7 Healthy Lifestyle Changes to Help You Live Longer
December 29, 2020 | Healthy Aging
You may have wondered how some people live until age 100 or more. Although research suggests that number may be determined by our genetics, there are healthy lifestyle changes we can adopt to help us live the longest, healthiest life possible. The day-to-day choices we make can influence whether we maintain our health, develop illnesses or any other disabling conditions. From quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol, staying hydrated and more, here are 7 healthy lifestyle changes to help you live longer.
Tips to Help Seniors Increase Life Expectancy
1. Stop smoking
Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the United States. According to the CDC, it kills more than 480,000 Americans each year, and the life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for nonsmokers. Smoking health effects include:
- Buerger’s Disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Eye diseases
- Gum disease
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Mental health diseases (depression and anxiety)
No matter how old you are, kicking the smoking habit is a healthy lifestyle change that can offer a variety of health benefits. It will lower your risk of cancer and diabetes over time, improve your sense of taste and smell, help your blood vessels work better, as well as your heart and lungs. Plus, quitting smoking helps set a good example for your loved ones. To learn more about how to quit smoking, read Is It Worth Stopping Smoking at 60+? Find Out.
2. Eat plenty of healthy foods
Research shows that eating the right foods can increase life expectancy. That is why it is important to eat a well-balanced and nutrient-rich diet. The CDC suggests that you add healthy fats to your diet as they are important for your brain and heart, and cut out trans fats found in processed foods. Some examples of healthy fats are olive oil, nuts, seeds, certain types of fish, and avocados. You should cut out sodium as it can increase blood pressure, which raises the risk for heart disease and stroke. Add fiber to your diet, such as whole grains and legumes, as it helps you stay fuller for longer.
Research also shows that eating more plant-based proteins can boost longevity. Try adding a variety of color to your plates, specifically foods like dark, leafy greens, fresh herbs, oranges and tomatoes which are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and minerals. If you have any questions in regards to which meal plan works best for you, reach out to your primary care provider or Iora Health Coach.
3. Adopt a pet
Would you believe that owning a pet may help you live longer? In fact, studies from the American Heart Association suggest that pet owners, specifically dog owners, tend to live longer than non-owners. The study suggests that individuals (especially those who live alone) often recover better from major health events such as a heart attack or stroke.
For seniors, it’s easy to have feelings of loneliness, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, interacting with pets can boost your production of “happy hormones,” reduce anxiety and can lead to a greater sense of well-being. And a bonus: Studies show that people who walk their dogs get in more exercise than those who don’t. So, if your living situation, budget and lifestyle support your decision to adopt a pet, maybe you should do so.
4. Keep in contact with those you love
As we age, research suggests our close relationships have a bigger impact on our health and well-being. Not only does research show that the presence of friends and family prolongs one’s life, but it also improves the quality of life. Interacting with friends and family can reduce stress, feelings of depression and support brain health. Although it may be difficult to interact with loved ones at this time, there is plenty you can do to stay connected. Chat over the phone, interact on social media, act as a pen pal, or plan a time to engage in an activity over video call. Make the effort to reach out and tell the people closest to you that you care about them. In the end, your health may depend on it!
5. Cut down on alcohol
According to a 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, more than 10 percent of adults 65 and older are binge drinkers. This is alarming as drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time can cause:
- Brain damage
- Digestive problems
- Forgetfulness, confusion and memory loss which could be mistaken as signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Immune system disorders
- Injuries, such as falling
- Liver damage
- Mental health problems (depression and anxiety)
- Tooth Decay
Cutting back on alcohol is a healthy lifestyle change that can reduce your risk of developing these serious health problems. If you’re looking to cut back on drinking but need some help doing so, your primary care provider can help. You can also use online resources provided by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), including Rethinking Drinking and the Alcohol Treatment Navigator.
6. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is essential for the function of every system in the body, such as the heart, brain and muscles. Drinking a proper amount of water (anywhere from 30 to 50 ounces a day) helps ward off dehydration. Plus, it helps with constipation, allows bacteria to be flushed out of the bladder, keeps your temperature normal and provides essential nutrients to the body. To maintain a good water intake, drink water with each meal and in between meals, before and after exercise and whenever you’re feeling thirsty. If you have certain health conditions such as kidney, liver, heart problems, thyroid disease, or if you’re taking medications that make you retain water, check in with your doctor to make sure you are drinking the right amount.
7. Know when to seek help from a healthcare provider
Nowadays, it is important to stay on top of your health with regular check ups from your healthcare provider. Gone are the days of only going to the doctors if you are sick. Seeing a doctor regularly can help you discover a certain medical issue before it worsens, keep chronic illnesses under control, reduce your risk of getting sick, and more.