If you could, would you want to live forever? Jeanne Calment of France, who was 122 ½ years old when she died in 1997, holds the world record for longest confirmed lifespan – long enough that as a child, she actually met Vincent Van Gogh and watched the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
Great genes? Perhaps, but studies have shown that while heredity plays a role in influencing life expectancy, the larger determinant is a healthy lifestyle. While it’s true that most people won’t live long enough to become 100+ year old supercentenarians, adopting healthy habits can, as the expression goes, add years to our life and life to our years. Below, we bring you six effective lifestyle changes for body and soul, and next week we’ll bring you six more. Start today, and you’ll be well on the way to enhancing how long you live – and how well.
- Be mindful. A study conducted of people over age 80 determined that one of the largest predictors of a long life is a mindful and conscientious nature. That means paying attention to details, doing what’s right and consistently making choices to help protect and improve your health, build stronger relationships and enhance your career. Some people come by thoughtfulness and impulse control naturally, but if your personality skews a bit more towards Type A or even recklessness, make a conscious effort to slow down, take a deep breath and consider the possible consequences of your actions – all of which will go a long way towards keeping you safer, healthier and living longer.
- Make friends. Companionship, advice, support, inspiration… there are so many advantages to having and being a friend, and here’s another – you just may live longer. People with more friends tend to live longer than those with fewer social connections, so if you need to, find new ways to expand your social circle. How? You can meet new friends through your friends and relatives, your job, shared hobbies and interests, volunteer opportunities, or even where you live. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, and if you happen to live in a managed lifestyle community, take advantage of the social and recreational programs it provides for residents.
"I strive to bring people together and encourage them connect and form friendships through a variety of weekly and monthly classes, programs, trips and events – I’ll even escort them to events if they feel hesitant or shy,” said Gerry Gray, Lifestyle Director at Potomac Green, a 55+ community with over 2,000 residents. “When neighbors interact and watch out for one another, they not only build their social connections, but they also increase their safety, well-being and quality of life.” But always be sure to…
- Choose your friends wisely. Convinced you’re set in your ways? Not according to science. As social animals, we tend to pick up our friends’ habits, both good and bad – and even if you’re no longer a kid, peer pressure can be hard to resist. For example, if your friends are obese or smoke, you may find yourself reaching for one too many snacks – or cigarettes. On the other hand, dieting and quitting are often contagious, and the buddy system can motivate both of you. The takeaway? Seek out friends with the same healthy habits you share or aspire to.
- Nap. Your boss may not agree, but a regular afternoon siesta is actually beneficial – at least for your health. Naps are standard practice in many countries, and in fact, studies have shown that a midday snooze can decrease your chances of dying from heart disease. So the next time you’ve got some free time, pull up a pillow and grab some quick Z’s. If work or other daily obligations don’t allow for afternoon naps, be sure you get enough sleep every night. Experts recommend 6-8 hours for adults, and encourage you to go to sleep and rise at the same time each day.
- Eat a Mediterranean Diet. Studies continue to prove the many health benefits of a Mediterranean diet, which is centered on fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and lots of olive oil. Eating this way has been show to significantly decrease blood pressure, blood sugar, obesity, heart disease and diabetes, so even if you don’t go full-on Mediterranean, try to add more of these nutritional powerhouses to your diet.
- Drink in Moderation. To life! That’s what this article is about, so let’s all raise a glass – after all, moderate drinkers have lower incidences of heart disease than teetotalers. But don’t go overboard. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink per day for women, and one to two for men – more than that, and you risk weight gain, hypertension and many other health problems. And if you don’t drink, don’t start – there are other ways to protect your heart.
We all have the power to shed our unsafe or unhealthy habits and make positive changes to help improve our wellbeing – and maybe even our lifespans – through healthy lifestyle changes. We’ll be back with more tips next week, but if you want more, don’t miss The Elements of Living. This engaging magazine-style lifestyle blog is filled with fun and informative articles to help you and your family live better.
For even more proven tips and insights to enhance your lifestyle, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s property management leader.