Of course most people want to live a long, healthy life, but what does that even look like on a day-to-day basis? The act of trying to live longer doesn't have to take over your whole life. In fact, there are plenty of everyday habits that will help you live longer that are super easy. Because some of these tips can literally be accomplished in seconds, there's every reason to give them a try.
To learn more about the best ways to extend your longevity, Romper spoke with a huge assortment of doctors, nurses, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals, and they had a lot to say about this topic. For the most part, these simple tips are a great way to immediately improve your life as well. Working on your breathing, stress reduction, and sleep hygiene might extend your life over the long term, but they can definitely make the here and now a whole lot more pleasant as well.
That said, not every suggestion is applicable or appropriate for everybody. Be respectful of your own body and its needs, and definitely check with your doctor before making any major changes to lifestyle, especially in terms of eating and exercise habits. Thankfully, though, the majority of these tips for improving your lifespan, such as laughing more often and spending time with friends, are fantastic ideas for most everybody.
1. Breathe Through Your Nose
Simply changing your breathing habits may make a big impact on your health. "Breathe through your nose — stay healthy and live longer," says Dr. Sharona Dayan, a board-certified periodontist and founder of Aurora Periodontal Care in Beverly Hills. "You should never breathe through your mouth. The nose is the best organ for breathing as it warms and humidifies the air to prepare it for the lungs while the cilia work to filter toxins from the air." It's what the nose was designed to do. "The mouth on the other hand, delivers cold, unfiltered, dirty air to the throat and lungs," says Dr. Dayan. In addition, breathing through your mouth results in a greater loss of moisture, and dryer mouths may be more susceptible to infection, as Dr. Dayan further explains.
2. Buckle Your Seat Belt
This habit takes almost no time at all, but it can be so crucial in times of emergency. "Most people don’t realize that motor vehicle accidents are one of the top causes of death," says Ashley Wood, RN, BSN, contributor at Demystifying Your Health, based out of Atlanta, Georgia. "If you get into an accident, the few seconds it took to fasten your seat belt could literally save your life. In order to fit properly, the seat belt should fit low across your hips and the shoulder strap should be across the center of your chest." If you have young kids, then learn about the AAP’s new car seat guidelines at Romper to keep your kids safe in the vehicle as well. For instance, your kid might need a booster seat up until the age of 12 or so.
3. Brush & Floss Your Teeth
Dental health is so important, too. "It’s known to most people that brushing and flossing can keep your teeth clean, but what most people don’t know is that brushing at least three times a day and flossing once a day can reduce chronic inflammation of the gums and supporting tooth structures," says SmileDirectClub’s Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Jeffrey Sulitzer, DMD. "Studies over the past 15 years have shown that if patients reduce the chronic inflammation that gum disease causes by having good oral hygiene, they can also have a positive effect on their diabetic, heart and overall health condition by reducing the inflammation that is caused by gum disease in the mouth." A regular brushing and flossing routine, as well as twice-yearly trips to the dentist, can do so much for your overall health and well-being.
4. Eat More Prebiotics
Consider incorporating more prebiotics into your daily meals. "One health hack that I would recommend people do every day in order to live longer is support their gut health via consuming prebiotic rich foods," says Kara Landau, NYC-based registered dietitian and founder at Uplift Food. The fuel for probiotics in your gut, prebiotics may help reduce inflammation and support your digestive system, as Landau further explains. "Simple ways of getting more prebiotics into your diet could include whipping up a smoothie in the morning that incorporates some prebiotic green banana flour, incorporating legumes and lentils with your lunch, or even snacking on some tigernuts, pistachios and cashews," says Landau. Some simple changes to your snacking routine may help your health overall.
5. Eat Whole, Homemade Foods
Eating at home may help you out in the long term. "There is a good reason why some of the oldest humans on the planet originate from some of the poorest countries in the world," says Dr. Nikola Djordjevic, MD, Co-Founder of MedAlertHelp.org. "The answer is their diet is made up of mostly whole-foods, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Eating a well-balanced diet is essential for living longer, so try to eat more homemade food instead of eating out." Need some inspiration? There are a ton of easy, healthy recipes at Elite Daily. Overnight oats and a fresh kale salad are only two of the tasty options.
Consider moving around your meal times, or even skipping breakfast. "After not eating for a certain period the body will start a process called autophagy which means self eating," says pharmacist Erin Pitkethly, BSc Phm, RPh, NNCP, of the Robinsong Health Low Carb Clinic. "In the cells all the garbage is recycled and cleared out, increasing efficiency of energy processing and causing anti-aging changes within the cells." Although the exact effects of autophagy are still being studied, brief periods of fasting may help a person's overall health, as Pitkethly further explains. If you're curious about whether fasting will benefit your lifestyle, discuss it with your doctor.
