Top 15 Ways to Prolong Your Life

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Woody Allen once famously quipped, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work…I want to achieve it through not dying.” If only we could achieve just that, however, the reality is closer to another saying – that death and taxes are the only sure things in life.

Unless you’re a member of the “live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse” school of thought, chances are you’re on the lookout to at least prolong the life that fate has given you. If that’s the case, then these fifteen ways, in no particular order, to prolong your life should at least offer a little direction, and give you a little more time before you shuffle off your mortal coil, into whatever unknown lies beyond death.

Some of these are the same things your mother told you when you were growing up, but others may surprise you a little. Most of them are easy to start today, allowing you to rest assured that you’re doing your bit to ensure your long term health, and that you’ll be here for a long time to come.

15. Sleep a Little Less


Contrary to dear old mom’s advice, and to popular belief, eight hours of sleep a night is not the optimum, if you want to lead a longer life. We actually need a little less than that to function at our peak.

In fact, researchers have discovered that those who get around six hours a night live longer than those who get eight hours or more, or those that get four hours or less. So, stay up, watch a little late night TV, and live longer, or get up a little earlier in the morning, giving yourself a little me time, or reducing the stress of rushing to work. Either way, you’ll be getting added benefits. Think of it as health multi tasking.

14. Get, and Stay, Married


Yup, it’s been proven. Those of us who are married, both male and female, enjoy longer lives. But make sure you work on that relationship, because studies have also shown that those who divorce, and then remarry, are more likely to die sooner than their happily married counterparts.

So, if you’re in a relationship, spend some time working on it, making sure it’s a happy and enduring one, and if you’re not, go out there and meet someone! You’ll live a longer life with a companion and partner by your side.

13. Laugh


Laughter is a surprising and little thought of way to lengthen your lifespan, but it’s true. Laughing is a workout, since it is physical activity, and the more you laugh, the more of a workout it is! In fact, researchers have found that laughing 100 to 200 times can be equivalent, in fitness terms, to ten minutes of rowing or jogging, and sound like a lot more fun than either!

Not only that, but it has been proven to reduces stress hormone levels, and improve immune function, so next time you’re staying up late, waiting to kick off your six hours of sleep a night, why not put a funny DVD on instead, and lengthen your life a little?

12. Move to the Country


OK, so not all of us can give up city life and move to a rural paradise. However, studies in Tokyo, Japan, one of the world’s most population dense cities, have shown that retirees and pensioners that live near parks or other open spaces live longer.

So even if moving to a small town in the country is not realistic, try to spend more time outdoors, in the garden, or in your local park, or why not plan weekend trips to a cabin, or camping, fishing or hiking trips, that will give you more time with the family, and get you outdoors. It will lengthen your life, and you’ll probably have some fun at the same time!

11. Eat Right and Exercise


This is one that your mom definitely mentioned! Eating the right foods, steering clear of cholesterol laden saturated fats, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting around thirty minutes of exercise a day will significantly improve your lifespan.

Eat a balanced diet, lose the extra weight if you have it, and learn to love vegetables and fruit, particularly super foods like broccoli, tomatoes and anti oxidant rich fruits like blueberries, throw in some nuts, oily fish, lean meat and poultry, and other healthy foods, and you should do well on the diet front. As for exercise, there’s no need to join the gym to get your daily dose. Walk the dog, play with the kids, or mow the lawn – any physical activity counts!

Also important to note is that we’re not talking yo yo dieting here, which has actually been proven to be dangerous. Rather make manageable changes to diet and exercise that you can live with. Take up a sport, or commit to walking rather than driving where possible. When it comes to food, don’t starve yourself, just make sure your choices are healthy and low fat, and remember, often, it’s not the food itself, it’s the preparation, so swop French fries for baked potato, grill rather than frying meat, and ban the creamy sauces, and you should be fine!

10. Keep Your Brain Stimulated


The busier your brain is, the more likely it is to continue building new connections, keeping your overall mental function in tip top condition. Whether you read (or write) a book or two, learn chess, or the piano, keeping your brain constantly stimulated will help you stay mentally younger for longer.

Anything that keeps your mind active and busy helps, so find a new hobby, learn a new skill, take up crosswords or spend more time in the library, and you’ll be contributing to a longer, mentally fitter life.

9. Always Look On the Bright Side of Life


Monty Python said it best. Optimists, on average, live twelve years longer than their pessimistic counterparts, and are more likely to perform critical self examinations, detecting life threatening diseases like breast cancer early.

