7 Easy Ways to Extend Your Life Span

03/30/2012

Aging well photoIt’s not just about living longer, after all the average American lifespan has been on the rise for decades. Today we live to an average age of 78 years old. But the kicker isn’t just that we’re alive, but how we’re living. Are we ravaged with disease, dosed up on medications, and crippled by age, or are we enjoying this beautiful life?

Disease and illness are opportunistic, that is they only attack when our defenses are down. The more healthy you are, the less likely you are to be plagued with illnesses that take away your quality of life and the more likely you are to extend your lifespan and feel good for the entirety of your journey.

1. Go Meat-Free

Study after study have come out in recent years documenting the problems with eating meat. But even more potent evidence of whether meat is healthful or not came in a recent huge study published in the Archive of Internal Medicine, which pointed to the innate health risks associated with eating meat. Eating one serving per day (the size of a deck of cards) of unprocessed red meat increased your risk of premature death by 13 percent. If that meat was processed (bacon, sausage, etc) then your risk increased by 20 percent. By replacing that serving with fish the risk went down by 7 percent but even better, by replacing meat with nuts it went down 19 percent, and beans it went down 10 percent.

2. Stand Up

In the past few years medical researchers have begun to tie sitting to premature death, but a recent study does a precise job of breaking down the numbers. If you sit more than 11 hours per day, you’re 40 percent more likely to die over the next three years, according to Yahoo News. An Australian study to be published in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed 222,000 people, 45 years and older. The study found that your mortality risk begins to spike after 11 hours of sitting. Those who sat between 8 and 11 hours found that their risk went up 15 percent compared to those who sat 4 hours or less per day.

3. Keep it Whole 

This is the first generation that gets by regularly eating nothing but processed foods and it comes with a lot of problems. First, processed foods are less likely to fill you up that’s why nearly one third of the American population is overweight. Obesity is the easiest way to end your life because it leads to diabetes, heart disease, and certain kinds of cancers.

Processed foods also tend to lack the nutrient density we need to get and stay healthy. And finally, processed food packaging is leeched with chemicals such as BPA. The plastics industry contends that low doses of the chemical are safe but a new report from Laura Vandenberg of Tufts University and 12 other scientists found that low doses may be worse than higher doses. The report, which looked at hundreds of BPA studies, found an alarming amount of research linking low doses of BPA to health problems, according to Scientific American

Veggie shot photo
Photo: Thinkstock

4. Strengthen Your Brain With Meditation

Eileen Lucas, an assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro-Imaging, and her colleagues have found that long term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification or “folding of the cortex." This is a good thing. Folding of the cerebral cortex allows for us to process information faster than people who do not meditate--it allows us to strengthen our brains.

Science Daily reports that the meditators used in the study had practiced for an average 20 years. Of 49 meditators, 23 MRI scans were taken and compared to 16 control subjects. The cerebral cortex is the outermost layer of the brain and it plays a role in consciousness as well as memory, and attention. Meditation helps us keep our minds younger, longer

5. Avoid Sleeping Pills

Those that take sleeping pills could be four times more likely to die prematurely, according to a large new study. The study isn’t claiming that sleeping pills actually cause death, but rather, they are linked to early death, though they have been proven to cause depression and decreased driving skills. Those that took them just twice a month were still two times more likely to die early. Researchers aren’t sure why, but it also increased the risk of cancer by some 35 percent.

Taking pills photo
Photo: Thinkstock

6. Get Outside

Vitamin D deficiencies can cause a host of diseases and all our indoor time seems to be impacting rates of this critical deficiency. Vitamin D is a mysterious nutrient in that the most available source doesn't come from food, but from the sun. If you're stuck in the office most of the day, you still need Vitamin D. Both salmon and eggs are good sources of the nutrient.

7. Know Your Four Risk Factors

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine says that your risk of a heart attack is actually defined at a young age. Four risk factors including elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, and diabetes, along with whether you’re male or female, can show your predetermined risk by midlife. 

The study reports that those who have at least two of these risk factors by middle age, considered between 45 and 55, are 50 percent more likely if they’re a man and 30 percent more likely if they’re a women, to have a heart attack in their remaining lifespan. Even just one risk factor dramatically increases your risk, and by middle age 95 percent of us have at least one risk factor. But for those that have none of these risk factors, heart attack risk falls to 0 percent, according to NPR SHOTS

Get outside photo
Photo: Thinkstock
Photo at top: Goodshoot

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More on Extending Your Life 
6 Unhealthy Habits Worth Kicking
Sitting Down Too Much Can Lead To Your Early Death
Your Office Job as Dangerous on the Body as Smoking? 


Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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