One of the greatest things we can wish for anyone is a long, happy life. It's the motivation behind many of our healthiest habits. Luckily, there are many small, natural, preventative lifestyle changes that can help us live longer and with greater health.
Like a car, not all of the fuel you put into your body is created equal. What you eat can make a profound impact on how you feel, move, and live. Studies from areas of the world that produce the most centenarians identified common foods and eating styles. Among areas where people tend to live the longest in the world are Okinawa (Japan), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica) and Ikaria (Greece). Their diets focus primarily (though not exclusively) on plants, legumes, and cheese. Goat's milk pops up frequently in these communities, as does the absence of sugars, save naturally occurring sugars like those in fruit. While vegetarianism isn't necessary to live longer, it is an incredibly healthy lifestyle that can absolutely help you achieve a longer life.
Reduce Belly Fat
The dangers of being overweight are well documented. Belly fat, specifically visceral fat in the belly, can be even more so. Visceral fat is dangerous because of its location in the abdominal wall and its ability to produce hormones associated with diabetes, chronic inflammation, gallbladder disease, and even breast cancer. Belly fat responds well to lifestyle modifications such as exercise and nutrition.
Stress is proven to negatively impact your heart and body. A chronically stressful lifestyle can decrease your lifespan. Actively combat stress the way you would any other health issue. Some techniques that work well to reduce stress and the strain it puts on your health include exercise, meditation, spending time with animals, and, of course, working to reduce the stress load in your life.
Cut Out Vices
It seems obvious, but it's one of those harder-than-it-sounds issues. Cut out the unhealthy vices. Smoking, drinking to excess, drug abuse, consuming fast food and sugary foods, even a sedentary lifestyle can cut decades off your life. While there's nothing wrong with indulging in your vices every now and again, a lifestyle built around seemingly innocent things like fast food and vegging out in front of the TV is terrible for your health. It might be tempting to stay in with a pizza, but ignoring your friends, and your social fulfillment, can cut your life shorter, statistically speaking.
Sleep is an important part of our daily regenerative processes. It reduces stress, lowers your blood pressure, improves your memory, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and decreases the likelihood of inflammation in the digestive tract. Getting good sleep is one of the best things you can do not only to maintain your body but improve your general quality of life. It's important to adhere to the tenets of good sleep, like keeping screens out of the bedroom, cutting down on caffeine in the evening, and sticking to a good sleep schedule.
Smart Sun Exposure
Sun exposure is one of those things that requires finding a healthy middle ground to get the most benefit. Exposure to sunlight creates vitamin D in the body, which is linked to bone health as well as mental health. But the sun's rays can be harmful, and skin cancer is always a concern. The trick is to be mindful of your time in the sun. Plan your outdoor activity away from peak afternoon hours. Use a sunblock of SPF 15 or higher, but avoid anything with oxybenzone (which has been proven to harm ocean life like coral reefs). Take care of sunburns, stay away from tanning beds, and if you notice an odd mole or skin growth, have it checked out. [Editor's Note: Our favorite oxybenzone free sunscreens are made by our sponsor, Goddess Garden.]