9 Healthy Habits That Add Years to Your Life

Some of these lifestyle tweaks could add more than a decade to your life expectancy.

Updated on May 24, 2023

mature couple walking outdoors
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Go online and you can find hundreds of tips and tricks all claiming to be the secret to the fountain of youth. But the real keys to living longer aren’t that mysterious, and most can be added to your everyday routine. These healthy behaviors can also help lower your RealAge—the age your body thinks it is compared to your chronological age. 

With that in mind, here are nine habits to try adopting—all proven to help boost longevity.

man walking his dog
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Stay active

Walking has a host of potential health benefits, including easing stress and boosting weight loss. But it can also help fight serious diseases. “Walking gets your heart beating a little bit faster and tends to help it stay strong,” says Keith Roach, MD, associate professor in clinical medicine in the division of general medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City. It can significantly lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

The benefits don’t end there. Daily strides may help you live longer, according to a 2018 study published in the journal Circulation. The study suggests regular exercise, about 30 minutes a day, along with other healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet and reducing stress, can contribute to extra years.

Need help keeping tabs on how much walking you actually do each day? Try tracking your daily activity using the Sharecare app, available for iOS and Android. Once you activate the Steps tracker, your phone will automatically count your steps.

happy couple in bed
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Don't skip sex

A healthy sex life can benefit your relationship and lower your RealAge. The possible perks include less stress and better relationships—both of which can reduce the risk of chronic health problems, according to Dr. Roach.

There are simple ways to help your sex life along. Communicating with your partner is key, so don't be afraid to share your desires and dislikes. And if you've got a packed calendar, it's okay to schedule the deed.

man having a hard time
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Manage your anger

Do coworkers call you a hothead? Does 6 p.m. traffic send you into a bout of road rage? You could be hurting your health. Extreme anger in both men and women is rare, but it can be dangerous. “If somebody is walking around stressed and ready to explode at any minute, that can’t be good for their heart,” says Roach. 

Sustained anger can increase your heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Outbursts of anger may even trigger a heart attack. Research links a short temper to a higher risk of developing heart disease in men, Roach adds.

If you feel your face begin to flush and your fists clench, give yourself a moment to breathe or try channeling your energy into exercise. 

woman at a standing desk
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Break the sitting habit

Sitting for long periods of time may slow blood flow, increase the likelihood of blood clots, and make it harder for the heart to pump blood. “People who sit for a large part of their day are at a considerably higher risk for developing heart disease, the number one killer in the United States,” Roach explains.

To lower your risk of heart disease and other sitting-related conditions, like obesity and certain cancers, walk and stand whenever possible. If your job requires long hours behind a desk, take standing meetings or skip the email and hand-deliver a note to your coworker.

fresh fruits and vegetables
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Skip the junk and fill up on healthy foods

Eating too many processed foods—especially refined carbs found in chips, pretzels, and snack cakes—can be risky. Shortly after having pre-packaged foods, your body turns them into sugar, causing a spike in glucose and forcing the pancreas to make even more insulin, warns Roach. This added insulin can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease—potentially cutting years off your life.

A diet rich in healthy, whole foods has the opposite effect on the body. When combined with other good-for-you habits—like limiting alcohol consumption and steering clear of cigarettes—a healthy diet may add more than a decade to your life expectancy, according to the 2018 Circulation research.

When building your next meal, start with a base of colorful vegetables, a serving of whole grains, a portion of lean protein, and a drizzle of healthy fats such as olive oil. To stay on track, try jotting down your daily food and drink consumption in a nearby notebook, or log your intake using apps like Sharecare.

mother daughter meditation
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Give meditation a try

Think meditation isn’t for you? You may want to reconsider. “Meditation isn’t necessarily about sitting on a prayer mat with your eyes half-closed and in the lotus position,” says Roach, “It may be about learning some breathing exercises you can do when you find yourself worrying.”

Not only can techniques like mindfulness meditation help you find peace in the midst of a hectic day, they may change your brain. Meditating regularly can help you stay calm and handle stressful situations better, which may, in turn, help reduce your disease risk. 

