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We compiled 10 ways to live longer, happier, and healthier. Most of us hope to live into a ripe old age, especially if we remain happy and active. Research continues to show that our lifestyle choices greatly affect our life expectancy and quality of life.

Even life-long habits change with some consideration and diligence. It might not happen overnight. But making these changes benefits you and your family.

The research at Harvard, the first 5 in our list

Harvard research finds a healthier lifestyle can prolong life expectancy at age 50 by about 14 years for women and 12 years for men. The study suggests that Americans may add more than a decade to their lives just by adopting a few good habits.

“The general population just needs to adopt a small step forward toward a healthier lifestyle,” says the lead researcher, Yanping Li, MD, PhD, a scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Dr Li added that results indicated that it is never too late to put healthy habits into action. He said that even a “modest improvement” in lifestyle behaviors could make a “big impact” on longevity. In fact, these changes help in the prevention of heart disease and premature mortality in people who have heart disease.

Li adds that the findings of his research show a “large space of potential improvement of the life expectancy of Americans” if these changes are made.

Changes, simple yet not always easy

Unfortunately, most people find such changes easier said than done. We live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with a high quality of life. Yet Americans have a shorter life expectancy compared with other high-income nations including Canada or Japan, according to the American Heart Association.

Heart disease and stroke play a major role in early deaths in the United States. Each day, 2,300 people die from heart disease. That’s one death every 38 seconds. Marc Gillinov, MD, chair of the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at Cleveland Clinic, remarks that heart disease, the number-one killer in the U.S., is usually preventable. He states that  “lifestyle habits and choices.” account for “90 percent of the risk”

“The other 10 percent is genes, age, and gender,” says Dr. Gillinov. “What that means is that only a small minority of us are genetically determined to get coronary heart disease”.  In other words, more than 2000 deaths each day can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Is it any wonder that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), the United States ranks 31st in life expectancy worldwide?

Countering culture to find 10 ways to live longer

Unfortunately, our culture has infused many of these unhealthy behaviors. Our bodies do best when we are active and eat healthy, fresh, whole-foods. But the standard American diet is more likely to be fast food take-out or processed, ready-to-eat.

Dr. Gillinov states, “We’ve found that increased awareness has been ineffective in reducing the prevalence and incidence of diseases. We have much better treatments and far better preventions, but we still haven’t moved very far in decreasing the presence of these diseases. It’s going to require more of a public and private policy partnership to make changes since it doesn’t seem like people are going to do it on their own,”

Doctors like Dr. Li and Dr. Gillinov believe that our life expectancy and quality of life would improve greatly by making some basic healthy lifestyle choices.

In Dr. Gillinov’s words, “The big takeaway is that each one of us can modify our risk of coronary heart disease or having a heart attack or suffering a stroke,” he adds. “It’s almost completely in your control to make healthy lifestyle changes, to take charge.”

The 5 Ways from the Harvard Study

The good news: These habits aren’t part of some unreachable fountain of youth, but are instead simple changes in behavior. They are:

Numbers 6 through 10 show importance

Research in other areas including the very detailed Blue Zones Project  offers important details, too. As this project and others prove, those happiness and social factors contain special keys to our health and longevity, too.

  1. Build and maintain good friendships
  2. Laugh, have fun, enjoy life.
  3. Avoid chronic stress and anxiety.
  4. Stay safe. Avoid risky situations and behaviors.
  5. Spend time outdoors.

Friends, including pets

Having friends and maintaining a social aspect of our lives gives us purpose and meaning. Our family and friends need us. We need our friends and family, too. Very few people choose to live a total recluse lifestyle. And those that do find life much less fulfilling.

10 ways to live longer

And most pet owners consider their pets to be friends or even family members. Pets provide important benefits that might outweigh many obstacles in life. To learn more, read our article: Should Families Have Pets?

Laughter, The Best Medicine

Laughter may seem enjoyable but much less essential. However, as it turns out, laughing and having fun releases that “feel good” chemical, endorphins. Not only do these make us feel good, they actually help relieve physical pain and mental stress.

10 ways to live longer

Readers Digest magazine has a monthly section entitled, Laughter, the Best Medicine. That appears to be a proven truth, as studies show.

Further research shows that laughter has incredible physical and psychological benefits, many of which we are still learning.

Manage Stress, one of the 10 ways to live longer

Our lives contain stress and anxiety. Our bodies and minds deal with these as they come along. But chronic stress or anxiety often wears down our defenses. In turn, this often causes heart problems and other health issues.

Sources including the Mayo Clinic state that many of our chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even obesity result in part from unmanaged or poorly managed stress.

Risky behavior

It should go without saying that avoiding risky behavior aids in extending your health and longevity. Taking part in barroom brawls, strolling alone in dangerous neighborhoods at night, and using dangerous drugs are not the only risks.

Vehicle accidents account for almost 100 deaths each day in the United States, according to the CDC. Many of these include risky behaviors such as speeding, texting while driving, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The great outdoors, an essential one of 10 ways to live longer

A Harvard study showed remarkable benefits from spending time outdoors, particularly in nature.

10 ways to live longer

Vitamin D levels rise. Sunlight triggers Vitamin D production. Our bodies cannot make this important vitamin without this trigger. Vitamin D helps fight certain ailments, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks. It takes only 5-30 minutes of sun exposure a day to boost your vitamin D levels.

10 ways to live longer

You’ll get more exercise. More time outdoors usually means less time sitting in front of the TV or snacking on cookies and chips.  Take time each day to go for a walk or tend to your yard and garden.

Happiness increases. Sunlight elevates our mood, especially when it’s enjoyed in the fresh, outside air.  Outside physical activity helps promote a relaxed and happy mood.

Your concentration improves. Research shows that children with ADHD  focus better after being outdoors. While research has not included adults, it stands to reason that adults would benefit, as well.

Improved healing. One study indicated that people recovering from spinal surgery experienced less pain and stress when they were exposed to sunlight. They also needed fewer pain medications. Hospital patients prefer a window view of the outdoors and seem happier when they have access to it.

Which of the 10 ways to live longer most inspires you?


Most people look for ways to live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Using our 10 points, you might enjoy many more years.

10 ways to live longer


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