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Implement These Habits for a Longer, Healthier Life

By Sophia Harris
June 4, 2024

Though we may have different ways of going about it, many of us are focused on longevity these days. Not just living longer, but also living a healthier life. Searches on “longevity” have more than doubled since 2017, and the hashtag #longevity has nearly 1.5 million posts on Instagram.

Genetics do play a part, but we also have some control over our aging process. Research indicates that lifestyle habits can play a significant role in whether or not we live a healthier life, and for how long.

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Certain limited stressors are actually good for your lifespan

There are many components to leading a longer, healthier life: hormone levels, happiness and relationships, and access to health resources all play a part in longevity. But contrary to the common belief that stress is always bad for your health, it turns out that small, limited amounts may actually help us live longer, through a process called “hormesis.”

While living in ongoing distress is detrimental to health and well-being, hormesis is a process in which stressors produced by diet and exercise can activate genes that slow down the aging process. Essentially, we can “trick” our bodies into this anti-aging state by exposing it to small amounts of the right type of stress. 

Related: 6 Healthy Habits Straight from the Blue Zones

Here are four ways to encourage hormesis:  

1. Swap some meat for more vegetables

When early humans couldn’t find meat, they resorted to eating more plants, which switched on the anti-aging process through a bit of positive stress. Modern humans can deliberately do the same — if you’re generally omnivorous, try adding some plant-based dishes to your weekly rotation. 

2. Reduce refined carbs

Research indicates that a diet high in refined carbohydrates is linked to certain types of cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s. Make these simple swaps to reduce refined carbs:

3. Restrict calories — sometimes

Anti-aging research indicates that excessive caloric intake speeds up the aging process, while bouts of intermittent fasting and strategic calorie restriction may help “reverse” aging. Fasting can seem intimidating, but researchers claim that periods of lowered calorie and protein consumption can be just as effective for switching on the “anti-aging” genes. 

Related: How Intermittent Fasting Affects Your Microbiome

4. Stay active (but don’t overdo it)

Exercise helps trigger the “positive stress” reaction that early humans would experience while hunting and gathering, which sends our genes the message that we need to stay active and vital. Strength training may be particularly effective in safeguarding from the aging process. Research indicates that at least 150 minutes per week, and a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training, may be optimal, and the benefits drop off after 2,000 minutes per week (in case you were planning to put in 33 hours a week at the gym).

Avoid “inflammaging” for a healthier life

All your valiant efforts to live longer and stay healthier may be fruitless if you don’t manage low-level, chronic inflammation over time, also known as “inflammaging.” A relatively new term in healthcare, inflammaging refers to long-term inflammation in the body that actually accelerates the aging process. 

Related: 21 Healthy Ways to Fight Inflammation

Research indicates that the gut microbiome plays a central role in inflammaging, since it releases inflammatory products and “cross-talks” with other organs and systems in your body. To avoid inflammaging, consider some inflammation-busting choices like lowering your sugar intake, taking a good probiotic, and avoiding ultra-processed food. Leafy greens, fatty fish, and fermented foods like kimchi and kefir can all help prevent inflammation in the gut. 

Read next: A Doctor’s Four Pillars for Longevity 

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