How monitoring your BMI can give you ten more years to live (and eight other pieces of advice to live longer)

How monitoring your BMI can give you ten more years to live (and eight other pieces of advice to live longer)

A guide to your body, your mind and your quality of life (and longevity too)

Nine Habits for a Longer, Happier Life

Whether it’s pursuing a demanding career, eating better, or maintaining friendships, achieving the feats we most desire requires a healthy foundation.

Living life to the fullest starts with taking care of your body and mind. Getting enough physical activity and going to the doctor regularly are good ways to start this process, says Leana Wen, medical analyst at CNN.

“The long-term effects of good and bad health habits are cumulative. Simply put, you can’t escape the past,” William Roberts, a professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, said in an email.

Here are some habits worth adopting so that you are more likely to live a longer, happier life:

1. Routine consultations

Young people tend to have fewer chronic illnesses than older people, but prevention is key, says Leana Wen. “For example, if you test positive for prediabetes, there are steps you can take to prevent its progress.”

Routine annual appointments also allow you to familiarize yourself with your doctor, he adds. “The best time to see your doctor is not when you already have symptoms and need help. It is necessary to regularly build and establish this relationship so that your doctor can get a baseline of your medical history.”

2. Consistency in physical activity

The practice of physical exercise in adequate amounts can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, says Leana Wen.

“There is a vast body of research that supports regular aerobic exercise, not only to live longer but also to preserve cognitive function longer,” says Nieca Goldberg, medical director of Atria New York City and associate professor of clinical medicine. at the Grossman School of Medicine at New York University.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate to vigorous exercise weekly, while pregnant women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic and strength exercise per week.

3. A healthy BMI

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement of body fat that allows you to assess a person’s weight category and potential risk for health problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A 2018 study revealed that maintaining a healthy BMI can prolong your life by more than a decade and has been linked to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Regular exercise and eating healthy foods can help you with this goal.

4. Proper nutrition

Eating more plant-based foods provides a great source of antioxidants, says Nieca Goldberg. “Oxidation is a sign of stress in our system and can lead to changes in plaque buildup in arteries and the like,” she adds. “And this oxidation is also associated with aging.”

According to a study published in February in the journal PLOS Medicine, you can prolong your life by eating less red and processed meats and more fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. The potential benefits are particularly strong if we start early. Women who start eating properly at age 20 can increase their life expectancy by just over 10 years, while men who start at the same age can add 13 years.

At mealtime, at least half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, says Nieca Goldberg. Also, what’s important isn’t just “what’s in the food but how the kitchen is cooked,” she adds. “So roasting and grilling is better than frying.”

5. Pay attention to mental well-being

Mental health is often “such an overlooked part of our health, but it actually contributes to a large extent to our overall health and well-being,” says Leana Wen.

The last few years have brought on stress and anxiety, which can affect blood pressure, sleep, food choices, alcohol consumption or attempts to quit smoking, says Nieca Goldberg.

Experts say that taking 15 minutes out of our day to take care of our mental health can make life easier.

When you wake up, try taking a deep breath, staying present during breakfast instead of being distracted, going for a walk, journaling, and taking breaks from screens.

The benefits of these care practices come from lowering levels of cortisol, the stress hormone linked to health complications. Being able to better regulate your emotions, which can be achieved with meditation, has been linked to resilience for health in old age.

6. Sleep well

People who sleep less than seven hours a night tend to have higher levels of stress, blood sugar and blood pressure, says Nieca Goldberg.

You can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep through regular exercise and sleep habits. Keep your room dark, serene and cool at night and only use it for sleeping and having sex.

7. Drink less alcohol

“People have long associated alcohol with a healthier heart,” says Nieca Goldberg. But “excessive alcohol consumption can actually be a direct toxin to the heart muscle and cause heart failure. In addition, it also raises blood sugar levels and causes weight gain.”

Avoiding drinking too much alcohol can add at least several years to your life, reducing your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other chronic diseases, a 2020 study found.

8. No smoking

“Smoking is an important risk factor that increases the likelihood of multiple cancers, not just lung cancer but also others such as breast cancer,” says Leana Wen. It also “increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and other conditions that reduce people’s life expectancy.”

If you’re a regular smoker, it’s not too late to give up smoking and extend your lifespan, adds Leana Wen.

9. Build strong relationships

Having close and positive relationships adds happiness and comfort to our lives and reduces stress, experts say. Studies have shown that people who have rewarding relationships with family, friends and the community have fewer health problems, live longer and experience fewer depressive states and cognitive decline later in life, according to Harvard Health.

If implementing all these habits seems like too much, think of them as a gradual build-up, says Leana Wen. “We may not always be perfect at everything,” she says, “but there are things we can do to improve in one or more aspects, and we can commit to that kind of improvement in our lifestyle.”

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