13 Habits Linked to a Long Life (Backed by Science)
Many people think that life expectancy is largely determined by genetics.
However, genes play a much smaller role than originally believed. It turns out that environmental factors like diet and lifestyle are key.
Here are 13 habits linked to a long life.
1. Avoid Overeating
The link between calorie intake and longevity currently generates a lot of interest.
Animal studies suggest that a 10–50% reduction in normal calorie intake may increase maximum lifespan (1).
That 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 your lifespan is not yet fully understood.
Limiting your calories may help you live longer and protect against disease. However, more human research is needed.
2. Eat More Nuts
Nuts are nutritional powerhouses.
They're rich in protein, fiber, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds. What's more, they're a great source of several vitamins and minerals, such as copper, magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin and vitamins B6 and E (8).
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).
One study found that people who consumed at least 3 servings of nuts per week had a 39% lower risk of premature death (13).
Similarly, two recent reviews including over 350,000 people noted that those who ate nuts had a 4–27% lower risk of dying during the study period — with the greatest reductions seen in those who ate 1 serving of nuts per day (14, 15).
Adding some nuts to your daily routine may keep you healthy and help you live longer.
3. Try Out Turmeric
When it comes to anti-aging strategies, turmeric is a great option. That's because this spice contains a potent bioactive compound called curcumin.
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 age-related diseases (16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22).
Nevertheless, turmeric has been consumed for thousands of years in India and is generally considered safe.
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
Consuming a wide variety of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans, may decrease disease risk and promote longevity.
For example, many studies link a plant-rich diet to a lower risk of premature death, as well as a reduced risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression and brain deterioration (28, 29, 30, 31).
These effects are attributed to plant foods' nutrients and antioxidants, which include polyphenols, carotenoids, folate and vitamin C (32).
Vegetarians and vegans also generally tend to be more health-conscious than meat eaters, which could at least partly explain these findings.
Overall, eating plenty of plant foods is likely to benefit health and longevity.
Eating plenty of plant foods is likely to help you live longer and lower your risk of various common diseases.
5. Stay Physically Active
It should come as no surprise that staying physically active can keep you healthy and add years to your life (40).
Furthermore, your risk of premature death may decrease by 4% for each additional 15 minutes of daily physical activity (41).
A recent review observed a 22% lower risk of early death in individuals who exercised — even though they worked out less than the recommended 150 minutes per week (42).
People who hit the 150-minute recommendation were 28% less likely to die early. What's more, that number was 35% for those who exercised beyond this guidance (42).
Finally, some research links vigorous activity to a 5% greater reduction in risk compared to low- or moderate-intensity activities (43).
Regular physical activity can extend your lifespan. Exercising more than 150 minutes per week is best, but even small amounts can help.
6. Don't Smoke
Smoking is strongly linked to disease and early death (44).
Overall, people who smoke may lose up to 10 years of life and be 3 times more likely to die prematurely than those who never pick up a cigarette (45).
Keep in mind that it's never too late to quit.
One study reports that individuals who quit smoking by age 35 may prolong their lives by up to 8.5 years (46).
Stopping smoking can significantly prolong your life — and it's never too late to quit.
7. Moderate Your Alcohol Intake
Wine is considered particularly beneficial due to its high content of polyphenol antioxidants.
Results from a 29-year study showed that men who preferred wine were 34% less likely to die early than those who preferred beer or spirits (49).
In addition, one 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 per week. Men should keep their daily intake to less than 3 units, with a maximum of 14 per week (51).
It's important to note that no strong research indicates that the benefits of moderate drinking are greater than those of abstaining from alcohol.
In other words, there is no need to start drinking if you don't usually consume alcohol.
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
In fact, happier individuals had a 3.7% 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% longer than their less happy counterparts (55).
Happiness likely has positive effects not only for your mood but also your lifespan.
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% higher risk of early death than more optimistic people. However, both laughter and a positive outlook on life can reduce stress, potentially prolonging your life (62, 63, 64, 65).
Finding ways to reduce your anxiety and stress levels can extend your lifespan. Maintaining an optimistic outlook on life can be beneficial, too.
10. Nurture Your Social Circle
Researchers report that maintaining healthy social networks can help you live up to 50% longer (66).
In fact, having just 3 social ties may decrease your risk of early death by more than 200% (67).
Finally, one study reports that providing support to others may be more beneficial than receiving it. In addition to accepting care from your friends and family, make sure to return the favor (75).
Nurturing close relationships may result in decreased stress levels, improved immunity and an extended lifespan.
