In a world of technological advancements, it which medicine benefits a great deal from new developments, it is little surprise that the human lifespan is increasing. However, it is not as long as it could be. At a TED conference last year, Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, pointed out that the human body is meant to last until about 90 — 12 years longer than the current average American age of 78.
There are some secrets to living longer. Many scientists have studied those who live the longest, looking to find similarities. Here are nine secrets that can help you live past the age of 90:
- Genes: One of the factors that figures into longevity is your genetic make up. Even though non-genetic factors are involved in living longer, the presence of certain genes might actually boost your chances. It was also found that siblings of centenarians were four times more likely to live past the age of 90 than those who had no siblings live so long. But, even though genes can help, they aren’t everything. Indeed, some scientists believe that longevity depends more on non-genetic factors. So, even if your family doesn’t have a history of living past 90, it doesn’t mean you won’t. Just make sure you make up for it with healthier practices.
- Eat fewer calories: One of the biggest Americans have is that they eat too much. Of course, what Americans eat does make a difference, but they should be eating fewer calories in general. Indeed, eating too much, and gaining weight, puts strain on your heart — and that’s even before the arteries clog up and you have a heart attack. If you cut back on calories, you can extend your life. Indeed, research from the International Longevity Center – USA finds that animals fed fewer calories live about 40 percent longer than those fed a great deal more calories. JAMA suggests that you should eat 25 percent fewer calories than you are now, if you want a better chance of living to 90. So, consider how much you are eating, and consider reducing your portion sizes.
- Eat colorful fruits and vegetables: It’s not enough just to eat more fruits and vegetables. The kind of produce you consume matters. Vibrant fruits and vegetables are the best when it comes to living longer because they have antioxidants. These are nutrients that actually stop damaging “free radicals” from harming your cells. Colorful produce that you should focus on include cranberries, cherries, broccoli, spinach, red apples, spirulina, blueberries and grapes. You should aim for five servings of fruit and five of vegetables. Replacing one red meat entree a week with a veggie entree can be a good first step. You will find that dark chocolate and red wine, when taken in moderation, are also good for aging and the brain.
- Meditate: It’s fairly obvious that if you want to be healthy, you need to exercise. Indeed, people lose muscle and bone mass as they age. This can make them prone to falls and disease. Exercising every day can help reduce this problem. But, you shouldn’t just focus on exercising. You need time to relax as well. It’s not just about moving; it’s also about sitting still for some time each day to relieve stress. Aging expert Thomas Perls points out that meditation and prayer are two ways that can help you relieve the negative stress that can contribute to reduced immune efficiency as you age. Take some time each day to relax, letting the stress ebb out. This can help you live a little longer.
- Sleep longer: Sleep problems can lead to dementia and other complaints. If you want to live past 90 — especially if you want to remain sharp past 90 — it is vital that you get a good night’s sleep. Interestingly, though, senior citizens don’t necessarily need quality sleep. Indeed, getting enough sleep is more important as you age than getting good quality sleep. Younger people rely on quality sleep, with large blocks of good sleep. You don’t need hours of unbroken sleep as you age, but you do need a solid seven to nine hours of sleep when you get older. So if you do it a little bit at a time, napping in the afternoons, and getting sleep at night (even if it is disjointed) it can help you live longer.
- Learn something new: You don’t have to go to college to learn something new. You can learn new things every day. And, while taking a class at the local university can be a good way to learn something new, it’s not the only way to learn new things. You can extend your life past 90 by learning something new, so develop a new hobby. You can play chess, take up painting, dancing, music, birding, or even learn another language. Those who read a great deal, and look for ways to interact with the world around them, can build brain cells and make connections between neurons that are already there. And, learning something new can be a good way to enjoy yourself and help relieve stress.
- Discover your purpose: Those who feel as though they have a purpose in life are more likely to live longer. Indeed, there is evidence that men who have a greater sense of purpose are more likely to be protected from stroke and heart attack than those who feel comparatively useless. So consider what you can do. Think about meaningful activities that you can be involved with. This includes volunteerism and charity work, participation in the community, and interactions with family and friends. Goal setting and accomplishment (or working toward accomplishment) can aid in this feeling of purpose. When you have something to live for, you are more likely to live longer!
- Optimism: A good attitude can go a long way toward living longer. Research from the University of Texas shows that a positive attitude can actually delay the aging process, increasing your longevity. When you attempt to improve your outlook, the chemical balance in your body can actually change for the better. Additionally, optimism can help relieve stress, and help you feel a better sense of purpose. Making an effort to look for the good side of things can help you improve your outlook. It is also a good idea to ignore negative stereotypes about aging as well; a study from North Carolina State University found that seniors exposed to negative stereotypical descriptions performed worse in memory tests than those that focused on positive descriptions of aging.
- Social life: Having a social life can actually help you live longer. When you interact with friends and family, you can enjoy greater satisfaction with your life, and increase the chance that you will live past the age of 90. Indeed, being active in a church congregation, joining a book club, going to lunch once a month with your friends, and even enjoying a bridge night can help you live longer. Family activities can also be a good way to interact with others and live longer. Even social interaction online can have positive outcomes. The key is developing and maintaining long-term relationships that are fulfilling.