7 Simple, Expert-Approved Secrets for a Longer Life

Science-backed tips to help you worry less and live longer.

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A long, happy life is made up of countless small choices—everyday decisions that add up to strengthen your health and bring you closer to loved ones. Spreading joy and taking time for self-care are some of the most important, but simple ways to add years to your life.

We asked Vinod Nambudiri, MD, an internal medicine doctor and dermatologist from Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to weigh in on the little things that can have a big impact on your health.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

Read good books; share them with friends

2 / 9 Read good books; share them with friends

“Research exploring the link between social networks—relationships with family and friends—and longevity has shown a strong association between closer ties and a longer life. Studies suggest the quality of your relationships and the depth of your connections are more important than the sheer number of your connections,” says Nambudiri.

One powerful way to bond with loved ones is to share books because reading may also lengthen your life. One study found that book lovers who read for three and a half hours per week were 17 percent less likely to die over a 12-year period than non-readers. So tell friends about your favorite page-turners, join a book club and read to your kids.

Smooch more often

3 / 9 Smooch more often

The next time you feel the urge to binge on sweets, lean in for a delicious kiss instead. Kissing releases the hormone oxytocin, which may reduce sweets cravings, according to early studies. Along with possibly helping you stick to your diet, oxytocin also:

  • Relieves anxiety
  • Boosts memory and learning
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases confidence

Oxytocin is often called “the bonding hormone” because it helps you feel closer to the person you’re with. Since strong social connections are key to survival, regular smooching is one enjoyable secret to living longer. 

Find your sense of purpose

4 / 9 Find your sense of purpose

People who believe their life has a purpose live longer than those who lack a strong sense of meaning. This holds true regardless of a person’s age, so it’s never too soon—or too late—to start thinking about the impact you’d like to make on the world.

“Mindful activities and tasks that have purposeful meaning have also been linked to slower mental decline,” says Nambudiri. “Studies have found an association between purposeful pursuits and lower rates of diseases like Alzheimer’s.”

Your purpose doesn’t necessarily have to come from your job. Volunteer, sign up for adult education classes, travel or spend time caring for loved ones, suggests Nambudiri.

Sprinkle “magic beans” onto your meals

5 / 9 Sprinkle “magic beans” onto your meals

Eating a mostly plant-based diet is a science-backed way to add years to your life. In fact, residents of Blue Zones, or regions with the world’s longest living people, tend to stick to a core principle called the “plant slant.” Blue Zone residents eat less than five servings of meat per month on average, often choosing legumes for protein instead.

Legumes, a plant group that includes beans, chickpeas and lentils, are:

  • Cholesterol-free
  • Loaded with protein and fiber
  • High in vitamins and minerals like iron, potassium, folate

Legumes help you skip artery-clogging red meat by making plant-based dishes rich and satisfying, while also lowering your LDL, or “bad” cholesterol.

Build movement into your daily routine

6 / 9 Build movement into your daily routine

“Physical activity has multiple positive health benefits, including decreasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease,” says Nambudiri. But scheduling an hour for the gym—plus shower time and travel—into your day isn’t always an option. That’s why it’s so important to “move naturally”—another core Blue Zone principle that involves building exercise into your routine. Here’s how to start:

  • Bike or walk to work.
  • Dance while vacuuming.
  • Do a set of squats at every natural breaking point in your routine like after each bathroom break.
  • When sitting for long stretches: Flex your abs for 10 seconds, relax, repeat 10 times. Do the same with your glutes.
Set aside five minutes a day for spirituality

7 / 9 Set aside five minutes a day for spirituality

Practicing spirituality is a science-backed way to relieve anxiety and depression, lower blood pressure and add years to your life. But spirituality means many things to different people: You could spend five minutes a day praying, join a faith community, meditate or practice yoga, among other options. While the exact reasons for the health benefits of spirituality aren’t well understood, the association between faith or religion and longevity may be due to a number of factors, says Nambudiri. Possible explanations include how spirituality:

  • Reduces stress
  • Provides social support through a place of worship
  • Offers a framework for understanding the world
Teach your children or grandchildren well

8 / 9 Teach your children or grandchildren well

Exercising, spending time with loved ones and getting outdoors are all science-backed ways to:

  • Boost your mood
  • Fend off heart disease
  • Add years to your life

So tell your kids or grandkids to ditch their video games, get everyone out of the house and show them what it really means to play hard. Set up a game of kick ball, go for a hike or start a round of double-dutch. Then, on the next rainy day, ask them to teach you an active video game like Wii fitness.

Get personalized tips to help you live longer

9 / 9 Get personalized tips to help you live longer

Sharecare’s RealAge Test offers healthy living advice that’s specific to your lifestyle. After asking about your sleeping, eating, exercise habits and more, the test will determine your RealAge, or an estimate of how your biological age compares against your overall health and lifestyle. After revealing your RealAge, it will provide personalized tips and resources to help you live the longest, healthiest life possible.

See more from Vinod Nambudiri.

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