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Implement These Habits and You Could Add Up to 15 Years to Your Lifespan

By Sophia Harris
November 30, 2021

We’re all searching for the mythical Fountain of Youth, the magical key that will keep us healthy and happy for years to come. It’s a story people have told each other for centuries — millennia, even — but in recent years, we’ve seen more and more products on the market capitalizing on this desire. There’s been a huge influx in supplements, skincare items, and lifestyle products that allegedly help preserve youth and boost longevity. 

Some of these products work better than others, but the truth is, if you really want to live longer and fight the aging process, there’s no quick fix. Research indicates, however, that changing your lifestyle and implementing healthier habits can add up to 15 years to your expected lifespan.

Certain stressors are actually good for your lifespan

There are many components to leading a long, healthy 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 necessarily bad for your health, it turns out that small amounts of stress may actually help us live longer, through a process called “hormesis.”

While living in ongoing distress is absolutely 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. 

Here are four ways to encourage your genes to turn on their anti-aging superpowers:  

1. Swap some of your 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 little positive stress. Modern humans can take note of this process and deliberately switch on the anti-aging process by doing the same — if you’re generally omnivorous, try adding some plant-based dishes to your weekly rotation, or even have full plant-based days. 

2. Moderate your refined carbs

Research indicates that a diet high in refined carbohydrates is linked to certain types of cognitive impairment, like Alzheimer’s. So for breakfast, consider ditching the refined flour-packed options like toast and bagels for whole grains like oatmeal (at least on weekdays). 

3. Restrict calories — sometimes

We’re not saying to restrict calories for weight loss (although staying at a healthy weight promotes optimal aging), but rather to switch on those anti-aging genes. Anti-aging research indicates that excessive caloric intake speeds up the aging process, while bouts of intermittent fasting and calorie restriction help “reverse” aging. Fasting can be a daunting concept, but researchers claim that periods of lowered calorie and protein consumption can be just as effective for switching on the “anti-aging” genes. 

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. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, and strength training may be particularly effective in safeguarding from the aging process. 

Avoid “inflammaging” 

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. 

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 processed food. Leafy greens, fatty fish, and fermented foods like kimchi and kefir can all help prevent inflammation in the gut. 

Read next: I’m an MD, And This Is My Anti-Inflammatory Morning Routine

So what else can you do to live longer? One underrated strategy for reaching the triple digits: nurture happy relationships that bring you joy. Having a positive outlook on life and maintaining healthy, loving relationships have been associated with a much longer lifespan. 

It’s also been demonstrated that having a happy partner helps you live longer. “Participants who had a happy partner at the beginning of the study were less likely to pass away over the next eight years compared with participants who had less happy partners,” the researchers explain.

Interested in the link between processed food, inflammation, and aging? Check our recent article on newly-released inflammation research.

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