Genetics and environmental factors aside, you actually have a lot of control over how well you age and how long you live. It’s good news because every day you have an opportunity to make better, healthier choices.
In 2012, U.S. News and World Reports published the How to Live to 100 Project.
Lindsay Lyon, staff writer and senior editor for the Consumer Advice section, compiled research findings by different age groups. She found there are over 20 basic lifestyle choices you can control to age well naturally. Many seem like basic things you should already know, but they’re worth repeating.
Cut your chances of being mowed down prematurely by major scourges like heart disease and cancer by exercising regularly. Get your heart rate up for 150 minutes each week through moderately intense aerobic activities, such as brisk walking, or for 75 weekly minutes through more intense activities, such as jogging.
Strength training at least twice a week is also important, according to the CDC.
Extra pounds can set the stage for arthritis and mobility problems.
Fruit, vegetables, and fish are staples of a healthy diet.
LIMIT OR AVOID RED MEAT
Limit red meat to no more than 18 (cooked weight) ounces per week, suggests the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Harvard School of Public Health researchers recently linked daily consumption of red meat—particularly processed varieties—with increased risk of premature death, especially from cancer and heart disease.
DRINK WATER – LIMIT OR AVOID ALCOHOL COMPLETELY
Limit alcohol: no more than two daily drinks for men and one for women.
Floss daily to prevent the buildup of gum-disease-causing bacteria, which are increasingly being implicated in heart disease.
Too little sleep can lower your immunity and invite obesity to accidents. One sleepless night can be the equivalent of being drunk, so you don’t want to drive. Consistently getting at least 9 hours of sleep is best. 10 hours for teenagers.
KICK THE HABIT
Even at older ages, quitting smoking may still add years to your life. Here’s a research-tested trick: When the urge to light up strikes, imagine, say, having to breathe through a tracheotomy tube as opposed to the feel-good sensation of taking a drag. Evoking smoking’s serious potential consequences helps quell cravings.
KEEP YOUR BRAIN STIMULATED
Flex your mental muscle by writing, reading, or playing games, such as crossword puzzles. Despite there being no proven way to cut the chances of Alzheimer’s, some research suggests that keeping the brain active from childhood on may somewhat armor against the disease.
Apply and reapply sunscreen and sport a brimmed hat and UV-blocking shades whenever it’s sunny to avoid skin cancer and cataracts.
LIMIT EXPOSURE TO RADIATION
Excessive testing—even preventive screenings—and over-reliance on medications, such as antibiotics, can actually be harmful. Before taking any medication or agreeing to any procedure, discuss with your doctor the pros and cons. If you’re uncertain, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.
BEWARE ANTI-AGING TREATMENTS
Watch out for anti-aging treatments: Nothing can turn back the clock and some therapies can be dangerous. Your money and health are on the line.
You can get a ballpark idea of how long you can expect to live with centenarian researcher Thomas Perls’ Life Expectancy Calculator. The roughly 10-minute, 40-question test helps reveal the affect your health-related behaviors could have on your longevity, and suggests ways to adjust your lifestyle to add years.
20s and 30s:
HABITS IN 20S & 30S AFFECT AGING
Your lifestyle now can affect how well (or poorly) you age.
DEVELOP POSITIVE COPING MECHANISMS FOR STRESSORS
Develop “positive coping skills,” or healthy ways to manage life’s stressors. Deadline looming? Rather than shoveling chips into your mouth, go on a run or bike ride. Meditate. Now’s the time to lay down a lifelong foundation for healthy living.
Cultivate a positive outlook on aging. No one wants to grow old, but evidence
suggests a link between harboring a negative view and heart attack and stroke susceptibility.
PROTECT YOUR HEARING
Safeguard your hearing. Noises over 85 decibels, roughly the volume of a hair dryer, can inflict permanent damage.
MAINTAIN A HEALTHY WEIGHT FOR YOUR HEIGHT
Maintain a healthy weight.
40s and 50s:
LIMIT PROCESSED FOODS AND SUGARS
Limit processed foods that combine sugar and fat; research suggests this combo is highly addictive.
Keep up with weekly strength-training sessions to maintain lean muscle mass.
