A number of recent studies related to longevity suggest that living healthier for longer has a lot to do with fate: in other words, you’re stuck with the genes you’re born with, and they largely determine how long you’ll live and whether you’ll contract certain diseases. But there’s also considerable evidence that lifestyle choices are also important. And a story by Alina Tugend over at The Atlantic — “The Old-Age Survival Guide: How to Live a Longer, Happier Life” — offers from advice on how to maximize your life, both in terms of quality and quantity.
When scientists talk about extending quality of life, they’re often talking about those 25 years after the age of 60. Depending on your habits and your genes, you can either start a steady, crippling decline into the grave or make those years truly golden. One of the biggest factors is exercise, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and even cognitive decline. You don’t have to hit the dreaded Stairmaster, either; just do something, anything — walking, gardening, riding your bike, taking a dance class — instead of nothing. Smoking is obviously a big no-no, as are fatty and sugary foods. And while there is wide debate about just what weight is optimum — and it’s highly possible that there’s no one prescription for all people — researchers place an emphasis on eating right and letting the scale settle wherever it wishes.
It’s not just your physical health you should attend to, either. Maintaining connections with friends, family and coworkers — especially people who give you a sense of purpose — can make a big difference. So while Sudoku is a good call, it’s no substitute for getting out of the house and engaging with others. A happy marriage can also help you live longer, especially if you’re a man. And if you’re a worrier, it’s okay; recent research indicates that excessive worriers might outlive their freewheeling peers — possibly because worrying makes people more conscientious.
Of course, it’s tough to universalize the rules. We’re all familiar with the idea of the chain-smoking, heavy-drinking octogenarian, or the marathon-running vegan who drops dead at 50. But the idea is to increase your odds of living a long, healthy life while still being able to enjoy your life. So don’t focus on doing everything; just try to do a little more.