What would it take to live to 100—in good health? An international consortium of researchers recently gathered at Tufts University in Boston to debate the answer. This meeting brought together heavy-hitters from every corner of medical research—cardiovascular medicine, endocrinology, nutrition, obesity management, experimental genetics, sleep research, and more.
After two days of research presentations on every aspect of the aging process, the panelists were asked to consider:
What are the top five things we should do if we want to live well to 100?
You might be surprised at the answers. It’s not about expensive medical interventions, drugs, or futuristic technology. According to the best available research, it all comes down to a few simple habits—things we all can do.
In the market for a New Year’s Health Resolution? Here are the five that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
1. Maintain a healthy body weight. Here’s a shocking fact: Americans now have the lowest life expectancy of all developed countries. The reason? Two out of three Americans are overweight, which leads directly to increases in deaths from heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Maintaining a healthy body weight is not just about looking good. It is literally a matter of life and death. It’s also the number one step you can take to ensure a longer, healthier life.
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Inflammation as a root cause of aging and disease was a constant refrain at the Living Well to 100 Conference. Whether or not you need to lose weight, the research overwhelmingly indicates that an anti-inflammatory diet is the healthiest way to eat, leading to lower risk of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, and complications from obesity and diabetes. A Mediterranean-style diet is one option. See InflammationFreeDiet.com for others.
3. Exercise most days. Did you know that twelve weeks of exercise can reverse 12 years of aging? That’s how critical physical activity is to healthy aging. There are two important components to exercise: cardiovascular and strength training. To get the anti-aging benefits of exercise, you need both. That means getting your heart rate up moderately high for 20-30 minutes almost every day, and doing some sort of weight or resistance exercise once or twice a week. Those who do these two things stay healthier and live longer. It’s as simple as that.
4. Get enough sleep. The less you sleep, the lower your life expectancy. It’s that simple. Our society glorifies those who burn the candle at both ends. But those who joke, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” will probably get their chance a little sooner than they think. Aim for at least 7-8 hours for sleep every night.
5. Believe. It doesn’t seem matter in what you place your faith. Having a belief system or philosophy that sustains you through ups and downs of life and provides a source of meaning and purpose is one of the most effective longevity habits. And that’s hard science.