Living to be 100 used to be a novelty, so much so that Willard Scott, the Today Show weatherman, would announce your name on air in awe (Al Roker still does). Yet, these days it’s not so uncommon to live that long. We’re all living longer than ever.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently pegs 78 years of age as the average life expectancy. That’s not too shabby considering a century ago people lived to be around 39 (due to an influenza outbreak).
But what if we could push it 25 years more?
Worldwide, there are nearly 500,000 people who have made, or surpassed, the 100-mark, and this number is projected to grow to 3.7 million by 2050. Here, we round-up the latest research that’ll not only help you to live to be triple digits, but ensure you’re happy doing so.
Don’t down a bottle of Jägermeister in hopes of a long life ahead. But a glass of red wine, by all means. “Our research shows that light-to-moderate drinking might have some protective effects against cardiovascular disease,” says Bo Xi, MD, associate professor at the Shandong University School of Public Health in China and the lead author of a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, “while heavy drinking can lead to death. A delicate balance exists between the beneficial and detrimental.”
Recommendation: Red wine contains antioxidants, can lower cholesterol, reduces the risk of stroke and increases bone density. Enjoy one to two glasses a day if you wish.
Eating meat less than once a week may increase longevity by 3.6 years, according to a study published in the American Journal of Nutrition. Another 22-year study out of Finland found increased mortality and disease among individuals with higher animal protein intakes.
Recommendation: If you must eat meat, opt for leaner proteins (chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef) and keep off the bacon and sausages since diets heavy in processed meats are linked to higher risk of cancer and heart disease. Otherwise, explore the exciting new world of plant-based nutrition, with a product like Beyond Meat, made with pea protein.
Be mindful of your surroundings, and what you’re breathing in. Everything from Benzene (found in gasoline), cigarette smoke, and other toxins can lead to cell degeneration and increase mortality rates, studies show.
Recommendation: Don’t miss this essential list of 100 Ways Your Home Could be Making You Sick.
Olive oil, veggies, fruits, nuts, seafood and a moderate amount of wine and cheese—we’ve all heard the Mediterranean diet is the secret to a longer life. In fact, numerous studies have linked the diet to improving brain health and function, lower risk of cancer and other diseases.
Recommendation: Now it’s time you tried it. Eat almonds, hummus, wild salmon, garlic, lemon, quinoa, cauliflower, chia seeds and olives frequently. Eat eggs, Skyr, and chicken moderately. And eat red meat rarely. Avoid entirely the packaged, processed, store-bought items that are loaded with additives.
Japan is doing something right! It currently holds the title of longest life span, according to the World Health Organization. This may have something to do with the size of their plates. When it comes to diet, the Japanese tend to eat smaller portions—specifically the size of a salad plate—and don’t overstuff themselves. Centenarians studied in Okinawa stop eating when they are 80 percent full. They also tend to live seven years longer than Americans, according to a study, and have fewer cases of heart disease and cancer.
Recommendation: Experiment with the 80% rule. Or at the very least, don’t keep eating when you feel full.
Don’t work so hard; your life depends on it. A Finnish study followed male businessman born between 1919 and 1934, and found that those who didn’t sleep enough, were overworked, and didn’t take enough time off (i.e. vacation) were 37 percent more likely to die between the years of 1974 and 2004. By 2015, some of the oldest participants, who always took their vacay, reached 81 to 96 years of age.
Recommendation: Our current culture rewards non-stop go-and-do work. But at what cost? If you have vacation days, use them to unplug, and be firm with your boss if you must. He’ll value your work more if you’re alive than dead.
Each hour you binge Netflix, Hulu, HBO—the list goes on—after the age of 25 may cut your life by 22 minutes, according to research out of the University of Queensland, Australia. Those who spent an average of six hours in front of the tube per day were also likely to die five years earlier than those that didn’t watch TV at all.
Recommendation: There are other reasons to stop clicking “next episode.” They can be addictive and eat up your time. (Robert De Niro is currently suing an ex-employee because he watched 55 episodes of Friends in a row.) Enjoy your One Day at a Time—one episode at a time.
A study out of the University of Naples found that too little or too much sleep—sleeping less or more than six to eight hours on average—is linked to a 30 percent higher chance of premature death.
Recommendation: Seven to eight hours of shuteye is the sweet spot.
Packed with vitamin C and other nutrients, studies have found mustards, also known as Brassicaceae, will keep you around longer, according to researchers.
Recommendation: Enojy cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, radishes, watercress, Brussels sprouts and a few spices like horseradish, wasabi and, yes, white, Indian and black mustard.
