9 Habits Linked to a Longer, Happier Life

Living life to the fullest starts with paying attention to your body and mind.

“The long-term effects of good and bad health habits are cumulative. Simply put, you can’t outgrow your past,” said Dr. William Roberts, a professor in the department of family medicine and community health at the University of Minnesota, via email. .

Getting enough physical activity and seeing your doctor regularly is a good place to start, said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen.

“There is a lot of evidence about things we can do proactively that can improve our life expectancy as well as quality,” said Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute’s School of Public Health. George Washington University. .

Here are some habits worth implementing to give yourself the best chance for a longer, happier life.

1. Regular examinations

Young people tend to have fewer chronic diseases than older people, but prevention is key, Wen said. “If you test positive for prediabetes, for example, there are steps you can take to prevent progression to diabetes.”

Annual checkups also allow you and your doctor to get to know each other, she added. “The best time to see your doctor isn’t when you already have symptoms and need help — it’s regularly to build and establish that relationship so your doctor gets a baseline of your health.”

2. Continuous physical activity

Sufficient physical activity can lower the risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, Wen said.

“There is an overwhelming body of research that supports regular aerobic exercise not only to live longer, but also to preserve cognitive function longer,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York City and New York University Grossman Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine. School of Medicine.

The World Health Organization has recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week, while pregnant women should do at least 150 minutes of aerobic and moderate strengthening per week.

3. A healthy BMI

Body mass index is a measurement of body fat that estimates a person’s weight category and potential risk for health problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maintaining a healthy BMI can extend your life by more than a decade, a 2018 study found, and has been linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Regular physical activity and eating healthy foods can help you with this goal.

4. Proper food

Eating more plant-based foods provides a great source of antioxidants, Goldberg said. “Oxidation is a sign of stress in our system and can lead to changes in plaque buildup in the arteries and such,” she said. “And this oxidation is also associated with aging.”

Tips for the future of nutrition
You can extend your life by eating less red and processed meat and more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, according to a February study published in the journal PLOS Medicine. The potential benefits are especially strong if you start young—women who started eating optimally at age 20 could increase life expectancy by just over 10 years, while men who started at the same age could add 13 years.

At mealtimes, at least half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, Goldberg said. Also, what is important is “not only what’s in the food, but how you prepare it,” she added. “So baking and boiling is better than frying.”

5. Pay attention to mental well-being

Mental health is often “such an overlooked part of our overall health, but it actually contributes a huge amount to overall health and well-being,” Wen said.

Recent years have brought stress and anxiety, which can affect blood pressure, sleep, dietary choices, alcohol intake or efforts to quit smoking, Goldberg said.

Get plenty of sleep, healthy meals, and exercise as part of your routine.  What's missing?
Carving out just 15 minutes for some mental health hygiene can make your life easier, experts say. Try taking deep breaths after waking up, being present with your morning coffee instead of being distracted, going for a walk, journaling, and taking screen breaks.
The benefits of these mindfulness practices come from lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone linked to health complications. Being able to better regulate your emotions—which can be achieved through meditation—has been associated with health resilience at older ages.

6. Too much sleep

People who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to have higher levels of stress hormones, blood sugar and blood pressure, Goldberg said.

You can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep by exercising regularly and having good sleep hygiene. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cool at night and use it only for sleep and sex.

7. Drink less

“For a long time, people have associated alcohol with a healthier heart,” Goldberg said. But “Huge alcohol intake can actually be a direct toxin to the heart muscle and result in heart failure. And it also raises (blood sugar levels) and causes weight gain.”

Avoiding excessive alcohol can add at least a few years to your life by lowering your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, a 2020 study found.

8. Not smoking

“Smoking is a major risk factor that increases the likelihood of multiple cancers — not just lung cancer, but also things like breast cancer,” Wen said. It also “increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and other life-shortening conditions.”

If you’re a regular smoker, it’s not too late to quit to extend your life, Wen added.

6 steps you can take to quit smoking and live a healthier life

9. Build strong relationships

Close, positive relationships add happiness and comfort to our lives and reduce stress, experts say. Studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and community have fewer health problems, live longer and experience less depression and cognitive decline later in life, according to Harvard Health.

If implementing all these habits seems like a lot, think of them as a gradual build, Wen said. “We may not be perfect at everything all the time,” she said, “but (there are) things we can do to improve in one or more dimensions, and we can commit to that kind of style improvement of life.”

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