During this time of the year, a lot of people make a decision to focus on their health. It’s not unexpected that there’s a booming business in products claiming to ensure you live longer, become healthier, and look younger.
About 25% of how long we live is influenced by our genes, but the rest depends on our daily actions.
There are no instant solutions or easy ways to live a longer and healthier life, but scientific evidence highlights some important principles. Here are five actions you can take to increase your lifespan and enhance your health.
1. Focus on a Diet Mostly Composed of Plant-based Foods
What you include in your diet significantly affects your health. Strong evidence suggests that having a diet with lots of plant-based foods is linked to good health and a longer life.
By incorporating more plant-based foods and reducing your intake of meat, processed foods, sugar, and salt, you can lower your risk of various illnesses that can cut short our lives, such as heart disease and cancer.
Plant-based foods contain essential nutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and fiber. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which protect our cells from aging-related damage and help prevent diseases.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, one of the most researched and healthiest options is the Mediterranean diet. It follows the eating habits of people living around the Mediterranean Sea, focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish, seafood, and olive oil.
2. Strive for a Healthy Weight
Another crucial way to enhance your health is by striving to maintain a healthy weight, as being overweight raises the risk of various health issues that can shorten our lives.
Obesity puts stress on all our body systems and triggers numerous physiological effects, including inflammation and hormonal disruptions. These factors increase the likelihood of developing diseases like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Beyond the physical impact, obesity is also linked to poorer mental health. It is associated with conditions such as depression, low self-esteem, and stress.
A significant challenge in the developed world is the environment that encourages obesity. Widespread marketing and the easy availability of high-calorie foods that our bodies naturally crave make it simple to consume excessive calories.
3. Engage in Regular Exercise
We’re aware that exercise is beneficial for us – a common resolution this time of year is to engage in more physical activity and improve fitness. Regular exercise shields us from chronic illnesses, reduces stress, and enhances mental well-being.
Although one way exercise helps is by aiding in weight control and reducing body fat, its effects go beyond that. It also improves glucose (blood sugar) utilization, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, and enhances blood flow and heart function.
Amidst the various exercise trends, evidence indicates that incorporating any form of physical activity into your daily routine offers health advantages. You don’t need to run marathons or spend hours at the gym every day. Integrate movement into your day in any way possible, and engage in activities that bring you joy.
4. Avoid Smoking
If you aim for better health and a longer life, avoid smoking or vaping.
Smoking cigarettes negatively impacts nearly every organ in the body and is linked to a shorter and lower-quality life. No amount of smoking is considered safe – each cigarette raises the risk of developing various cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.
Even if you’ve been a smoker for years, quitting at any age can bring immediate health benefits and reverse many of the harmful effects.
If you’re contemplating switching to vaping for a healthier long-term option, reconsider. The long-term health effects of vaping are not completely understood, and it carries its own set of health risks.
5. Prioritize Social Connection
When discussing ways to live a healthier and longer life, our attention often centers on actions affecting our physical well-being. However, one of the crucial findings in the past decade emphasizes the significance of spiritual and psychological health.
Individuals experiencing loneliness and social isolation face a higher risk of early death and are more susceptible to conditions like heart disease, stroke, dementia, anxiety, and depression.
Although the precise mechanisms are not fully understood, it’s likely a combination of behavioral and biological factors. While socially connected individuals tend to adopt healthier habits, there also appears to be a direct physiological impact of loneliness on the body.
Therefore, if your goal is to be healthier and live longer, foster and sustain your connections with others.
Staying healthy means taking care of both your body and mind. Your daily choices greatly impact your well-being, even more than your genes. Simple steps like eating plant-based, staying at a healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking, and staying connected with others can lead to a longer, healthier life.