Hey, none of us are getting out of this alive, but that’s no reason to keep that sour mug. Researchers examined smile intensity among photos of baseball players from the 1950s. Of the players who had died in the years 2006 to 2009, those who were not smiling in those photos lived an average of 72.9 years, while the big smilers lived nearly 80 years. They concluded that there’s a clear link between smiling intensity and longevity.
Recommendation: Men, stop telling women to smile. It’s demeaning and implies they’re subservient. However, given the impact on our health (mental and otherwise), we could all stand to turn that frown upside down.
Old dogs can’t learn new tricks but you can. Education, coupled with a healthy weight, leads to a longer life expectancy, revealed a study out of the University of Edinburgh, with almost a year added to your life for each year spent studying beyond school.
Recommendation: Pull a Dangerfield and go back to school—even if it’s just an herbalism course, knitting class or continuing ed program.
Avoid certain jobs, some of the deadliest out there, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, if you want to stick around longer. On the flip side, find a job you love. You’ll be happier, longer, which can impact you positively long-term.
Recommendation: Truck driver, farmers and construction laborers are among the most dangerous, mainly owing to vehicular accidents.
Country life is serene, but the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging found that living in a major city can also support longer life spans because of stronger health systems, and more access to learning, arts, culture, and other healthy stimulants.
Recommendation: Eat This, Not That! are based in New York City and our editors can attest living here indeed makes you feel young, although struggling to afford it might age you. Weigh the fantasy versus reality before any leaps.
Good relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives, a Harvard study revealed. Another study in Personal Relationships looked at 270,000 people in nearly 100 countries with a strong link to better health in older age among those with strong friend and family connections.
Recommendation: Send a “friend request” to someone you’d like to be closer to—and meet them in person, not just online.
Compared with persons with a normal body mass index (18.5 to 25), those who are underweight, overweight, and obese have an increased risk of death over a 30-year period. Being too underweight, or at the extreme, obese, can impact health significantly over time, show studies.
Recommendation: A book like Zero Belly Diet can help you cut dairy, reduce bloat, stay plant-based and be leaner for life.
Stay away from men. That’s what centenarian Jessie Gallan, at one time Scotland’s oldest woman, credited for her longevity. “They’re more trouble than they’re worth,” she said in an interview before her death in 2015. Granted, Gallan was a tough woman without or without a man. She started working at the age of 13 and spent her 109 years staying fit and having good people in her life but never walked down the aisle.
Recommendation: There’s no definitive research supporting a link between marriage and longevity one way or the other, although one study found that “current marriage is associated with longer survival. Among the not married categories, having never been married was the strongest predictor of premature mortality.” Our advice: Marry the person you want to spend your life with, and give one another room to grow.
If you want to live longer, make sure you and your spouse are happy. A study published by the Association for Psychological Science found that a happy marriage can lead to a longer life.
Recommendation: A good marriage is linked to a more active life and healthier habits, overall. How’s your relationship?
As stressful as parenthood gets at times, having kids can actually keep you around longer since it encourages a healthier lifestyle—you’re more likely to give up smoking and stay active, shows one study.
Recommendation: Don’t have children just to live longer. But if you do have or want kids, remember that your habits become theirs. Set the example.
Keep a good pace. Brisk walking will keep your heart healthy and add some years to your life, according to a recent Mayo Clinic study. Researchers reported that women who walked more quickly had a life span of about 87 years compared to 72 years for women who walked slowly. Meanwhile, men who walked quickly had a life span of about 86 years compared to 65 years for men who walked more slowly.
Recommendation: “Walking is man’s best medicine,” said Hippocrates. Get steppin’.
A handful of nuts a day may keep the doctor away, according to Harvard University research, which found that people who crunch some nuts daily lived 20 percent longer than those who didn’t.
Recommendation: Our favorite is almonds. Besides being an easy go-to snack that you can whip out of your bag during a good ol’ 9-5 shift, almonds are also chock-full of essential vitamins and minerals, with vitamin E and biotin being the most predominant. Those nutrients enable your skin to remain smooth and gives your lush hair and strong nails the nutrition they need to flourish.
Don’t stop—ever! The moment you become stagnant, things may go downhill. Stay active. A 2016 study found that elderly people who exercised for just 15 minutes a day, at an intensity level of a brisk walk, had a 22 percent lower risk of early death compared to people who don’t exercise.
Recommendation: “For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines: Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity,” reports the Mayo Clinic.
To quote Dr. Nelly of Nellyville: It’s getting hot in here. Frequent spicy food consumption is linked to a longer life. Those who eat spicy foods nearly every day have a 14 percent chance of living longer, according to a Harvard study. Capsaicin and other compounds in chili peppers have been linked to fighting cancer, obesity, and more.
Recommendation: Sprinkle some cayenne pepper into your eggs every morning, for a one-two punch of protein and spice.
Researchers at the Carleton University in Canada say that having a sense of purpose may add more years to your life, because of positive relations and emotions and overall well-being.
