13 Ways Diet and Lifestyle Can Help You Live a Longer Life
Many people think life expectancy is largely determined by genetics. However, it seems that genes play a much smaller role than originally believed.
Here are 13 things you can do to increase the chances of seeing your 100th birthday:
1. Avoid Overeating
The link between calorie intake and longevity currently generates a lot of interest.
Research shows that a 10–50 percent reduction in normal calorie intake may increase maximum lifespan—at least in some animal studies (1).
That being said, long-term calorie restriction is often unsustainable and can include negative side effects, such as increased hunger, low body temperature and a diminished sex drive (3).
Whether calorie restriction slows aging or extends life in humans is not yet fully understood.
Bottom Line: Limiting your calories may help you live longer and protect against disease. However, more research is needed in humans.
2. Eat Some Nuts
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses.
Several studies show that nuts have beneficial effects on heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, belly fat levels and even some forms of cancer (9, 10, 11, 12).
When it comes to old age, a recent study observed that subjects who consumed at least three servings of nuts per week had a 39 percent lower risk of premature death (13).
Similarly, two recent reviews including more than 350,000 subjects observed that those who ate nuts had a 4–27 percent lower risk of dying during the study period, with the highest reduction for those who ate one serving of nuts per day (14, 15).
Bottom Line: Adding some nuts to your daily food intake may keep you healthy and help you live longer.
3. Use The Spice Turmeric
Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin is thought to help maintain brain, heart and lung function, as well as protect against cancers and fight age-related diseases (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22).
Nevertheless, turmeric has been consumed for thousands of years in other parts of the world and is generally considered safe.
Moreover, given its other potential benefits, you don't have much to lose by adding a little extra turmeric to your meals.
Bottom Line: Curcumin, the main bioactive compound in turmeric, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some animal studies suggest that it can increase lifespan.
4. Eat Plenty of Healthy Plant Foods
For example, many studies link the Mediterranean diet to a lower risk of premature death. It's also been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression and brain deterioration (28, 29, 30, 31).
These effects are attributed to plant foods being rich in a variety of nutrients and antioxidants, including polyphenols, carotenoids, folate and vitamin C (32).
One thing remains clear—eating plenty of plant foods is very likely to benefit health and longevity.
Bottom Line: Eating plenty of plant foods is likely to help you live longer and remain free of various common diseases.
5. Exercise and Be Physically Active
It should come as no surprise that staying physically active can keep you healthy and add years to your life (40).
The minimum amount needed to reap the benefits, such as an additional three years of life, may be as little as 15 minutes per day (41).
Furthermore, the benefits of physical activity seem to be additive, which means that the risk of premature death may decrease by 4 percent for each additional 15 minutes of daily physical activity (41).
A recent review observed a 22 percent lower risk of early death in individuals who exercised, but less than the recommendation of 150 minutes per week (42).
However, people reaching the 150-minute recommendation were 28 percent less likely to die early. What's more, people who exercised beyond that had a 35 percent lower risk of death during the study period (42).
Finally, some research links vigorous activity to a 5 percent greater reduction in risk, compared to activities of low or moderate intensity (43).
Bottom Line: Exercising more than 150 minutes per week is best, but even small amounts of physical activity can benefit health and longevity.
6. Don't Smoke
Smoking is strongly linked to disease and early death (44).
Overall, men and women who smoke may lose up to 10 years of their lives and be three times more likely to die prematurely than those who never pick up a cigarette (45).
Fortunately, it's never too late to quit.
One study reports that individuals who quit smoking by 35 years of age may prolong their lives by up to 8.5 years (46).
Bottom Line: Putting out your cigarette can significantly prolong your life. It's never too late to reap the benefits of quitting smoking.
7. Keep Your Alcohol Intake Moderate
Wine is thought to be particularly beneficial due to its high content of polyphenol antioxidants.
Results from a 29-year study showed that men who preferred wine were 34 percent less likely to die early than those who preferred beer or spirits (49).
In addition, a review observed wine to be especially protective against heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders and metabolic syndrome (50).
To keep consumption moderate, it is recommended that women aim for 1–2 units or less per day and a maximum of 7 units per week. Men should keep their daily intake to less than 3 units daily, with a maximum of 14 units per week (51).
