9 Habits Linked to a Longer, Happier Life

A fulfilling life begins with paying attention to your body and mind.

“The long-term effects of good and bad health habits are cumulative. Simply put, you can’t outrun your past,” said Dr. William Roberts, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Minnesota, via email.

Getting enough physical activity and seeing your doctor regularly is a good start, said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leanna Wen.

“There is a lot of evidence about the things we can do proactively that can improve our longevity as well as quality,” said Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Institute School of Public Health. Washington” Milken.

Here are some habits worth implementing to give yourself the best chance at a longer, happier life.

1. Regular screenings

Young people tend to have fewer chronic diseases than older people, but prevention is key, Wen said. “If you screen positive for prediabetes, for example, there are steps you can take to prevent progression to diabetes.”

Annual checkups also allow you and your doctor to get to know each other, she added. “The best time to see your doctor isn’t when you already have symptoms and need help — it’s to regularly build and establish that relationship so your doctor can get a baseline of your health.”

2. Constant physical activity

Sufficient physical activity can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, Wen said.

“There is a tremendous amount of research that supports regular aerobic exercise not only for longer life, but also for maintaining cognitive function longer,” said Dr. Nieka Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York City and clinical associate professor of of Medicine at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

The World Health Organization recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week, while pregnant women should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic and strengthening exercise per week.

3. A healthy BMI

Body mass index is a measurement of body fat that estimates a person’s weight category and potential risk of health problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Maintaining a healthy BMI can extend your life by more than a decade, a 2018 study found, and is linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Regular physical activity and eating healthy foods can help you achieve this.

4. Proper nutrition

Eating more plant-based foods provides a great source of antioxidants, Goldberg said. “Oxidation is a sign of stress in our system and can lead to changes in plaque buildup in the arteries and the like,” she said. “And this oxidation is also associated with aging.”

The future of nutrition advice
You could extend your life by eating less red and processed meat and more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts, according to a February study published in the journal PLOS Medicine. The potential benefits are especially great if you start young – women who started eating optimally in their 20s could add just over 10 years to their lives, while men who started at the same age could add 13 years .

At meals, at least half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, Goldberg said. Also, it’s “not just what’s on the food, but how you prepare it,” she added. “So baking and roasting is better than frying.”

5. Pay attention to mental health

Mental health is often “such an overlooked part of our overall health, but it actually contributes a huge amount to overall health and well-being,” Wen said.

The past few years have brought on stress and anxiety that can affect blood pressure, sleep, dietary choices, alcohol intake or attempts to quit smoking, Goldberg said.

Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, and exercise as part of your routine.  What is missing?
Taking just 15 minutes for a little mental health hygiene can make your life easier, experts said. Try to breathe deeply when you wake up, be present with your morning coffee instead of distracted, go for a walk, journal, and take a break from screens.
The benefits of these mindfulness practices come from lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone linked to health complications. The ability to better regulate your emotions — which can be achieved with meditation — has been linked to health resilience in older age.

6. Lots of sleep

People who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to have higher levels of stress hormones, blood sugar and blood pressure, Goldberg said.

You can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep by getting regular exercise and maintaining good sleep hygiene. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet and cold at night and use it only for sleep and sex.

7. Drink less

“For a long time, people have associated alcohol with a healthier heart,” Goldberg said. But “heavy alcohol intake can actually be a direct toxin to the heart muscle and lead to heart failure. And it also raises (blood sugar levels) and causes weight gain.”

Avoiding too much alcohol can add at least a few years to your life by reducing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, a 2020 study found.

8. Do not smoke

“Smoking is a major risk factor that increases the likelihood of multiple cancers — not just lung cancer, but things like breast cancer,” Wen said. It also “increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions that shorten people’s lives.”

If you’re a heavy smoker, it’s not too late to quit to extend your life, Wen added.

6 steps you can take to quit smoking and live a healthier life

9. Build strong relationships

Close, positive relationships add happiness and comfort to our lives and reduce stress, experts said. Studies show that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and community have fewer health problems, live longer and experience less depression and cognitive decline later in life, according to Harvard Health.

If implementing all these habits seems like a lot, think of them as a gradual build, Wen said. “We may not be perfect at everything all the time,” she said, “but (there are) things we can do to improve one or more dimensions, and we could commit to that kind of lifestyle improvement .”

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