Recommendation: Start small. Rather than ask yourself, “Why am I here? What is my place in the Universe” ask yourself, “What can I do today that will make me feel like I’ve enriched my life, or the lives of others?”
Yoga can help improve digestion, calm the nervous system, lower blood sugar, and so many other tangible benefits. It’s no wonder researchers say it will help increase your overall life span.
Recommendation: Get your chaturanga on! There’s no doubt a yoga studio near you, with teachers who will welcome first-timers. For long-timers, consider a retreat.
Taking care of your teeth and gums isn’t just about preventing cavities or bad breath. The mouth is the gateway to the body’s overall health. Not flossing allows plaque to build up, which then turns into tartar that can eventually irritate the gums, which can lead to various infections and disease over time. Researchers followed more than 5,400 people for 18 years and found that those who did not brush their teeth daily had a 22 to 65 percent greater risk of dementia than those who brushed three times a day.
Recommendation: The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day. Use fluoride toothpaste, and brush for two minutes.
Coffee is packed with tons of healthy compounds, including antioxidants, which can protect the body against cellular damage that can lead to disease, studies show.
Recommendation: Drinking four to five cups daily is also associated with a reduced risk of early death.
This one is pretty self explanatory. An active lifestyle will keep you around longer. Exercising at a moderate level for at least 150 minutes can add on 3.4 years to your life, according to the National Institute of Health.
Recommendation: Try one of these 25 Easy Exercises That Boost Your Health Fast. They really work.
Helping others can only make you feel good, and it helps boost overall mental health throughout time, which impacts the body’s immunity to fight disease, according to a study published in BMC Public Health.
Recommendation: Animal rescue shelters, national parks, Habitat for Humanity, local libraries, political campaigns and the YMCA are a few places that rarely say no to help.
Studies show sex releases endorphins and hormones in the body, which can help combat feelings of loneliness and depression, keep you physically active, reduce stress relieving, and boost mental wellness.
Recommendation: Take this advice seriously. Having sex is one of the 40 Things Cardiologists Do to Protect Their Hearts.
Are there stairs nearby? Good. Use them. The European Society of Cardiology released a study showing how brisk movement, particularly being able to climb three flights quickly, can reduce your risk of early death from cardiovascular and oncologic, and other diseases.
Recommendation: Skip the elevators and escalators, and track your steps with a fitness watch, if you need more motivation.
The sweet stuff won’t get you far in life—literally. Too much sugar is linked to shorter life spans, according to one study. Sugar has even been linked to reprogramming how our genes function. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 14% of the daily calories the average Ameican consumes comes from added sugars. And it shows. According to a Population Health Management publication, the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes increased more than three times between 1990 and 2010. This just so happens to be the same years sugar starting becoming more prevalent in our food.
Recommendation: A book like Sugar Free 3 can teach you how to identify added sugars—and how to give them up.
Get in touch with your spiritual side. People who attend religious services, or have some spiritual connection, typically experience lower levels of anxiety, depression, have lower blood pressure, and are generally in better health. An 18-year study published in PLOS One found that regular service attendance was linked to reductions in the body’s stress responses, and worshippers were 55 percent less likely to die.
Recommendation: You read that right: 55 percent less likely to die. Start by defining what spirituality means to you, and then see if there’s a community that supports that common interest.
If you’re not connected to a particular religion, you can still find your spiritual balance through meditation. Not only does it improve mental health, but meditating has been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases, according to a study from the University of California-Davis, which found that regular meditation produces higher levels of telomerase, an enzyme that helps lengthen the telomeres in our chromosomes, which impact aging.
Recommendation: Apps like Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm have taken meditating mainstream; try one. One of our favorite apps is 10% Happier, from ABC News man-turned-meditator Dan Harris.
If you know how to laugh at things, you’ll live longer. A 15-year study out of Norway assessed the link between a sense of humor and mortality rates among 53,556 men and women and found that women who had a good sense of humor lived longer, despite illnesses, including cardiovascular disease; cheerful men faired just as well with laughter protecting them from infection.
Recommendation: We’ve been obsessed with the funniest lines from HBO’s Succession—and aren’t even sure it’s a comedy!
Want to live to 85 or longer? Optimistic thinking can add years on to your life, say researchers at Boston University School of Medicine. Optimistic people can better regulate emotions so we can bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively.
Recommendation: Technically, the glass is always half full. The other half is air.
Creativity keeps the brain healthy and may decrease mortality rates. Researchers agree. Creative people just tend to live longer.
Recommendation: Remember this, if something’s blocking you: You don’t have to be “creative” to create.
