There are several positive lifestyle factors that can promote good health if you want to live a long and healthy life. Certainly, you can’t change your genes or much of the environment around you, but making educated and intentional choices when it comes to diet, activity, sleep, alcohol use, and smoking can reduce your health risks and potentially add years to your life.
There are massive texts and hundreds of articles you could read about factors that have beneficial or negative effects on your physical well-being. That said, these six lifestyle modifications are the ones that have the best evidence for maximizing your longevity.
Getting Regular and Adequate Amounts of Sleep
Getting a regular and adequate amount of sleep is first on our list as it is often downplayed in importance relative to diet and exercise. The relationship between sleep and life expectancy has been demonstrated in many studies, but what surprises some people is that the relationship is a U-shaped curve. In other words, both too little and too much sleep raise mortality (the risk of death).
Changes in your sleep patterns can also be a sign of a change in your health, so see your doctor for a checkup if anything changes.
Eating Regular Well-Balanced Meal
A healthy, balanced diet can help provide energy and lower your risks for the leading chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer. It can also help you maintain a normal weight. Certain diseases or conditions have proven relationships with specific nutrition or dietary elements.
Rather than jumping on the latest fad diet, however, a positive change in dietary lifestyle is what grants the greatest protection. The guru of eating healthy for life, Michael Pollan, summed up his recommendations by stating, “Eat food. Not too much
Engaging in Regular Physical Activity
Thirty minutes a day of regular physical activity contributes to health by reducing heart rate, decreasing the risk for cardiovascular disease, and reducing the amount of bone loss that is associated with age and osteoporosis.
You may wonder what researchers mean by moderate intensity exercise. There are many options, but it’s important to find activities that you enjoy and will continue to do such as:
• Walking briskly
• Ballroom dancing
• Bicycling slowly on level ground
• Leisure swimming
Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight
Obesity is associated with a shorter lifespan and also with an increased risk of many chronic diseases. The good news is that just being somewhat overweight does not reduce your longevity, and for those over the age of 65, it’s actually better to be on the high side of normal than the low side.
A 2018 study (part of the Framingham heart study) looked at body mass index and mortality over a period of 24 years. (A normal body mass index is between 19 and 24.) For those who were obese, people who had a body mass index of 30 to 35 had a 27% increase in mortality, and those who had a body mass index of 35 to 40 had a 93% increase.
Not Using Tobacco Products, Including Smoking or Chewing
Smoking accounts for over 400,000 deaths a year in the United States alone. Added to this are another 16 million people who are alive but coping with a smoking-related illness. If you want to live an enjoyable life for however long you live, don’t smoke or chew tobacco.
The list of diseases and cancers attributed to smoking is long, but sometimes long-range concerns prompt less change than immediate concerns.