Want to give it a try? While sitting or standing in a comfortable position, give yourself a few minutes to become aware of the steady rhythm of your breathing. As your mind calms, notice your thoughts and feelings, allowing them to pass without judgment. You can also try mantra meditation, which involves the silent repetition of a calming word or phrase like “peace” or “take it easy.”

woman smoking in an office
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Steer clear of cigarettes

It’s no secret smoking is harmful for your health, but never developing the habit may be more beneficial than you think. Research suggests that avoidance of smoking is a life-lengthening habit, along with regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Why? Cigarette smoking can increase your risk for a slew of health problems like cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and stroke, and raise your likelihood of premature death. Mortality rates among smokers are three times higher compared to those who've never picked up a cigarette.

If you’re already a smoker, it's not too late to improve your health. Just minutes after taking your last puff, your heart rate and blood pressure begin to normalize. Over time, kicking the habit can improve lung function, lower your likelihood of developing heart disease and cancer, and reduce your mortality risk. Patches, gum, and support groups can help make cessation a bit easier. Tracking your tobacco use can also help—just download the Sharecare app for iOS or Android and log your progress. 

mother and daughter at the gym
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Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity—a condition that affects more than 40 percent of American adults—is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. These conditions can lead to premature death but can often be prevented. There is no single cause of obesity, but factors like inactivity, an unhealthy diet, genetics, and certain health conditions and medications may play a role.    

Obesity is measured using your height and weight to calculate a number known as body mass index (BMI). For most adults, a score greater than 30 is indicative of obesity; a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. There are proven ways to lower the number you see on the scale, and research suggests the work is worth it, since maintaining a healthy weight can help add years to your life.

Start by swapping sugary drinks for water or seltzer, minding your portions, and moving more throughout the day.

woman looking at beer
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Don't overdo the booze

The harmful effects of excess alcohol consumption are well-established. Heavy drinking has been linked to higher rates of certain cancers, increased risk of stroke and heart attack, and a greater likelihood of mental health problems. If you drink, do so in moderation—no more than one per day for women and two for men. If you don’t drink, don’t start for it’s supposed health benefits.

Since you're already tracking your steps and food and beverage intake with the Sharecare app, log your alcohol consumption, too.

Slideshow sources open slideshow sources

American Heart Association. Why is Walking the Most Popular Form of Exercise? Page last updated January 10, 2017.
Li Y, Pan A, Wang DD, et al. Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population. Circulation. 2018;138(4):345-355.
Rider JR, Wilson KM, Sinnott JA, et al. Ejaculation Frequency and Risk of Prostate Cancer: Updated Results with an Additional Decade of Follow-up. Eur Urol. 2016;70(6):974-982.
Mollaioli D, Sansone A, Ciocca G, et al. Benefits of Sexual Activity on Psychological, Relational, and Sexual Health During the COVID-19 Breakout. J Sex Med. 2021;18(1):35-49.
Kupper N, Denollet J. Type D Personality as a Risk Factor in Coronary Heart Disease: A Review of Current Evidence. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2018;20(11):104.
American Heart Association. Stress and Heart Health. Page last updated June 21, 2021. 
Vlachakis C, Dragoumani K, Raftopoulou S, et al. Human Emotions on the Onset of Cardiovascular and Small Vessel Related Diseases. In Vivo. 2018;32(4):859-870.
Padilla J, Fadel PJ. Prolonged sitting leg vasculopathy: contributing factors and clinical implications. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2017;313(4):H722-H728.
Ihira H, Sawada N, Yamaji T, et al. Occupational sitting time and subsequent risk of cancer: The Japan Public Health Center-based Prospective Study. Cancer Sci. 2020;111(3):974-984. 
Creswell JD, Taren AA, Lindsay EK, et al. Alterations in Resting-State Functional Connectivity Link Mindfulness Meditation With Reduced Interleukin-6: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;80(1):53-61.
NIH: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need to Know. Updated June 2022.
Álvarez-Pérez Y, Rivero-Santana A, Perestelo-Pérez L, et al. Effectiveness of Mantra-Based Meditation on Mental Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(6):3380.
Tawakol A, Ishai A, Takx RA, et al. Relation between resting amygdalar activity and cardiovascular events: a longitudinal and cohort study. Lancet. 2017;389(10071):834-845.
NIH National Cancer Institute. Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting. Page last updated December 19, 2017. 
NIH National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Overweight & Obesity Statistics. Page last updated September 2021. 
MedlinePlus. Weight Control. Page last updated October 17, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Use and Your Health. Page last updated April 14, 2022.

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