Be good to yourself. Self compassion goes a long way, say researchers. It’s associated with better moods, can improve body image, and is linked to happiness, optimism, wisdom, personal initiative, and more. Overall, it improves our entire mental health, which keeps our body more resilient to stress and illnesses.
Recommendation: Did we mention we love that thing you said today? So smart! So funny! So wise.
People who eat fiber-rich foods, including some good ‘ole oatmeal or porridge, cut their risk of dying from cardiovascular, infectious, and respiratory diseases by 24 to 56 percent in men and by 34 percent to 59 percent in women, shows one study.
Recommendation: Buy “regular” oatmeal and add berries for sweetness. Anything else may be loaded with dangerous added sugars.
Gene variants found in centenarians have been linked to their longer lives. A healthy lifestyle can help people live into old age, but these genes help maintain basic maintenance and function of the body’s cells in individuals of advanced age, in their 80s and beyond.
Recommendation: You can’t outrun genetics but you can learn about yours. Consider taking a DNA test, in which you’ll learn about your proclivity to certain diseases.
Owning a dog is linked to a longer life, according to researchers out of Uppsala University in Sweden, who reviewed national registry records of 3.4. million men and women, ages 40 to 80.
If you’re a cat person, you’ll get some extra years from kitties as well. A study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute found that people who owned cats were 30 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack.
Recommendation: We mentioned volunteering at the ASPCA. If you feel truly capable of caring for a pet, discuss taking one home. We like these questions from Nylabone:
- “Do you have enough time for a dog?
- Do you work long hours?
- Can you make it home on your lunch break for a quick walk?
- Does your job require you to travel frequently?
- Can you afford to care for the breed you have chosen?”
Get back to basics with food. Those who incorporate more whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fish and limiting too much sodium, unhealthy fats, excess red meat, sugar, and processed foods, improved their overall health and life expectancy.
Recommendation: For the web’s #1 nutrition resource, and to make the right food choice every time, head to Eat This, Not That!
Does longevity run in your family? Dig deeper into your family history, including lifestyle habits, illnesses, deaths, and beyond. It may help us tap into how long we ultimately have here.
Recommendation: Put together a family tree—with dates of birth, death, and causes.
Tea contains flavonoids, a compound that works to boost health. One study found that 88 percent of women were 40 percent more likely to live longer because they drank two cups of tea per day.
Recommendation: Go green. The most potent catechin in green tea is EGCG, the powerhouse compound that’s responsible for most of green tea’s weight loss properties. In addition to revving your metabolism and boosting the breakdown of fat, EGCG can also block the formation of new fat cells.
A normal body weight may extend lifespan by delaying the process of aging. The current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define a normal BMI range as 18.5 to 24.9; overweight is 25 or higher, and obesity is 30 or higher. Researchers report a 44 percent increase in risk of death for participants with a BMI of 30.0 to 34.9.
Recommendation: Talk to your doctor about the right weight for you—and ask for a recommendation for a nutritionist.
Get in the water. In comparison to other physical activities, swimming is linked to more years on this planet. A 13-year study out of the University of South Carolina found that swimmers only had a 1.9 percent risk of death during the research period, while mortality rates were 11 percent for inactive, 7.8 percent for walkers, and 6.6 percent for runners.
Recommendation: Get off the treadmill and into the water once in a while.
If you’re cycling faster, you may live five times longer than some slower peddlers, reveals one Danish study. Higher intensity cycling is linked to decreased heart disease, and mortality rates.
Recommendation: Push your pedals to the metal!
A study found that 95 percent of people fail to wash their hands long enough to kill harmful bacteria, which can lead to infection and other illness.
Recommendation: Here’s a tip: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing your hands with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, or the time it takes to hum or sing “Happy Birthday” twice. For more inspo, read these 20 Facts That Will Change the Way You Wash Your Hands.
This one is obvious. Smoking (even “light” smoking) is linked to premature death and a plethora of potentially fatal illnesses along.
Recommendation: If you smoke, quit now. It can add another 10 years to your life.
Snoring is a major sign of sleep apnea, which causes you to stop breathing in your sleep as throat tissues collapse and blocks your airways. Sleep apnea is linked to everything from memory problems, high blood pressure, weight gain, depression, and can even be fatal. Nearly 42 percent of deaths in people with severe sleep apnea were attributed to stroke and cardiovascular disease or stroke, compared to the deaths in people without the condition.
Recommendation: If you snore—or your partner says you do—see a doctor and ask about sleep apnea.
In the end, just have a good time in this life! Mental health has a tremendous impact on our overall health and well-being. One study even found that older people, ages 52 to 76, who are enjoying life have a 35 percent lower risk of dying over a five-year period than unhappy ones. Thanks for taking time out of your life to read this far. For more ways to be happier and healthier, don’t miss this essential list of the 50 Unhealthiest Habits on the Planet.