study by University of Chicago researchers found that people who are married live longer than those who are single.
The study found that married men live an average of 10 years longer than their unmarried counterparts and married women live about 4 years longer than single women.
For men, it appears that married men adopt their wives healthier lifestyles and are less likely to take risks. Women appear to benefit from the financial security that marriage offers.
10) Invest in Your Education
Studies, including one from the National Institute on Aging, have found that having an education is key to living a long life.
Scientists say people who are better educated are less likely to smoke and work high-risk jobs.
They also have more money, which directly correlates to the ability to pay for better health care.
In another recent study, the researchers found that retirees older than 65 who volunteered had less than half the risk of dying during about a four-year follow-up period as did their peers who did not volunteer their time.
12) Enjoy a Glass of Wine
Drinking wine, especially red wine, in moderation (no more than 1 glass per day for women; 2 glasses for men) has been shown in studies to prevent heart disease and increase longevity.
Wine is high in the antioxidant resveratrol, which helps prevent free radicals from damaging cells. In some studies, resveratrol has even been shown to slow tumor growth.
Scientists have been studying ways to pack resveratrol’s life-extending powers into a pill. Stay tuned for that …
And, know that some scientists do not support this contention: No study, these critics say, has ever proved a causal relationship between moderate drinking and lower risk of death – only that the two often go together. It may be that moderate drinking is just something healthy people tend to do, not something that makes people healthy.