NATURAL SUNLIGHT IS BEST TO GET YOUR DAILY VITAMIN D
Don’t skimp on calcium and vitamin D—both promote bone health. This chart, from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), outlines recommended daily intake by age and gender.
Men and women ages 51 to 70 are generally advised to get 1,000 milligrams and 1,200 mg of calcium, respectively, and 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D each day.
(Read labels. Don’t overdo any supplement –or you can damage liver and kidneys)
60s and up:
GET YOUR EYES CHECKED ANNUALLY
Once you turn 65, make sure to get an annual eye exam. Age-related vision problems can arise slowly, often unnoticed.
FALL PROOF YOUR HOME
Take care to avoid falls—the No. 1 cause of injury-related death for the 65-plus set. Potential preventives include balance-building activities such as tai chi, and making practical changes around the house, like installing “grab bars” near the shower.
CONTINUE TO EXERCISE DAILY
Maintain your fitness to prolong good health and ability to live independently. If 150 minutes of physical activity per week seems daunting, try dividing it into three 10-minute blocks, five days per week.
KEEP UP WITH ANNUAL SCREENINGS
Stay up to date on recommended cancer screening tests, such as colonoscopies, and immunizations, such as flu and pneumonia shots, especially ages 50 plus.
KNOW SIGNS OF A STROKE AND CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY
Know the warning signs of top killers, such as stroke. Call 911 immediately if you notice symptoms. For stroke, they include numbness in your face and limbs, sudden difficulty seeing or speaking, dizziness, and/or a sudden severe headache.
CHECK out How to Live 100 ebook now available.
Healthy, positive, supportive relationships are a big part of aging well. Turns out, married men are healthier, wealthier and live longer. The longest-running study of longevity ever conducted is the Terman Life-Cycle Study, begun in 1921. 1,528 men and women, were 11-years old when the study started, were followed for their lifetime. The group who lived the longest were those who got married and stayed married. The study revealed consistency made a positive difference in their lives. You’re more likely to stick to healthy habits when your partner is like-minded.
Saturday, April 13, tune into Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CHASING LIFE. He travels the world to find not so common secrets to living well longer. 9pmET/PT on CNN.
CHECK OUT HIS BOOK HERE:
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Maria Dorfner is a health journalist and producer, who began her career at NBC in 1983 working behind-the-scenes on the Today Show. Three years after commuting from Brooklyn, New York, she moved to New York City. In 1989, she purchased her first car, which she needed to drive from New York City to Ft. Lee, New Jersey with fellow producers to help launch CNBC. She then worked as a reporter for Top Cops, syndicated by CBS and as a producer for The Rush Limbaugh Show and Profiles with Liz Smith pilots, nationally syndicated. In 1993, she created and produced Healthy Living, Lifestyles and Longevity, Healthcare Consumers and more. The shows generated more revenue and profits for the production company than any others in their history. She covered health for NBC Miami and produced the weekly JAMA Report airing on all networks, co-founded and launched Cleveland Clinic News Service. While based in North Carolina for two years, she field produced and directed 21st Century Medicine for Discovery. She traveled extensively for the documentary series, conducting interviews with pioneers in medicine.
She is the recipient a Medical Reporting Scholarship from the American Medical Association, Freddie Award for Excellence in Medical Reporting, Media Recognition Award from the American Heart Association for her series, Heart Smart airing on NBC, nominated for an Alfred I. DuPont Award for best new talk show, Outstanding Leadership Abilities Award from Pace University and National Association of Female Executives, an Advanced Writing Scholarship from NBC, Commitment to the Advancement of Women in Media Award, and a 2019 Albert Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in her field. Maria mentors journalism and marketing students at her alma mater, Pace University, where she was a member of the National English Honor Society and won Miss Pace University and an Outstanding Achievement Award from Pace and March of Dimes. She was awarded an Advanced Writing scholarship for graduate work at Columbia University from NBC NEWS and wrote The Ivy League Roundup covering health.
She is the author of Healthy Within and PRESSure: Break Into Broadcasting and an Italian cookbook based on her grandmother’s recipes. Health Heart and Humor in an Italian-American Kitchen.
You can follow her on Twitter at @Maria_Dorfner | email@example.com
She is the founder of NewsMD.
This is her blog.