7. Prioritize Sleep
Seriously, it's difficult to overstate the importance of sleep. "Getting a restful sleep every night is one of the best ways for you to live a healthier lifestyle, says Jocelyn Nadua, Registered Practical Nurse, and Care Coordinator at C-Care Health Services. It may even help extend your life. "Additionally, a restful sleep allows your immune system to thrive, as it creates infection-fighting proteins called cytokines." Plus, it's so much easier to make healthy decisions when your brain is well-rested and refreshed.
8. Reduce Portion Size & Increase Quality
Whenever possible, spring for more quality ingredients in your meals. "Reduce portion size at each meal and increase the quality of food you put on your plate," says Nick Frye, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Certified Health Education Specialist, and resident health expert for OPTAVIA. "A combination of low-glycemic carbohydrates, healthy fats and high-quality protein will fill you up and give your body necessary nutrients." This type of healthy eating may help your body function at its best.
A little daily movement can be great for your body. "Stretching your muscles helps keep you flexible and helps increases blood circulation, joint health, mobility, balance and more," as Dr. Thanu Jey, Clinic Director at Yorkville Sports Medicine, tells Romper. "Doing a little bit every day will go a long way in increasing your longevity and quality of life in the long run." If you're new to stretching, work with a coach, physical therapist, or doctor to develop a safe, healthy routine for your body.
10. Turn Off Electronics At Night
Establish habits that support healthy sleep patterns. "Using electronic devices before bed can send confusing signals to your brain in the form of blue light and disrupt your sleep," says Frye. "Therefore, a small, everyday habit that can help is establishing a ‘digital sunset.’ Turn off your devices and unplug your mind 60 minutes before your ideal bedtime."
Daily laughter is a wonderful way to protect your health. "Studies have shown that daily laughter improves overall health," says Dr. Christopher Drumm, a family practice physician with Einstein Healthcare Network in the Philadelphia area. "Laughter may stimulate your organs and increase your intake of oxygen." Cracking up can also help modulate your endorphins, and possibly improve your immune system over time, as Dr. Drumm further explains. He suggests hanging out with funny friends or watching more stand-up.
In fact, Dr. Drumm's praise for laughter is pretty contagious. "You should also not smoke or eat McDonald's or use heroin," says Dr. Drumm. "But do not forget that laughter is the best medicine. Unless you have a urinary tract infection. Then antibiotics are the best medicine."
12. Maintain Friendships
Go ahead and shoot your BFF a quick text today. "Substantial research has been done to confirm that keeping close relationships and maintaining friendship throughout life positively affects longevity," says Dr. Lina Velikova from disturbmenot.co. "Simply put, friendships make us happy, lower stress and anxiety, and boost our immune system." Adulthood gets busy, sure, but making time for your friends is still so important.
13. Manage Stress
Prioritize some time to de-stress every day. "Chronic stress is the one many do not realize is highly important — it causes inflammation which is the basis of nearly all chronic illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s," says Stephen C Schimpff, M.D., MACP, a quasi-retired internist, professor of medicine and public policy, former CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center, and author of Longevity Decoded — The 7 Keys to Healthy Aging. "Try meditation, coherent breathing (slow rhythmic breathing about five times per minute [instead of the usual 14 per minute]), yoga, Tai Chi, or the Benson Relaxation Response. Each of these reduces sympathetic and increases parasympathetic nervous system, reducing stress hormones and the impacts of stress on various organs and systems."
14. Practice Sun Safety
Applying sunscreen every day is a super healthy habit. "Protecting your skin from the sun might seem like a simple thing, but it can have a huge impact," as Ashley Wood tells Romper. "By wearing sunscreen, sun-protective clothing and staying out of the sun when it’s at its highest intensity (usually midday), you’ll decrease your risk of developing skin cancer. This is essential since skin cancer affects more people than any other type of cancer." To find a formula you'll actually want to wear every day, check out the best non-sticky sunscreens at Bustle. The cult fave Anthelios Clear Skin Sunscreen SPF 60 is only one suggestion.
16. Eat More Beans, Veggies, & Nuts
Load up on plants. “Small, everyday habits that can extend your lifespan include eating more vegetables and beans with each meal," says Dr. Monique May. "Just sprinkling a few beans on a salad or eating bean dip helps you increase your daily intake of beans. You can also sprinkle a handful of walnuts over your cereal or salads to get a few servings of healthy fats and omega three fatty acids which decrease blood pressure, as well as risk for stroke and heart attack." This sounds like a delicious way to help extend your longevity.
17. Wear Sunglasses
Shades aren't just a fashion statement. "Wear sunglasses daily to prevent a host of eye problems, including eyelid cancer," says ophthalmologist Dr. Ming Wang, M.D., Ph.D., of Wang Vision 3D Cataract & LASIK Center, Nashville. "Whether a sunny day, partial sun or clouds, some UV light does penetrate through and sunglasses are still a good idea to wear if possible." Wraparound styles are best, because they block from more angles than flat-front glasses, as Dr. Wang further explains.
By shielding your eyes from the sun, as well as following these other simple tips, you just might add years to your life. At the very least, you'll be a little bit healthier each day, which is a great goal on its own.