Getting older is inevitable. Adopting healthy lifestyle changes can help one age well, and even add a few extra years to his lifespan. Whether it is pursuing a demanding career, eating better or maintaining friendships, accomplishing the feats we most desire requires a healthy foundation. Conscientiousness is associated with a longer lifespan and fewer health problems in old age. Conscientiousness refers to a person’s ability to be self-disciplined, organised, efficient, and goal-oriented.
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. 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 for their health.
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.
Backed by research, discussed below are some ways one can live a Healthy, Happy and Long life,
- Get moving – It is a known fact that exercise is good for the body. In addition to keeping one fit and strong, regular physical activity, even if done in small batches, can also extend one’s lifespan. Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of age-related diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers while strengthening the bones and muscles, and boosting overall life expectancy. Studies have already linked sedentary lifestyles and lack of exercise with a greater risk of premature death. The CDC recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, but one would still enjoy the benefits of exercise in smaller amounts. One study found that just 15 minutes of physical activity a day can increase the lifespan by three years. Research has also shown that exercise can slow and reverse ageing on a cellular level.
- Quit smoking – Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death almost across the globe and has been linked to disease in nearly every organ of the body. On average, smokers die almost 10 years earlier than non-smokers and have three times the mortality rate. That being said, it is never too late to quit. Quitting smoking can add as much as 10 years to one’s life, and reduce the risk of disease or death from a heart attack, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and various other cancers. The younger one quits, the better it is for him and also for his immediate family. Quitting before 40 has been found to reduce the risk of death from smoking-related diseases by about 90%.
- Drink in moderation – Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of heart disease, liver disease, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. All of these can lead to a shorter life span. According to one study, adults who drink 14 to 25 drinks per week could be shortening their life expectancy by one to two years, while those who drink more than 25 drinks may be shortening their lifespan by four to five years. People who drink in moderation — approximately one drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men — are said to be minimising these negative health consequences. Some research suggests that light to moderate drinking (wine especially) may even reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke. Again, it is important to remember 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 one does not usually consume alcohol.
- Avoid chronic stress and anxiety – We all know that stress is an unavoidable part of life. Elevated anxiety and worry can have a significant toll on the body and disrupt almost all of its processes. Research suggests that chronic stress can increase the risk of depression, anxiety disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, inflammation, and obesity, as well as shorten life expectancy. Anxiety and stress significantly decrease one’s lifespan.
According to a study, for instance, heavy stress reduced the lifespans of both men and women by over 2 years.
Luckily, there are various ways to manage stress and protect one’s mental health, from yoga, to therapy and meditation. When one is 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 the lifespan.
- Stay connected – Relationships are more than just emotionally fulfilling; they are beneficial for one’s physical health too! A strong social circle might help one to react less negatively to stress, perhaps further explaining the positive effect on lifespan A clinical review of nearly 150 studies found that individuals with strong social networks, on average, have a 50% greater chance of survival than those with less social support. In fact, according to the study, the health risk of social isolation is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is more significant than being obese or inactive. Having strong, meaningful relationships and friendships can increase feelings of happiness and overall satisfaction with life, as well as reduce stress and improve overall health. Even being supportive of others can be good for one’s health. So one must make sure to prioritise time for family, friends and loved ones.
- Get enough sleep – A regular sleep schedule is crucial to one’s body’s overall functioning. Sleep is crucial for regulating cell function and helping the body to 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. Sleep duration also seems to be a factor, with both too little and too much being harmful.
Numerous studies have shown that inadequate sleep is linked to serious health conditions including hypertension, inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity — all of which contribute to a shorter lifespan. Sleeping less than 5–7 hours per night is linked to a 12% greater risk of early death.
On the other hand, too much sleep can also be bad for one’s health, as it has been associated with a greater risk of stroke and heart disease. Sleeping more than 8–9 hours per night could also decrease the lifespan by up to 38%. Excessive sleep could be linked to depression, low physical activity, and undiagnosed health conditions, all of which may negatively affect the lifespan
To improve longevity, individuals must try to go to bed at the same time each night, and aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
- Follow a healthy diet – People generally tend to think about their diet in terms of their short-term health goals, such as weight loss or better digestion. But what one eats now can have a serious impact on his life in the long term, including the length of it. A healthy diet, rich in fruits, veggies, fibre, and whole foods, has been shown to be protective against inflammation and chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and certain cancers, that cause the majority of early deaths. One study estimated that more than 400,000 deaths a year could be prevented with dietary improvement. And even slight changes in diet can do the trick; Improving diet by just 20% was found to reduce the risk of premature death by 8 to 17%. While there is a lot of debate over which foods boost longevity, it’s best to focus on incorporating a variety of whole, unprocessed foods into most meals. In general, that means eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and legumes and cutting back on refined sugars as much as possible. Some research also shows a connection between the Mediterranean diet — an approach focused on fish, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, and legumes — and longevity, as well as a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The link between calorie intake and longevity currently is seen to generate a lot of interest.
Animal studies suggest that a 10–50% reduction in normal calorie intake may increase maximum lifespan. Studies of human populations renowned for longevity also observe links between low-calorie intake, an extended lifespan, and a lower likelihood of disease. Calorie restriction may help reduce excess body weight and belly fat, both of which are associated with shorter lifespans. 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.
Whether calorie restriction slows ageing or extends the lifespan is not yet fully understood.
- Regular screenings – Young people tend to have fewer chronic illnesses than older ones, but prevention is key. For example, when one screens positive for prediabetes, there are steps that he can take to prevent progressing to diabetes.
Annual checkups also enable a person and his doctor to get to know each other. The best time to see a physician is not when one already has symptoms and needs help. It should be on a regular basis to build and establish that relationship so that the physician can get a baseline of his patient’s health.
Longevity may seem beyond one’s control, but many healthy habits may lead to a ripe, old age. Exercising, meditating, getting enough sleep, and limiting alcohol intake are just a few steps that, if incorporated into one’s schedule, can make a great change in one’s life and longevity.
Taken together, these habits can boost one’s health and put one on the path to a long life.
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