11 Simple Habits for Healthy Aging
Can you really extend your lifespan and stay healthy at any age? We’re sharing the top science-supported tips that can encourage graceful aging and long-term wellness.
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There’s no such thing as anti-aging – but you can extend the quality and quantity of your years. Instead of trying to turn back the hands of time, support healthy aging and level up your overall existence with simple habits, routines and supplements (no fad workouts or pricey superfood smoothies required).
Here’s what the research says you can do to live a longer, healthier and overall better life.
1. Follow the 80/20 rule for every meal
Caloric restriction reduces inflammation, protects against disease and enhances life span, and dozens of studies show the longest-living populations generally eat less. But you don’t want to over-restrict or limit yourself too much. Use the 80/20 rule: Cut your food intake by 20 percent, or eat until you’re about 80 percent full, to naturally lower how much you’re eating, without deprivation.
To cut back on calories without impacting your nutrition, focus on nutrient-dense foods over calories alone. Foods with low nutrient-density include processed foods, refined grains and sugar (which is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cognitive decline and even some types of cancer).
2. Drink tea every day
People who drink tea daily have lower rates of disease, and research links daily tea consumption with a decrease in all-cause mortality and longer lifespan. Green tea is especially rich in powerful antioxidants, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to boost immunity, balance blood pressure and cholesterol. EGCG can even reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer. Black tea, packed with polyphenol antioxidants, has similar benefits. Both green and black teas contain L-theanine, an amino acid that eases stress, enhances tranquility.
But don’t ditch coffee altogether in favor of tea. Coffee is also full of protective antioxidants, and it’s associated with lower overall mortality.
3. Be smart with the sun
You might not immediately think of your skin when you’re considering healthy aging. But over time, too much sun ages your skin and increases your risk of skin cancer. But constantly slathering on sunscreen can have a surprising impact: It can hamper your body’s ability to make vitamin D, which is associated with lower rates of disease and increased longevity.
Studies show modest, non-burning exposure to sunlight can be good for you; it may protect against cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions. If you’re out in the sun for long periods of time, use sunscreen, seek shade and cover up. Otherwise, research suggests spending about 15 minutes in the sun with your face, arms and legs exposed, two or three times a week, optimizes vitamin D production.
4. Sit less, move more
Physical activity is vital for healthy aging, and a sedentary lifestyle is linked with a greater likelihood of disease, shorter lifespan. But an hour in the gym won’t offset the damaging effects of extended sitting. Studies show consistently moving your body in natural ways throughout the day is best.
Instead of sitting, take your meetings on a hike, walk around the block while you’re making calls or jog in place as you check emails on your phone. For more age-slowing benefits, take a walk outside. Spending time in nature is associated with a lower risk of disease and early death (plus, sun exposure enhances vitamin D production).
5. Tame inflammation daily with supplements
Chronic inflammation damages cells and speeds aging, and research shows it’s a primary cause of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions. A plant-based diet and healthy lifestyle (physical activity, quality sleep, minimal stress) are crucial for quenching the flames of inflammation.
But for maximum protection, fortify yourself with science-backed supplements that have been shown to lessen inflammation and heal damage. Some of the best are curcumin, ALA (alpha-lipoic acid), boswellia, resveratrol and omega-3 fats. Take them daily to see the biggest benefit. For an extra anti-inflammatory boost, you can also fortify meals with inflammation-taming spices like turmeric, garlic and ginger.
6. Eat more plants…
There’s no denying the power of fruits and vegetables – they’re all-around healthy, and they can be potent in their power to help you age in healthy ways. Fruits and veggies are rich in a variety of antioxidants that inhibit inflammation, fight free radicals and protect DNA from damage, which is known to contribute to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and faster aging.
And research shows people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have reduced rates of disease and longer lifespans. Emphasize non-starchy vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach, kale, citrus, strawberries, carrots and sweet potatoes – all of these foods are associated with lower mortality risk.
7. … and more beans
Beans are loaded with fiber and resistant starch, a hard-to-digest carbohydrate that supports a balanced microbiome – a key factor in healthy aging – and studies show populations who eat the most legumes have lower rates of disease and overall mortality. They’re also rich in lignans, plant compounds that protect against breast, colon and other cancers. Aim for ½ to 1 cup of beans a day, and swap them for red meat (which is associated with heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes).
8. Moisturize your skin nightly
Creams and lotions help maintain your youthful complexion, and nightly moisturizing may also lessen the risk of degenerative diseases. As we age, skin gets thinner, drier and more permeable, allowing small cracks to develop. This triggers the release of cytokines, inflammatory molecules that travel throughout the body and promote systemic inflammation.
Moisturizing protects skin from developing those small cracks, slowing the release of inflammatory chemicals. In one study, people who slathered on lotion every night had lower markers of inflammation, and researchers suggest regular moisturizing can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other chronic conditions.
9. Develop (and stick to) a sleep routine
Lack of sleep boosts the likelihood of heart disease and stroke and shortens your lifespan. In one meta-analysis, fewer than six hours of shut-eye was associated with a 12 percent increase in mortality risk. Hitting the hay around the same time every night stabilizes circadian rhythms and helps improve your quality of slumber (and the same goes for a consistent wake-up time).
But don’t sleep too long. In one study, more than eight hours was linked with higher rates of disease and mortality. Most research suggests seven hours is optimal for promoting longevity.
10. Stay in touch with loved ones
Research shows people who live longer (and happier) lives enjoy meaningful relationships, and a strong bond with friends, family and community is associated with a lower risk of chronic illness, greater quality of life and enhanced longevity. Cultivate connections: Make time for family, maintain friendships, reach out to neighbors, join social groups or volunteer.
Why do connections matter so much? They provide you with a reason for being. Studies associate a sense of purpose in life with a longer lifespan, and people who retire early tend to connect less, socialize infrequently and die younger.
11. Make soothing stress a habit
Chronic tension and anxiety promote weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and a shorter life span. But if that’s not enough to convince you that stress is awful, studies show long-living populations have a more relaxed approach to life.
Make it a habit to lower your stress levels and counter the effects of its tension by incorporating easy stress-busting rituals into your daily life. Deep breathing, afternoon siestas and journaling before bed are small yet significant practices you can do in just a few minutes each day.
Meditating daily is also a great stress-soothing idea. A regular meditation practice calms anxiety, soothes stress, lessens inflammation and improves longevity. Sporadic practice has fewer benefits, so make it a habit. Set aside 10 minutes every morning, and use an app that times your sessions and keeps track of days so you can establish a consistent, age-defying practice.
In the end, healthy aging is all about changing your lifestyle with easy, doable habits.