It's important to note there is no strong research indicating that the benefits linked to moderate drinking are greater than those of not consuming any alcohol.
In other words, there is no need to start drinking if you don't usually consume alcohol.
Bottom Line: If you drink alcohol, maintaining a moderate intake may help prevent disease and prolong your life. Wine may be particularly beneficial.
8. Prioritize Your Happiness
Feeling happy can significantly increase your longevity (52).
In fact, happier individuals had a 3.7 percent reduction in early death over a 5-year study period (53).
A study of 180 Catholic nuns analyzed their self-reported levels of happiness when they first entered the monastery and later compared these levels to their longevity.
Those who felt happiest at 22 years of age were 2.5 times more likely to still be alive six decades later (54).
Finally, a review of 35 studies showed that happy people may live up to 18 percent longer than their less happy counterparts (55).
Bottom Line: Prioritizing what makes you happy is likely to have positive effects, both on your mood and your ability to live longer.
9. Avoid Chronic Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety and stress may significantly decrease your lifespan.
If you're feeling stressed, laughter and optimism could be two key components of the solution.
Studies show that pessimistic individuals have a 42 percent higher risk of early death than their more optimistic counterparts. However, both laughter and an optimistic outlook on life can reduce stress, potentially prolonging your life (62, 63, 64, 65).
Bottom Line: Finding ways to reduce your anxiety and stress levels should be seen as a long-term investment in your lifespan. Also, having an optimistic outlook on life can be beneficial.
10. Nurture Your Social Circle
Researchers report that maintaining healthy social networks can help you live up to 50 percent longer (66).
In fact, having as few as three social ties may decrease your risk of early death by more than 200 percent (67).
Finally, one study reports that providing support may actually be more beneficial than receiving it. So in addition to accepting support from your friends and family, make sure you return the favor (75).
Bottom Line: Nurturing close relationships may result in decreased stress levels, improved immunity and an extended lifespan.
11. Increase Your Conscientiousness
Conscientiousness refers to a person's ability to be self-disciplined, organized, efficient and goal-oriented.
Based on data from a study that followed 1,500 boys and girls into old age, kids who were considered persistent, organized and disciplined grew up to live 11 percent longer than their less conscientious counterparts (76, 77).
Conscientious people may also have lower blood pressure and fewer psychiatric conditions, as well as a lower risk of diabetes and heart or joint problems (78).
This might be partly because conscientious individuals are less likely to take risks and react negatively to stress, but more likely to lead successful professional lives and be responsible about their health (79, 80, 81, 82).
Luckily, conscientiousness can be developed at any stage in life, even through steps as small as tidying up a desk, sticking to a work plan or being on time.
Bottom Line: Being conscientious is associated with a longer lifespan and fewer health problems in old age.
12. Drink Coffee or Tea
Both coffee and tea are linked to a decreased risk of chronic disease.
Just remember that too much caffeine can also lead to anxiety and insomnia, so you may want to limit your intake to the recommended 400 mg per day maximum, which is the equivalent of 4 cups of coffee or less (98, 99).
It's also worth noting that it generally takes 6 hours for caffeine's effects to subside.
Therefore, if you have trouble getting enough high-quality sleep, you may want to shift your intake to earlier in the day.
Bottom Line: Moderate consumption of tea and coffee may be beneficial for healthy aging and longevity.
13. Develop a Good Sleeping Pattern
A recent study reports that longevity is likely linked to regular sleeping patterns, such as going to bed and waking up around the same time each day (100).
Sleep duration also seems to be a factor, with both too little and too much sleep being harmful.
For instance, sleeping less than 5–7 hours per night is linked to a 12 percent greater risk of early death, while sleeping more than 8–9 hours per night could also decrease your lifespan by up to 38 percent (101, 102).
Researchers believe that getting too little sleep can promote inflammation and increase the risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. These are all linked to a shortened lifespan (103, 104, 105, 106).
On the other hand, excessive sleep could be linked to depression, unemployment, low physical activity and undiagnosed health conditions, all of which may negatively affect lifespan (107).
Bottom Line: Developing a sleep routine that includes 7–8 hours of sleep each night may help you live longer.
Take Home Message
Longevity is partly determined by genetics. However, a large part of how long you live remains within your control.
If you want to reach old age, then make sure to give these tips a try.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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