They’re also more likely to take medical advice when necessary, and to be less stressed, and prone to depression, than their gloomy compatriots. Plus, optimists are just more fun to be around, so, look for the silver lining, be a glass is half full kind of person, and live a longer and happier life!

8. Quit Smoking


Tough to do, but a very good idea. Damage from smoking is cumulative, so the sooner you quit, the less likely you are to die from heart or lung diseases related to smoking, and let’s face it, if you have to choose, lung cancer, emphysema, or heart disease would probably not be high on anyone’s list of ways to die!

Quitting smoking is tough though, with experts comparing the addiction a smoker has to nicotine to that of heroin, so speak to your doctor, get advice on one of the many methods to quit, take one of the quitting drugs available, or join a support group.

7. Keep Learning


Strangely enough, researchers at Arkansas University have found that the higher qualified someone is, the longer they are likely to live.

When you examine the findings though, it does make sense: less educated people are more likely to work in higher risk fields, like factories or construction sites, and they are more prone to taking up dangerous habits like smoking.

Add to that the likelihood that their access to quality medical care when they need it is lower, and you begin to see why studying, and educating yourself more, will eventually lead to a longer life, in fact, the more diplomas and degrees you rack up, the longer you’re likely to live.

6. A Few Vices Are Good for You


This is probably the best news you’ll get for a while: chocolate, and red wine, are good for you, so enjoy in moderation!

Chocolate contains phenols, which protect against diseases like cancer, and heart disease, and red wine contains a special kind of anti oxidant called phytochemicals, that also help reduce the likelihood of heart disease and other ailments. While you should not over indulge, since the sugar and fat in chocolate will still affect your weight, and the alcohol in wine is still alcohol, enjoying either in small quantities is most definitely allowable.

Sounding better already isn’t it? Now you can stay up late, watch a comedy, while eating chocolate and sipping Merlot!

5. Get the Necessary Tests


For some reason, we all seem to avoid the necessary tests – breast exams, pap smears, prostate exams, blood work. However, if there is something medically wrong, there’s more chance of curing, treating or managing serious diseases if you know sooner rather than later. In fact, in all cases, early detection, proper treatment and management will certainly increase your life expectancy.

It may be scary. You may want to stick your head in the sand, but getting tested for various life threatening diseases regularly can dramatically increase your chances of living with them, or beating them. Even something as simple as cholesterol, blood pressure, or diabetes test can be the difference between life and death. Isn’t it better to know?

4. Drink Tea


A cup of tea a day may be more use to you than the apple, when it comes to keeping the doctor away!

Researchers at Harvard have found that one cup of ordinary black tea a day cuts the risk of heart attack dramatically, while another study found that even after heart attack, drinking tea increases your chance of survival by twenty eight percent.

The good news is that ordinary black tea has been found to be as effective as green, so sit back and relax with a nice cup of tea, and drink to good heart health.

3. Get Yourself a Pet


Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But research has discovered yet another benefit to owning a furry friend. People who own pets are, on average, healthier than those who don’t.

Owning an animal actually reduces stress levels, so those who own pets are more likely to be happier. They are also statistically less likely to visit the doctor than their non pet owning counterparts.

So go out, find a Fido or a Kitty, or some other critter to become a part of the family, since there are no limit on the type of pet you should own to enjoy this benefit, although choosing a dog may increase your likelihood of exercise. Then again, stroking a cat can be a great stress reliever!

2. Watch Your Bowels


Early warning signs of bowel cancer include an increase in problems like constipation, diarrhea, and bloody stools. Pay attention to your bowel movements, and if you notice a change, or if you are already experiencing any of these symptoms, make a point of seeing your doctor.

As with most cancers, bowel cancer is easier to treat when it is caught early, and since this is a particularly virulent form of the disease, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

1. Relax


Learning a relaxation technique, whether it be yoga or meditation, can greatly reduce your stress levels, known to contribute to everything from cancer to heart disease and stroke.

Try not to work too hard either. Work related stress contributes significantly to overall stress levels, and elevated stress levels mean a dip in your body’s immune system, as the fight of flight reflex kicks in. The Result? A higher likelihood of disease. In fact, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins, you have up to twenty times more chance of developing heart disease if you’re stressed.

Another interesting point to note is that taking work home with you is an early sign of feeling stressed and overworked. So workaholics beware! Leave work where it belongs, in the office, make more time to kick back, relax and spend time with family and friends, and you’ll live longer to enjoy the fruits of your labor!