Most people visualize themselves aging gracefully and living a long, healthy life filled with good friends, family, and plenty of activity. While this is something that many people dream of, it’s far from being a fantasy. The fact is, many seniors do it. So what’s their secret? How do these people enjoy all of the benefits of old age while maintaining good health and a happy state of mind? Here are their top twelve secrets:
1. Avoid Stress
Stress is a common factor in dozens of chronic diseases and conditions. According to a 2015 study conducted by the University of California – San Francisco, women suffering from chronic stress have significantly depleted levels of Klotho, a hormone that can help protect the body and brain from aging.
An earlier study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2012, found that people who are under lots of stress are at a 20% increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Because of this, avoiding stress as much as possible is one of the best ways to live a happy, healthy life for many years. While it’s impossible to cut stress out of life entirely, it is possible to cope with it better by learning stress-management techniques, like meditation, and doing healthy things like going for a walk, cooking, or meeting with friends when you feel stressed.
2. Maintain a Healthy Social Life
You knew that your friends made you feel happy, but did you know that they can help you live longer, too? Multiple studies have found that being alone as you age is a significant risk factor in everything from premature death to heart disease and stroke. Because of this, it’s wise to ensure that you maintain a healthy, active social life as you get older. Doing this will not only protect you from depressive symptoms – but it will also help guard your brain against symptoms of cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
If there were a fountain of youth, it would look a whole lot like a daily walk or run. Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your body and mind fit as you age. In addition to helping you avoid chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, daily exercise can also help increase mood-boosting hormones in the brain and will contribute to keeping your body fit, healthy, and capable throughout your golden years. Additionally, exercise is a fantastic way to meet new people, stay engaged in a community, and continue learning new things.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to make a difference in your community and give back to a cause that you believe in. It’s also one of the best ways to ensure that you enjoy your golden years as much as possible. Studies have shown that people who have a higher sense of purpose – either through faith, religion, or community service – live longer than people who don’t.
While there are no “one-size fits all” rules for determining how and when you give back, it’s clear that getting involved in something bigger than yourself is one of the best ways to stay active, engaged, and passionate as you age.
In light of this, it’s wise to get involved in something you believe in. It doesn’t matter if this is a church, a volunteer organization, or a faith-based community. Simply pick something you’re passionate about and dedicate some time to it. While this may not seem like it has a direct correlation with your longevity and happiness, it’s more important than many people believe.
5. Find Someone to Love
Did you know that being half of a partnership can help you live a longer, healthier life? Whether you’re married or you simply have a sweetie you enjoy spending time with, finding someone to love can significantly reduce your risk of premature death.
A 2013 study conducted by Duke University Medical Center and published in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found that of 4,802 people, those who were married were far less likely to die prematurely. While researchers still aren’t exactly sure why this is true, many believe that having a partner helps reduce stress and provide a source of support, which makes life more enjoyable.
6. Eat Well
It’s impossible to be truly healthy unless you eat a healthy diet. People who eat ample amounts of wheat, rye, barley and other whole grains enjoy longer lives than those who don’t. The reason for this is that these foods offer nutrients called polyphenols, which can help reduce the risk of early mortality, protect brain health, and decrease the possibility of cancer, heart disease, respiratory illness, and diabetes. To ensure maximum health, ensure that you’re eating a proper mix of nutrients, including plenty of leafy greens, vegetables, protein, and fiber.
7. Sleep Enough
Sleeping well is associated with much more than just waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – it’s also related to living a long, healthy life. According to one study conducted by the University of California – San Diego, people who sleep seven hours each night lived significantly longer than people who slept less than five hours or more than eight hours each night.
Because of this, it’s wise to prioritize sleep in your quest for overall well-being. In addition to helping you feel healthier and more alert, getting the right amount of sleep each night will help protect you from early death and can contribute to guarding against cognitive decline and other age-related symptoms.
8. Participate in Something Bigger Than Yourself
Time and time again, studies have found that people who have a sense of spirituality or faith live longer than those who don’t. While you don’t need to pray your way to longevity (if that’s not your thing), it is healthy to participate in a cause you believe in – be it a church, spiritual community, or volunteer organization. These things can all go a long way toward decreasing depressive symptoms, mitigating the risk of chronic conditions, and helping people feel more connected to and happy within their communities.
9. Avoid Overeating
In addition to helping you avoid dangerous weight gain, avoiding the temptation to overeat can also help you enjoy a longer, healthier life. According to a 2008 study conducted by University of St. Louis researchers, eating until you’re roughly 80% full can help you age slower. The reason for this is that limiting calories, even moderately, helps decrease the production of a thyroid hormone known as T3. This boosts your metabolism and slows down the aging process.
10. Stay Away from Too Much TV
Watching too much television is a surefire way to suffer from decreased health and limited longevity. According to one 2010 study, people who watch more than four hours a day of television are 46% more likely to die from any cause than their counterparts who watched less than two hours each day. With this in mind, pick up a good book rather than tuning into re-runs the next time you have a quiet day.
11. Wear Sunscreen
In addition to helping you avoid the risk of skin cancer, avoiding excess sun can help keep your skin looking young and healthy. While enjoying the sun is an important part of a healthy life, be sure to slather on the SPF the next time you hit the beach with your family or friends. Even if you’ve never been a sunscreen wearer, it’s never too late to start adopting good habits.
12. Enjoy Limited Amounts of Alcohol
While there’s no question that consuming too much alcohol can have disastrous health effects, studies have found that small quantities of alcohol can actually have protective health benefits. One drink a day (an 8 oz. serving of wine or beer) can help keep your heart healthy and your brain sharp. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to enjoy a nice glass of vino with dinner.
A long, healthy life is something that virtually everyone wants and, fortunately, it’s not that difficult to obtain. By practicing good habits in diet, exercise, and sleep and maintaining an active social and community life, you can ensure that you enjoy your golden years from a standpoint of good health and longevity.
What do you need to live a long fulfilled life? Three simple things: love, companionship and commitment. A 74-year-long study by researchers at Harvard Medical School suggests that a dog, a happy marriage, and a supportive social network are the foundations of a long life.
Even more significant: these factors were found to be greater predictors of longevity than social class, wealth and various other forms of socio-economic advantage.
The study, which is discussed in a recent article in the Daily Mail, took the long view of human existence. Called the Grant Study, it began in 1940 and followed 268 healthy, single white men from their youth to old age.
Every couple of years, the researchers checked in with the men to record any changes. Evaluations included physical testing and interviews. Over time, the researchers established a link between these three factors and longer life among the men.
For George Vaillant, the study’s current director, the research makes a declarative statement about what constitutes a full life and the nature of true happiness.
Vaillant is quoted as saying: “The finding on happiness is that happiness is the wrong word. The right words for happiness are emotional intelligence, relationships, joy, connections and resilience.”
If you don’t have a husband, a family or plenty of supportive pals at the moment, don’t worry about it. The study also proved that it’s never too late to find these pieces of the miracle of life puzzle.
Said Vaillant: “Having a loving family is terribly important, but from 70 to 90 years old you’d be surprised at the people who, despite enormous deprivation, manage to find love later on.”
It took me 50 years to find the woman of my dreams, now I am working on my weight. Hopefully, I will have a long life with my lovely wife. I hope that I bring as much joy to her life as she does to mine. She is my secret what is yours?
commonhealthcare.com, “12 Secrets to Living a Long, Healthy Life.”; chatelaine.com, “The three things that lead to a long and happy life: What do you need to live a long fulfilled life? These three simple things.” By Flannery Dean; benfrancia.com, “SECRETS of Long Life and Health.” By Ben Francia;