It turns out that the secret to living out your golden years isn’t a secret after all. Just follow healthy habits like not smoking, drinking in moderation, eating a plant-based diet, exercising regularly and socializing often.
Everyone knows smoking is linked to many causes of early death: hypertension, cardiovascular disease, lung and pancreatic cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. A study of 157 centenarians (people who are at least 100 years old) living in Rome found that nearly 84 percent never smoked and less than 3 percent actively smoked.
Studies show that moderate drinkers who consume one alcoholic beverage a day live longer than heavy drinkers or teetotalers. However, researchers at The University of Texas and Stanford found that many of those who abstained from alcohol were recovering alcoholics or likely had to stop drinking because of health problems.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that physical activity is linked to a long, healthy life. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine reported that people who were physically active on a daily basis —even if they did not exercise — had better cardiovascular health and lived longer than those who were less active. While moderate to vigorous exercise may be better for strengthening the heart and lowering blood pressure, daily activity, such as gardening or doing housework, is also important. The ideal, of course, is to incorporate various activities into your week and avoid a sedentary lifestyle.
The eating plan often touted for longevity is the Mediterranean Diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, fish and monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil. While the Mediterranean Diet closely follows the American Heart Association’s dietary recommendations, it relies on a higher percentage of calories from fat. More research is needed to confirm whether the diet itself or other lifestyle factors are responsible for longer, heart-healthy lives, according to the AHA. The Mediterranean Diet is a good place to start, but talk to your physician about the best diet for you, especially if you’re at risk for obesity.
People who live to 90 or 100 generally have strong social networks. Data compiled from 148 studies found that individuals with good social relationships were 50 percent less likely to die during a study period that spanned about seven years. That meant nearly four extra years of life for the social butterflies, compared with those who did not have as many social outlets. As you get older, try to maintain not one, but several circles of support, for instance, family, neighbors, colleagues and friends.
While genes do affect your health, what matters most is which habits you adopt. Contact a Providence provider if you have questions about living a longer, healthier life.