Average life expectancy has been steadily rising over the past century, with men in the United States living 79.8 years and women to 82.2 years, on average. But who doesn’t dream of thriving in their 90s or joining the exclusive centenarian club?
We all know that exercise, a healthy diet and avoidance of all things tobacco go a long way to extending an individual’s life. However, there are some lesser-known habits you should incorporate into your daily routine that could significantly prolong your time on Earth.
1. Forget Chai Tea; Grab a Beer, Instead
According to a paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, scientific studies showed that moderate drinking (one to three drinks per day) is associated with the lowest mortality rates, while abstaining from alcohol completely increases a person’s risk of dying. What’s more, the study showed that mortality rates among people who abstain from alcohol are actually higher than those of hardcore alcoholics.
This doesn’t mean you should polish off a handle of Jack Daniel’s every night. Experts recommend moderation and red wine, as red grapes are believed to benefit heart health and blood circulation.
2. Have a Lot of Sex
Science has provided men with the ultimate pickup line: “Want to go back to your place? It’ll help you live longer.” The geniuses behind the Caerphilly Cohort Study discovered that sexual activity has a “protective effect” on health. Though the study specifically focuses on the health benefits men can expect to gain from frequent sexual activity (just leave that part out when using the pickup line), there is additional evidence to support the notion that women benefit from more frequent boudoir encounters, as well.
Sex promotes physical well-being, stress relief and mental acuity. What’s more, the study shows that men who achieve frequent orgasms (approximately 100 per year) can increase life expectancy by three to eight years and reduce mortality risk by as much as 50 percent.
3. Become a Shopaholic
In what might be the perfect counter proposal for women whose boyfriends are pitching the health benefits of a more active sex life, a study released in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that shopping every day reduces mortality rates up to 28 percent for men and 23 percent for women. This doesn’t mean you should drain your account in an effort to promote good health. The benefits of shopping have less to do with actually purchasing goods and more to do with walking and socializing.
4. Surround Yourself With Funny People
Not only does laughter improve your overall happiness, but Norwegian scientists learned that those who incorporate humor into their lives can extend their lifespans by as much as eight years.
Laughter helps to keep blood vessels elastic so long as the laughter is moderate in its intensity. Hysterical laughter can over-stimulate the body’s organs, which can exacerbate certain health conditions or biological defects. According to the results of the study, persons diagnosed with cancer were 70 times more likely to survive to the end of the seven-year study if humor and laughter played an important role in their lives.
5. Start Flossing
Remember when we were told to floss every day in MTV’s "Everybody is Free" music video? Apparently that was sage advice, as leading gerontologist Dr. Tom Perls claims that flossing can help you live longer to the tune of one-and-a-half years.
Flossing helps prevent gums from being inflamed, which is a sign that you have a chronic bacterial infection in your mouth. This bacteria can negatively impact your heart, traveling to your arteries where it contributes to plaque buildup. Additionally, your body allocates resources from your immune system to fight the bacteria, causing the arteries to narrow.
6. Forget The Elliptical and Embrace That Big Booty
The scholars at Oxford University in England found that women with larger hips, butts and thighs are at lower risk for heart and metabolic diseases. “It is shape that matters and where the fat gathers,” explained Dr. Konstantinos Manolopoulos. Apparently, when fat is stored in the hips and derriere, it helps absorb fatty acids that can lead to the arteries becoming clogged. So embrace your inner Beyoncé, ladies.
7. Win The Olympics, a Nobel Prize or an Oscar
Okay, this one might not be super achievable, but for the more motivated people out there, there is evidence to suggest that winning these awards can be a boon for your health.
Oscar-winning actors and directors were found to live 4.5 years longer on average than their losing counterparts. Similarly, Olympic medalists were found to live nearly three years longer than their peers and Nobel Prize recipients live between one to two years longer than those merely nominated for the award. Apparently, winning is everything.
8. Don’t Live in The South
If you want to extend your years, don’t set up camp south of the Mason-Dixon Line. If you have a death wish, move to Mississippi where you’re all but guaranteed to defy national averages and meet your maker at a relatively young age. According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control, the states that have the lowest healthy life expectancy can be found almost exclusively in the South.
Interestingly, the 13 states with the lowest life expectancy all went for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election, suggesting that becoming a card-carrying Democrat could improve one’s health. If you’re looking for the state that best embraces longevity in aging, move to Hawaii.
9. Start Your Day With a Cup of Joe
This tip is for ladies only. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that women who drink a whopping six cups of coffee per day are 25 percent less likely to die from heart disease, while those who drink little or no coffee experience an increased incidence of stroke. The benefits of over-caffeination don’t extend to men, however, as the study showed that men neither experience health gains nor adverse effects when consuming the beverage.
10. Sitting Can Be Deadly; Take a Stand Against It
Sitting for extended periods of time increases an individual’s risk of diabetes, cancer and premature death. But new research shows that sitting fewer than three hours a day can extend a person’s life by up to two years. For those in the working class, limiting your chair time to three hours a day might prove difficult, but this news could prove enough incentive for petitioning for those stand-up office desks.
11. Be an Attractive Person
If there wasn’t enough reason already to loath those who struck gold in the genetic lottery, there is yet another reason to hate beautiful people. According to researchers at the University of Waterloo, attractive people live longer than ugly people. The findings coincide with the sexual-selection theory of evolution, which maintains that people determine mates based on biological cues (a healthy, attractive outward appearance) that indicate good genes.
12. Make a Lot of Money
Apparently, money buys more than happiness. Wealth and socioeconomic status play a crucial role in determining lifespans according to the longest-running longitudinal study of health. In what researchers have dubbed “the wealth gradient in morality,” people who pursue higher education and achieve success in their careers tend to be more focused on the future, allowing them to make better decisions that affect their long-term health and well-being.
13. Work Until You Drop
In findings that seem to defy logic, a 90-year study that followed 1,528 Americans found that those who maintained or increased the pace of their careers into middle age lived longer than those who retired early.
Researchers Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin, who detailed the results in a book summarizing these findings, said, “Everybody has the ideas – don’t stress, don’t worry, don’t work so hard, retire and go play golf. We did not find these patterns to exist in people who thrived."
14. Walk Around with Garlic Breath
In addition to helping ward off vampires, garlic is one of the best medicinal plants you can consume. The herb offers a distinctive combination of protective compounds that aid in boosting the body’s immune system and natural defenses.
It has been shown to provide benefits in heart and respiratory health, cancer prevention, and as an antiseptic that fends off harmful bacteria. However, in order to enjoy the full benefits of this miracle spice, it's best to eat it raw. Just be sure you’re stocked up on Altoids.
15. Go Nuts For Nuts… And Apples… And Chocolate
Let’s be honest. The fact that apples and nuts can improve your health is cool, but you’re really reading this in an effort to appease your inner chocoholic. Well, studies show that dark chocolate is not only good for the heart, but it also may boost overall longevity. Research conducted at Harvard showed that those who consume chocolate live roughly one year longer than those who don’t indulge.
Those who ate one to three chocolate bars per month experienced the most favorable results, averaging a 36 percent lower incidence of premature death.
Photo credit: Benjamin Button