Extend Your Healthy Life Expectancy With These 10 Powerful Habits
LAST UPDATED: NOVEMBER 3, 2023
Leading a long, healthy life is a common aspiration for many. This article highlights key habits that have been proven to extend life expectancy. It focuses particular attention on the four diseases that most often end the healthy period of peoples’ lives: cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, insulin-resistant diabetes, and cancer.
From avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and staying physically active, to consuming a diet rich in plant foods and nurturing social connections, each habit plays a crucial role in enhancing longevity. Furthermore, the importance of mental well-being, adequate sleep, and the potential downsides of alcohol consumption are addressed.
The choices we make daily can have long-term impacts on our life expectancy, and this guide provides actionable insights to make those years as healthy and fulfilling as possible.
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Not Smoking Increases Life Expectancy
Few will be surprised that smoking is one of the most prevalent yet preventable causes of a decline in life expectancy. From cigarettes to cigars and from weed to vaping, the intake of tobacco and marijuana have a long history of diminishing the number of years one can expect to live.
The correlation between smoking and reduced life expectancy isn’t just hearsay. Years of research and countless studies have consistently shown the severe health consequences of this habit:
Smoking damages your lungs. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world, and it is estimated that smoking kills over 7 million people each year. Smoking damages your lungs by causing inflammation and narrowing of your airways. This can lead to a number of serious health problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and lung cancer .
Smoking increases your risk of heart disease. Smoking is also a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. Smoking damages your blood vessels and makes your blood more likely to clot. This damage can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up on the walls of your arteries. Atherosclerosis narrows your arteries and reduces blood flow to your heart, brain, and other organs .
Related: Increase Your Antioxidant Intake
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” — Thomas Edison
Smoking damages your overall health. Smoking has been linked to a wide range of other health problems, including cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and macular degeneration. It also weakens your immune system and makes you more susceptible to infections .
If you smoke and want to quit, give cognitive-behavioral therapy a try. When many people think about quitting smoking, they often think about willpower and alternative nicotine delivery systems like patches, gum, and electronic cigarettes. However, these steps don’t attack the root cause of the addiction, which typically stems from an individual’s relationship to their own emotional discomfort. In other words, in moments where they are feeling tired, stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, insecure, or any number of similar emotions, they habituate themselves to reaching for a pack of smokes to administer a nicotine dose that simultaneously helps them feel calmer and more alert .
However, people can also strengthen their ability to manage counterproductive emotions through behavioral therapies like CBT and ACT. Working with a behavioral-therapy professional, or even picking up self-help books on the subject written by luminaries like David Burns and Steven Hayes can lead to a breakthrough in kicking this harmful habit .
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is a critical factor in your pursuit of longevity because it:
The body-mass index (BMI) can be a helpful tool  in determining a healthy weight. It’s a simple scale that calculates your healthy range based on your height, putting your weight into more context than just stepping on a scale. You can find a link to a BMI calculator here.
Have you ever heard the platitude, “you can manage what you can’t measure?” People usually apply it to managing businesses. But we can also apply it here.
Stay Physically Active
Physical activity is an integral factor in determining one’s life expectancy. Studies have consistently shown the myriad benefits of maintaining an active lifestyle. Even if one does not achieve the often recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week, engaging in regular physical activity still contributes positively to increasing life expectancy because:
According to the American Medical Association, the amount of exercise that you need to extend your lifespan is above 150 minutes per week of vigorous activity like running and swimming and above 300 minutes per week of moderate activity like walking and weightlifting. That amount of exercise requires a daily commitment of an-hour-and-fifteen minutes. Try lifting weights or doing yoga for 50 minutes in the morning and 25 minutes of running or spinning when you finish work for the day. That schedule plus taking your dog for a 20-minute walk will add up to an unbeatable fitness regimen .
Example: Tabata Sprint-Interval Workout. Here’s a practical tip to help with weight management: Try the Tabata sprint-interval workout on a spinning bike. This regimen is made up of 8-second sprints followed by a 12-second rest, repeated 60 times. Begin with a 4-minute warm up, then proceed to the intervals, and end with a 4-minute cool down. It’s a short, intense workout that can significantly aid in weight loss and metabolic health. Combining such high-intensity workouts with a balanced diet can be your strategy to keep obesity at bay and significantly improve your life expectancy.
Eat Plenty of Healthy Plant Foods
Dietary choices are undeniably influential in determining one’s life expectancy. Among these choices, a diet abundant in plant-based foods stands out for its potential to bolster longevity. Numerous scientific research articles have highlighted the manifold advantages of consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, which all contribute to an extended life expectancy.
Eating plenty of healthy plant foods supports a long healthspan in a variety of ways, including:
Consider cutting meat, poultry, and dairy out of your diet, replacing them with beans, lentils, quinoa, amaranth, and other gluten-free sources of plant-based protein and fiber like nuts.
Minimize gluten, sugar, salt, and processed plant-based foods like bread. And make sure to get enough vitamins like B12 and iron. If in doubt, consult with a nutritionist with an expertise in plant-based diet planning.
Although you may believe that you couldn’t live without steak and chicken fajitas, you will likely be surprised at how well your body adjusts to this new diet.
Drink Herbal Tea
Herbal tea has been steeped in traditions for centuries, enjoyed by various cultures worldwide. But aside from the comfort and ritual they bring, they can pack a punch when it comes to healthy life expectancy, playing a role in warding off chronic diseases and potentially extending one’s lifespan.
Three reasons why drinking herbal tea can increase your longevity and healthy lifespan include:
Take a look at our blog post on herbal teas to see if you would be interested in trying something new. Our view is 100% free of bias—we don’t make money from selling tea or any of the other products or services that we recommend.
