We got into the weeds when we compiled our ultimate longevity guide: 100 Ways to Live to 100. There’s a lot of great stuff in there, and some of it’s pretty niche — learn to relax your jaw, pick up forest bathing, stop eating hot dogs. As we wrote at the time: “Before diving in, understand that you can’t do all of them; some of them are likely even incompatible. But the idea is to cherrypick those that work for your life.”
Sometimes, though, it’s worth taking a bird’s eye view of tenets that’ll increase lifespan — the generalist approaches that we all can and should shoot for. The American Society of Nutrition recently identified eight such habits in a sweeping study of 700,000 U.S. veterans.
The Habit That All Healthy Couples Have in CommonRelationships that cultivate “secret gardens” go very, very far
The 8 Habits to Increase Longevity
According to the report, “men who have all eight habits at age 40 would be predicted to live an average of 24 years longer than men with none of these habits.” Here’s the list:
- Avoid opiates
- Avoid smoking
- Manage your stress levels
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid binge drinking
- Get good sleep
- Nurture relationships
If you read that list and find yourself striking out on multiple front, take solace. “We were really surprised by just how much could be gained with the adoption of one, two, three lifestyle factors,” said Xuan-Mai T. Nguyen, health science specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the lead author of the study.
Why We Like This Study
This sort of report is a reminder that you hold a massive amount of influence over the quality of your life today — and the length of it in the future. And, crucially, you can “wield” that influence without thinking or trying too hard. Look at those bullets; what if you just focused on sleeping better and reconnecting with friends for the next few months? You’d immediately be investing in two touchstones for longevity.
These guidelines tend to work in tandem, too. If you’re sleeping better, you’ll have more energy to exercise, less desire to reach for high-starch foods, etc. (Plus: if you’re sleeping better, you probably haven’t been binge drinking.)
As part of this report, the authors found all sorts of links between certain lifestyle habits and increased mortality risk. For example: smoking ups your chance of an early death by 30-45%, chronic stress by 20% and poor social relationships by 5%. Those numbers are pretty bleak. But they’re a reminder that exercise and healthy eating (while on this list) aren’t the be-all, end-all of modern wellness. There are other areas that need your attention — that pose real, positive opportunity.
If you’re younger than 40, these are as broad as your marching orders can be. Lean into them and make them their own. Start your march to longevity as early as possible. If you’re older than 40 — or even well older than 40 — don’t despair: the study authors were clear that small changes rendered later in life can still have an impact.