Did you know that a recent study published in the Journal of Preventative Medicine found that adherence to a healthy lifestyle is directly associated with a lower risk of mortality (1)? That means that the daily choices you make can directly affect the length of your life, with a few key areas making the biggest impact.
Increasing our longevity is not the only benefit of these four recommendations. It will also increase the quality of life in those years. That is, to me, more important than having a long life. Having a life where you can be active to travel and play with grandchildren and take walks and play golf and live life to its fullest.
Let’s take a look at four of the areas that affect longevity most and some specific changes you can make in the next two weeks.
1. Get consistent and adequate sleep
It’s not just duration, but the consistency of our sleep habits that impact our overall health (2).
Researchers discovered that fluctuating amounts of sleep and irregular bedtimes and wake-up times put people at an increased risk for obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other health problems (3).
Sleep is essential for physical and mental well-being and is one of the most important factors responsible for the maintenance of health (4).
A disrupted sleep-wake cycle and chronic sleep restriction, which are highly prevalent conditions in modern society, are strongly associated with age-related diseases. Therefore, the practice of sleep medicine as a tool for longevity is essential (5).
What you can do in the next two weeks: Decide on a time that you’ll consistently go to sleep and wake up for the next two weeks so that you can get 7-8 hours of deep, therapeutic sleep.
2. Incorporate daily movement
A study published in the British Medical Journal finds that any activity, no matter how modest, can reduce mortality risks, with some of the greatest gains seen when people shift from being almost completely sedentary toward rising and walking for even an extra hour each day (6).
While thinking of adding an hour of movement to a sedentary lifestyle may seem daunting, don’t fret – starting with small goals is key! Maintain your focus on sitting less and moving more. Your ultimate goal should be about 150 minutes of movement per week or 20 minutes per day (7).
You can also incorporate simple movement swaps to meet this goal, like parking farther away from the store or taking the stairs instead of the escalator.
Remember, small goals are more achievable, and these little victories will continue to fuel your motivation for regular movement.
What you can do in the next two weeks: Start with a simple routine of walking 10 to 20 minutes three times per week. Every week or two, add five minutes per walk until you reach a goal of 20-30 minutes.
Water is an essential nutrient for the human body. Living in a properly hydrated body is vital for longevity, as water is responsible for flushing toxins, transporting nutrients, improving oxygen delivery to cells, and cushioning your bones and joints.
Aim to drink half your body weight in fluid ounces per day. For example: if you weigh 140 lbs, drink 70 oz daily. Sip slowly throughout the day and avoid drinking too much water with meals. If this seems like a lofty goal, start by looking at the color of your urine, it should be straw-colored or clear. If it’s a deep yellow, drink more water.
Incorporate hydrating beverages like good quality filtered water, herbal tea, and bone broth. Do your best to avoid sodas, juices, and other sugary drinks, while limiting coffee and caffeinated tea.
What you can do in the next two weeks: choose a realistic goal for daily water consumption and set a timer to remind yourself to drink water throughout the day.
4. Healthy Diet
It should come as no surprise that a healthy diet is key to living a long, healthy life.
Focus on high-quality proteins like grass-fed meat and wild caught fish, healthy fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, and generous amounts of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals that are found in organic fruits and vegetables.
Together with incorporating nutrient-dense foods, avoid industrial fats and oils (like yellow vegetable oil), processed foods, and excessive sugar.
What you can do in the next two weeks: include at least two servings of vegetables a day and swap out processed vegetable oil with healthier alternatives such as olive oil for salad dressings and coconut oil for cooking.
While adherence to a healthy lifestyle may feel intimidating at first, know that any step in the right direction is a win. Incorporating simple changes and setting achievable goals, like the four suggestions listed above, will help you support longevity and encourage overall health!
1. Loef, M., & Walach, H. (2012). The combined effects of healthy lifestyle behaviors on all cause mortality: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine, 55(3), 163–170. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.06.017
2-3. Missone. “Irregular Sleep Habits Linked to Poor Health.” Cleveland Clinic Newsroom, Cleveland Clinic Newsroom, 19 Aug. 2019, https://newsroom.clevelandclinic.org/2019/08/19/irregular-sleep-habits-linked-to-poor-health/.
4. Tufik, S., Andersen, M. L., Bittencourt, L. R., and Mello, M. T. (2009). Paradoxical sleep deprivation: neurochemical, hormonal and behavioral alterations. Evidence from 30 years of research. An. Acad. Bras. Cienc. 81, 521–538. doi: 10.1590/S0001-37652009000300016
5. Mazzotti, Diego Robles, et al. “Human Longevity Is Associated with Regular Sleep Patterns, Maintenance of Slow Wave Sleep, and Favorable Lipid Profile.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 1 Jan. 1AD, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00134/full.
6. Ekelund, Ulf, et al. “Dose-Response Associations between Accelerometry Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time and All Cause Mortality: Systematic Review and Harmonised Meta-Analysis.” The BMJ, British Medical Journal Publishing Group, 21 Aug. 2019, https://www.bmj.com/content/366/bmj.l4570.
7. Marwa A. Ahmed, MD. “Can Exercise Extend Your Life?” Harvard Health, 13 Mar. 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-exercise-extend-your-life-2019031316207.