11. Be More Conscientious
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 lived 11% 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 dangerous risks or react negatively to stress — and more likely to lead successful professional lives or be responsible about their health (79, 80, 81).
Conscientiousness can be developed at any stage in life through steps as small as tidying up a desk, sticking to a work plan or being on time.
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.
It's also worth noting that it generally takes six 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.
Moderate consumption of tea and coffee may benefit healthy aging and longevity.
13. Develop a Good Sleeping Pattern
Sleep is crucial for regulating cell function and helping your body heal.
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 (99).
Sleep duration also seems to be a factor, with both too little and too much being harmful.
For instance, sleeping less than 5–7 hours per night is linked to a 12% greater risk of early death, while sleeping more than 8–9 hours per night could also decrease your lifespan by up to 38% (100, 101).
On the other hand, excessive sleep could be linked to depression, low physical activity and undiagnosed health conditions, all of which may negatively affect your lifespan (106).
Developing a sleep routine that includes 7–8 hours of sleep each night may help you live longer.
The Bottom Line
Longevity may seem beyond your control, but many healthy habits may lead you to a ripe, old age.
These include drinking coffee or tea, exercising, getting enough sleep and limiting your alcohol intake.
Taken together, these habits can boost your health and put you on the path to a long life.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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By Kate Whiting
Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.
These are the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Statista<p>"The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it's found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we're going to import," says Dapaah, one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders.</p><p>"It's a new innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana."</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a335b5dffdd806bd6bb4debea90c2045"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dxsb9c4HMn0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Supporting Students<p>Besides encouraging Ghanaians to swap vehicles for affordable bikes, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is helping students save time on walking to school so they have more time to learn.</p><p>Each time they sell a bike, they donate a bike to a schoolchild in a rural community, who might otherwise have to walk for hours to get to school.</p><p>Dapaah knows how transformative a shorter journey to school can be to academic performance. She grew up living with her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3joGYmx9A&feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">grandpa, a forester in a rural part of the country</a>.</p><p>"We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university."</p><p>The experience inspired her to launch Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with two other students at college.</p><p>"When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.</p><p>"Why don't we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books."</p><p>To date, they have sold more than 3,000 road, mountain and children's bikes – and Dapaah says they plan to donate <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/350343" target="_blank">10,000 bikes to schoolchildren over five years</a>.</p>
Empowering Women<p>The enterprise is also providing local jobs. It teaches young people to build bikes, particularly women and those in rural communities, where jobs can be scarce. More than 50% of people they have trained are women.</p><p>Dapaah says they want to boost the number of people they employ to 250 over the next five years and they are looking to partner with NGOs to build a childcare facility so mothers can continue to work.</p>
Reducing Emissions<p>By promoting a cycling culture in Ghana, Dapaah says they're also committed to reducing emissions in the transport sector and contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.</p><p>"I love the idea of reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling. People want to go green, low-carbon, lean-energy efficient," she says.</p>
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By Kristen Pope
Melting and crumbling glaciers are largely responsible for rising sea levels, so learning more about how glaciers shrink is vital to those who hope to save coastal cities and preserve wildlife.
Groans, Creaks, Icebergs’ Calving Splashes<p>Oskar Glowacki already knew that melting glacial ice sounds like frying bacon. As ice bubbles burst, anyone nearby can hear crackling and popping, said Glowacki, a postdoctoral scholar at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Using hydrophones, he and other scientists now can make more nuanced measurements of how a changing climate sounds underwater, from the groans, creaks and splashes of a calving iceberg to the changes in whale songs as the ocean warms.</p><p>Glowacki recently used a pair of hydrophones to study the underwater world of glaciers, publishing his findings in <a href="https://www.the-cryosphere.net/14/1025/2020/" target="_blank">The Cryosphere</a>. He and co-author Grant B. Deane measured glacier retreat by <a href="https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2020/07/melting-glaciers-sound-like-frying-bacon/" target="_blank">recording the sounds of ice</a> – from small chunks to enormous slabs – falling off the glacier and splashing into the water.</p><p>During the summer of 2016, Glowacki's team placed two hydrophones near Hansbreen Glacier in Hornsund Fjord, Svalbard. For a month and a half, they recorded sounds, also using three time-lapse cameras to collect images – including the "drop height" (how far the ice fell into the water) – so they could compare photos to the recordings. The team created a formula to represent the relationship between the size of a piece of ice falling from a glacier and the sound it makes underwater, also accounting for the pieces of ice falling from varying heights. (Hear an example of the sound an iceberg makes while calving <a href="https://soundcloud.com/user-248456662/iceberg-calving-hansbreen-glacier" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p>
