When Americans were asked by the Pew Research Center whether they would like to live decades longer, to at least 120 years old, the majority said they, personally, would not.[i]
Yet, when asked how long they’d like to live, 69 percent cited an age between 79 and 100. The median “ideal” life span was 90 years old … which is about 11 years longer than the average US life expectancy of just under 79 years …
So, suffice to say, even if you don’t want to live to be 120 … you probably want to live to a ripe old age – and stay healthy, active and mentally sharp while you’re at it. There are many factors to longevity that are beyond our control … but there are also many that are not. The 7 golden keys to live longer … and living well … follow.
Living Well, Living Longer With These 7 Golden Keys …
1. Manage Chronic Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural, even beneficial, response. It helps protect you from bacteria, viruses and other pathogens and injuries, for instance. Chronic inflammation is different; it’s caused by negative emotions (stress), poor diet (sugar, alcohol, soda, trans fats, etc.), lack of exercise, smoking and other unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Heart disease, certain cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, depression, dementia … these are just a handful of the chronic diseases known to have an inflammatory connection. And recent research revealed that people with more copies of anti-inflammatory genes (called CD33rSIGLEC) have a longer lifespan.
The inflammation-fighting genes are thought to have evolved in mammals to achieve a better management of oxidative stress during inflammation, which, according to researchers, “reduces molecular damage and extends lifespan.”[ii]
A healthy lifestyle is the antidote to chronic inflammation. This means fortifying your diet with inflammation-fighting foods, exercising regularly, avoiding excessive stress and replenishing your body’s natural supply of proteolytic enzymes.
2. Eat Sensibly
You’ve heard it before – eat more vegetables and fruits and cut back on processed foods. This is sound advice, as your body especially craves more of certain nutrients (like fiber, antioxidants and protein) as you age. For more specifics, you can find 7 of the best foods for people over 50 here. You’ll find some old standbys, like green leafy vegetables and olive oil, but also some foods that may surprise you – like whey protein and dark chocolate.
In short, you want to focus on fresh, whole, real foods – and leave the packaged junk foods, ready-made convenience foods, and fast foods behind. And remember, you can’t tackle all of your bad food habits at once.
For lasting success, a change in your diet needs to become part of your lifestyle. So take it one step at a time. You may want to swap out your morning bagel with soft-boiled eggs or a spinach-enriched whey protein and berry smoothie. Next, trade your snack of chips or candy for raw veggies and yogurt dip and then move on to tackling lunch and dinner. If you need some help managing your cravings in the meantime, Thinmist is awesome (and all natural).
3. Get Moving
Exercise reduces your risk of chronic diseases (both physical and mental), reduces stress and will keep you functional and active even in old age. Do it daily – if you’re short on time, you can fit in a solid, brag-worthy workout in just four minutes with the No Excuses workout.
Realize, however, that growing research shows even regular exercise cannot counteract the ill effects of inactivity for the rest of the day (i.e. excessive sitting). Many experts are now recommending walking for 10,000 steps a day while minimizing your time spent in your chair – so get up and get moving as much as possible.
Go for walks, do yard work, stand up while you’re on the phone, stretch, fidget, do burpees and mountain climbers in your office and whatever else you need to do to avoid being sedentary for hours on end.
4. Love Your Microbiome
Your microbiome – the collection of bacteria and other organisms living in your gut – was once viewed as primarily a tool for digestion. Now we know that this living ecosystem influences your health significantly, including your longevity.
A healthy microbiome helps keep inflammation in check, boosts your immune system and wards off chronic disease. Changes in gut bacteria have been linked to a host of age-related diseases including cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and more.
Research conducted in fruit flies also recently concluded that making modifications to your microbiome could lead to enhanced health and lifespan.[iii] Lead researcher Dr. Heinrich Jasper explained in NutraIngredients:[iv]
“If we can understand how aging affects our commensal population – first in the fly and then in humans – our data suggest that we should be able to impact health span and life span quite strongly, because it is the management of the commensal population that is critical to the health of the organism.”
Loving your microbiome isn’t hard – it involves cutting down on sugar, using antibiotics only when truly necessary (and avoiding them in your diet in conventionally raised animal products) and regularly eating fermented foods like kefir and traditionally made sauerkraut. If you don’t eat fermented foods, a high-quality probiotic supplement is invaluable (one to try is Natural Cleanse, a 30-day colon flush and revitalization program that contains a proprietary probiotic blend to nourish your gut bacteria and support colon health).
5. Rebalance Your Muscles
Abnormal postural conditions are likely causing your muscles, joints and ligaments to function under increased stress and strain, eventually leading to failure (i.e. pain). In turn, this can cause you to give up activities you love, become sedentary and even lose the freedom to live unassisted.
Abnormal postural conditions are actually incredibly common. Spending long hours sitting (especially in a poorly designed office chair and without taking breaks for movement), straining during a long commute, sleeping in an “off” position, lifting your children or grandchildren, and even wearing a tight necktie can all through off your posture and contribute to imbalanced muscles.
Virtually everyone who identifies and corrects their muscle imbalances feels renewed, refreshed and young again. This is simple with the Lose the Back Pain System, which takes you through a series of self assessments designed to help you pinpoint which postural dysfunctions you have and discover a customized series of corrective exercises, stretches, and self-treatments that are unique to your condition and specific muscle imbalances.
6. Focus on Your Emotional Health
Happy people are 35 percent less likely to die in the next five years than those with poor moods.[v] If you’re chronically stressed and unable to manage it, it can drive you to engage in unhealthy behaviors like binging on junk food, drugs or alcohol. But there are biological reasons why negative emotions drive disease as well. According to Harvard School of Public Health:[vi]
“A vast scientific literature has detailed how negative emotions harm the body. Serious, sustained stress or fear can alter biological systems in a way that, over time, adds up to “wear and tear” and, eventually, illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Chronic anger and anxiety can disrupt cardiac function by changing the heart’s electrical stability, hastening atherosclerosis, and increasing systemic inflammation.”
Stress has even been described as more dangerous than smoking. You can find eight tips to support your emotional health here.
7. Keep Embracing New Experiences
Research shows that people who spend money on new life experiences, like travel or hobbies, are happier than those who spend money on material items. In one study, even after admitting that a life experience would likely bring them more happiness, many participants believed it made more financial sense to buy a material item instead.
The problem is that, at first, people valued the material items more. It’s hard to put a price tag on awesome memories, after all. But after making the purchase, the participants changed their tune, stating the life experience would not only give them greater happiness but also was a better value.[vii]
Perhaps that’s why creating “bucket lists” has become so popular. Intrinsically, most people know that what will make them happiest is living their life to the fullest with no regrets. So if you’ve always wanted to scuba dive in Belize, spend a week on a dude ranch, or drive a race car, make every effort to actually do so.
This doesn’t always have to cost money, either. Part of embracing new experiences is connecting with and socializing with others. Simply going to a salsa dancing class, volunteering at your local animal shelter or joining a softball league all count as new experiences and can be vastly beneficial to your health and longevity.
In fact, a healthy social life may be as good for your lifespan as not smoking![viii] If you’re not sure what new experiences to start with, check out The 9 Intense Experiences: An Action Plan to Change Your Life, which was a #1 international bestseller and was penned by Brian Vaszily, a popular life coach and thought leader featured on ABC, CBS, and NBC — and a proud member of our own team here at The Healthy Back Institute. With this book, you can become the person you were meant to be and experience the life you’ve always wanted. After all, if you’re going to be living longer, you might as well enjoy it.