The quest for longevity is as old as humanity itself. Today, thanks to science and technology, living a longer, healthier life is more attainable than ever.

I’ve been working in this field for over a decade now. Along the way, I’ve self-experimented with most of the new ideas that come along regarding mindset, fitness, and nutrition.

Here are 5 ways to live longer, supported by science, that have made me think differently about the things I do.

5 Ways to live longer

5 Ways to Live Longer

Here are five actionable ways to extend your lifespan that you may not have thought of in this way before.

1. Take care of your gut microbiome

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is pivotal in digestion, nutrient absorption, and immune system function. It also significantly impacts mental health through the gut-brain axis, influencing mood and cognitive functions.

A balanced microbiome is linked to a reduced risk of various chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

How to take care of your gut microbiome

Embrace a fiber-rich, plant-based diet

A cornerstone of longevity, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts is linked to a healthier microbiome and reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Incorporating high-fiber foods into your diet is crucial for promoting healthy digestion, regulating blood sugar levels, and aiding in weight management.

Foods rich in fiber include fruits such as berries, apples, and bananas; vegetables like carrots, broccoli, and leafy greens; legumes including beans, lentils, chickpeas, whole grains, and nuts and seeds, including almonds, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.

Incorporating a variety of these foods into your meals can help ensure you meet the daily recommended fiber intake and support overall health of your microbiome.

Limit processed foods and sugars

Processed foods and excessive sugar intake are associated with obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, all of which can shorten your lifespan. Opting for whole, unprocessed foods can improve health outcomes and a longer life.

Processed foods that are particularly detrimental to your microbiome typically share common characteristics. They are high in added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium and low in essential nutrients.

These include sugary drinks, bacon, sausage, hot dogs, deli meats, chips, cookies, candy, frozen meals, store-bought baked goods, instant noodles, and soups and cereals.

This is a hard one, right? Almost as though the grocery industry wants you to make unhealthy choices. I’ve found it’s easier to simply not keep them in the house. Fill your pantry and fridge with whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated helps your gut flora and digestive system, aiding nutrient absorption and waste removal. Water helps maintain the integrity of the gut’s mucosal lining, which is crucial for the survival of beneficial bacteria and protects against pathogens.

Moreover, proper hydration prevents constipation, promoting the regular bowel movements essential for balancing the gut bacteria.

Therefore, drinking sufficient water contributes significantly to a balanced and healthy gut environment, supporting overall well-being.

Drink less alcohol

Limiting or avoiding alcohol plays a significant role in protecting and improving your gut microbiome for several reasons.

  • Chronic alcohol consumption has been associated with a decrease in the diversity of the gut microbiota.
  • Alcohol can damage the cells lining the intestines, leading to increased gut permeability, commonly referred to as “leaky gut.” This condition allows bacteria and toxins to pass from the gut into the bloodstream, triggering inflammation and potentially contributing to liver disease and other health issues.
  • Alcohol intake, especially in excess, has been linked to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and the reduction of beneficial bacteria.
  • Chronic alcohol use can lead to an inflammatory response in the gut, which can further disrupt the microbiome and contribute to the development of gastrointestinal diseases and systemic inflammation.

By limiting or avoiding alcohol, you can help maintain the integrity of your gut lining, support a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and reduce inflammation, all of which contribute to overall gut health and well-being.

I follow a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources like salmon, similar to the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes these food groups and healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, has been linked to reduced risks of heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other ways to take care of your microbial community

Taking care of your gut microbiome involves a combination of dietary, lifestyle, and possibly medical interventions to foster a diverse and healthy community of microbes.

  • Incorporate Fermented Foods
  • Limit Antibiotics
  • Reduce Intake of Artificial Sweeteners
  • Consider Prebiotic Foods
  • Limit High-Sugar Diets
  • Manage Stress
  • Regular Exercise

Together, these practices can support a healthy gut microbiome, vital for overall health and well-being.

2. Read

The following cognitive, emotional, and social benefits of reading contribute to overall well-being, positively impacting longevity.

Mental Stimulation

Engaging with written material keeps the brain active and can help maintain cognitive function as you age. Cognitive engagement is associated with a lower risk of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Stress Reduction

Chronic stress is linked to numerous adverse health outcomes that can affect lifespan. Getting lost in a good book can be a form of escape, helping to lower stress levels.

Reading daily has been shown to reduce stress by up to 68%.

3. Nap

Napping, particularly when done in limited amounts, can have several health benefits contributing to increased longevity. 

Heart Health

Regular, short naps have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. A Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study suggested that midday napping can result in lower blood pressure.

Stress Relief and Relaxation

Napping can relieve stress, offering a break from the day’s activities. Reduced stress levels are associated with lower risks of various health issues.

Improved Cognitive Function

Napping, especially when it involves REM sleep, can enhance cognitive functions such as memory retention, learning, and problem-solving skills.

Those mini-slumbers are not laziness; they’re longevity-boosting sessions.

4. Creative Arts

Not only can engaging in the arts make you a more interesting dinner guest, but it might also add years to your life. Whether painting, making music, or writing poetry, it’s all about reducing stress, boosting mental health, and keeping your brain as fit as a fiddle.

While direct causation between creative activities and longer life can be complex to establish due to the multifaceted nature of health and longevity, there are several mechanisms through which creative engagement may contribute to an extended lifespan.

Mental Health

Engagement in the creative arts (such as painting, music, and writing) is known to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and stress—factors that are known to contribute to physical health issues.

Social Connections

Many artistic activities can be social in nature, whether you share your work with others, participate in groups, or attend classes. Strong social connections have been linked to longer lifespans.

Cognitive Function

Like reading, engaging in artistic activities stimulates the brain and can help maintain cognitive function into older age.

5. Optimism

Various studies have linked a positive outlook to increased longevity, suggesting that optimistic people tend to live longer and have a lower risk of chronic diseases and premature death.

Cardiovascular Health

Optimists often have better cardiovascular health and a lower risk of heart disease. The American Journal of Cardiology has reported that a positive outlook is associated with lower blood pressure and healthier blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

Stress Management

Optimists manage stress more effectively, seeing challenges as opportunities rather than insurmountable obstacles. Effective stress management is crucial for long-term health.

Healthier Lifestyles

Optimistic people are more likely to engage in healthy behavior. These include exercising, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking.

Incorporating these five activities and outlooks into your lifestyle can profoundly affect longevity, largely by improving mental health, reducing the risk of chronic diseases, and encouraging healthier lifestyle choices.

FAQs

Frequently asked questions about living longer.

How do I increase my lifespan?

Adopt a healthy diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol, manage stress, and cultivate strong social connections.

How can I reduce my life expectancy?

Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, and chronic stress can all significantly reduce life expectancy.

Does stress shorten lifespan?

Yes, chronic stress can shorten lifespan by accelerating the aging process and increasing the risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity.

What are 5 factors that influence longevity?

Genetics, lifestyle choices (diet, exercise), social connections, access to healthcare, and environmental factors significantly influence longevity.

Final Thoughts on Living Longer

Living longer is within reach for most people, and it doesn’t have to be a dreary, all-serious endeavor. With the right mix of science, lifestyle tweaks, and a healthy dose of humor, you’ll be well on your way to a longer, happier life.

Start implementing these strategies today, and take the first step toward a healthier tomorrow.