Unlocking Information About Antarctic Ice Shelf<p>Other researchers also are using hydrophones to learn more about crumbling glaciers. Bob Dziak, research oceanographer with the NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory <a href="https://www.pmel.noaa.gov/acoustics" target="_blank">acoustics research group</a>, captured a massive calving event of the Nansen Ice Shelf in Antarctica with a hydrophone. He published the results with colleagues in <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/feart.2019.00183/full" target="_blank">Frontiers in Earth Science</a></p><p>On April 7, 2016, satellite images showed a massive calving event had occurred on the ice shelf. The paper described it as the "first large scale calving event in >30 years."</p><p>However, once Dziak and colleagues delved into the data from three hydrophones deployed 60 kilometers east of the ice shelf, they uncovered a series of "icequakes" from January to early March 2016. He and other researchers believe that much of the ice actually broke free in mid-January to February, but it remained in the same location until an April storm – which their paper described as the "largest low-pressure storm recorded in the previous seven months" – broke the ice free.</p><p>"We suspected that the icebergs broke apart but remained in place – kind of pinned in place – until a major storm with high winds passed through the area and, finally, it was that last push that pushed the icebergs out to sea," Dziak says.</p><p>He and his co-authors wrote that "fortuitous timing and proximity of the hydrophone deployment presented a rare opportunity to study cryogenic signals and ocean ambient sounds of a large-scale ice shelf calving and iceberg formation event."</p>
Listening to Songs of Humpback Whales<p><a href="https://www.mbari.org/" target="_blank">Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute</a> studies the ocean, including its acoustics. One of the institute's projects involves examining the soundscape of California's Monterey Bay, including sounds from animals, humans, weather, and geologic processes like earthquakes. The researchers once even recorded an under-sea landslide. They also focus on recording and analyzing the <a href="http://www.mbari.org/humpback-song/" target="_blank">songs of humpback whales</a>. Male humpback whales' songs can be over 15 minutes in length, and they can be repeated for long periods of time – even hours. Listening to these songs and analyzing them can provide unique insights into the lives of these complex animals.</p><p>"Any time we want to study marine mammals, sound gives us a window into their lives because they use sound for all of their essential life activities, really," says institute biological oceanographer John Ryan. "Communication, foraging, reproduction, navigation – depending on the species, of course."</p><p>Previously, scientists had thought singing occurred only during courtship and mating, but now they think whales may also use song while migrating and hunting. They know song has a crucial role in the whales' lives.</p><p>"There's a whole other dimension to humpback whale song," Ryan says. "It is a mode of cultural transmission in this species. They learn songs from each other. They share songs as a population, and when populations mix and mingle, they learn new ideas, they explore with their song, improvise, and it's a real essential part of their culture."</p>
By William S. Lynn, Arian Wallach and Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila
A number of conservationists claim cats are a zombie apocalypse for biodiversity that need to be removed from the outdoors by "any means necessary" – coded language for shooting, trapping and poisoning. Various media outlets have portrayed cats as murderous superpredators. Australia has even declared an official "war" against cats.
Faulty Scientific Reasoning<p>In our <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13527" target="_blank">most recent publication</a> in the journal Conservation Biology, we examine an error of reasoning that props up the moral panic over cats.</p><p>Scientists do not simply collect data and analyze the results. They also establish a logical argument to explain what they observe. Thus, the reasoning behind a factual claim is equally important to the observations used to make that claim. And it is this reasoning about cats where claims about their threat to global biodiversity founder. In our analysis, we found it happens because many scientists take specific, local studies and overgeneralize those findings to the world at large.</p><p>Even when specific studies are good overall, projecting the combined "results" onto the world at large can cause unscientific overgeneralizations, particularly when <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2015.01.003" target="_blank">ecological context is ignored</a>. It is akin to pulling a quote out of context and then assuming you understand its meaning.</p>
Ways Forward<p>So how might citizens and scientists chart a way forward to a more nuanced understanding of cat ecology and conservation?</p><p>First, those examining this issue on all sides can acknowledge that both the well-being of cats and the survival of threatened species are legitimate concerns.</p><p>Second, cats, like any other predator, affect their ecological communities. Whether that impact is good or bad is a complex value judgment, not a scientific fact.</p><p>Third, there is a need for a more rigorous approach to the study of cats. Such an approach must be mindful of the importance of ecological context and avoid the pitfalls of faulty reasoning. It also means resisting <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/cobi.13126" target="_blank">the siren call of a silver (lethal) bullet</a>.</p>
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