The relationship between diet, weight management, and life expectancy has been studied extensively, revealing a profound link. Notably, the concept of overeating emerges as an important focal point. While the occasional indulgence is often harmless, consistent overconsumption of calories can present a cascade of health risks:
Try reframing your relationship with food. Treat food simply as a source of energy and nutrition, not as a reward, experience, or source of emotional comfort. This approach has been shown to help people better control their eating .
Alcohol, in its various forms, has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. It’s been celebrated in cultures, a cornerstone in social events, and also the subject of much debate concerning health. As researchers better understand the relationship between alcohol and our health, new findings support eliminating alcohol consumption altogether to extend healthy life expectancy.
Recent studies have shown that the safest amount of alcohol to drink is zero alcohol. While industry groups and drinkers defending their habits would have you believe that alcohol has health benefits, even moderate drinking has been shown to increase the risk of health problems, such as cancer .
Even the bastion of red wine is no longer unassailable. The health benefits of naturally consumed resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, are greatly exaggerated. In other words, while resveratrol shows great promise, there is not enough of it in food sources to make a difference .
The more realistic way to consume higher quantities of resveratrol would be to take a supplement. Resveratrol can easily be turned into a supplement with few known side effects.
Or, if you prefer natural sources, a healthier alternative would be to drink purple grape juice. You avoid the harmful alcohol while still benefiting from the resveratrol and polyphenolic compounds .
If you’re a light or moderate drinker who enjoys red wine but is considering giving up alcohol, consider substituting a daily glass of wine with all-natural, unfiltered grape juice (not from concentrate) made with red grapes like Concord or Isabela. You might find that the taste is similar enough to take the edge off. And these grapes provide resveratrol, the antioxidant with purported cardio-protective properties.
Prioritize Your Mental Wellbeing
When we think of longevity, we often jump straight to the physical: diet, exercise, and avoiding harmful substances. Yet, a crucial aspect sometimes overshadowed is mental wellbeing. There’s a burgeoning body of evidence suggesting that our mental and emotional states can significantly impact life expectancy .
Happiness isn’t just a fleeting emotion. It has tangible, physiological effects. Positive emotions can counteract stress hormones, enhance immune function, and protect the heart. And while pinpointing exact mechanisms is complex, one can safely conclude that mental health boosts life expectancy .
On the flip side, chronic stress and prolonged anxiety have their detrimental impacts. Beyond the immediate discomfort they bring, they can trigger inflammation, compromise the immune system, exacerbate cardiovascular problems, and even accelerate cellular aging. If you’re constantly in a state of tension or worry, it’s crucial to find outlets and coping mechanisms to mitigate these effects .
Furthermore, the qualities of conscientiousness, being organized and disciplined, seem to be allies in the quest for a longer life. People who exhibit high levels of these traits often make healthier choices and avoid high-risk behaviors .
Mental-health professionals often treat patients who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mental-health issues with cognitive-behavioral therapy and acceptance-commitment therapy. However, these treatments also work extremely well for healthy patients who are looking for strategies to manage the challenges of everyday life.
If you think you would benefit from professional help, by all means contact a licensed healthcare professional. But if you would be curious about how these same tools could help you raise your game to the next level, consider researching David Burnes and Steven Hayes and buying their books .
Develop a Good Sleeping Pattern
When aiming for optimal health and an increase in life expectancy, one mustn’t overlook the power of sleep. This rejuvenating process isn’t merely about catching some shut-eye after a long day. It plays a profound role in the intricate dance of our body’s healing, repair, and cognitive functions.
Science has continually emphasized the role of sleep in determining life expectancy. Consistent sleeping patterns, marked by regular bedtimes and wake-up times, allow our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, to function optimally. This rhythm affects everything from hormone production to cell regeneration, and disruptions can lead to a plethora of health complications over time .
But it’s not just about the night. What about a brief midday siesta? There’s something to be said about the heart-healthy benefits of napping . Several studies have highlighted how daytime naps, especially if kept short and not too late in the day, can reduce heart attack risks. However, consistently napping for longer than 60 minutes is associated with an increased risk for heart disease .
Treat alternative sleep schedules with caution. You may see influencers on social media touting the latest “polyphasic sleep hack.” Polyphasic means sleeping more than once per day. But research points more in the direction of getting a good night’s sleep, possibly augmented by a short daytime nap to maximize productivity and minimize disease risk .
If you work from home, take an hour break. Set a timer for 25 minutes and take a short nap. Studies show that short naps are more strongly associated with health benefits than long naps, i.e., those longer than 60 minutes. Bear in mind, that these studies do not establish causality. People taking long naps may be suffering from other conditions predisposing them to cardiovascular disease .
The timeless adage “Man is a social animal” rings especially true when discussing life expectancy. Across the globe, regions known as “Blue Zones,” where individuals consistently live longer and healthier lives, underscore the profound importance of robust social ties. Yet, it’s worth noting that it isn’t merely about the quantity of interactions, but the depth and quality.
Here are the top three scientifically proven reasons why cultivating relationships contributes to longevity and healthspan:
Minimize the impact unhealthy relationships have on your life. For as beneficial as healthy relationships can be to your quality of life and longevity, unhealthy relationships can have a physical as well as mental impact .
The ten areas for extending your healthspan described in this article provide you with a robust roadmap for how to enjoying your healthiest life. While some might point out that many factors that determine your healthspan—e.g., your genes—are beyond your control, these areas clearly demonstrate that you can actively decide how you want to live. And your decisions are scientifically proven to shift the odds of enjoy a long, healthy life in your favor. And, as research continues to demonstrate, even genes can express themselves in different ways based on your lifestyle habits .