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Simple Ways To Extend Your Life


Only about one-third of the aging process (how long you’ll live and how well you’ll age) is influenced by hereditary and biological factors. The rest depends on your lifestyle choices and health behaviors. While you can’t prune your family tree, you do have the power to add years to your life — and life to your years — with these simple changes.


+1 Year

Play with Fido. Blood pressure and stress hormone levels drop — and the happy hormone oxytocin increases — when you pet and play with animals. And a happier, less-stressed heart is a healthier one. Dog owners reap the most benefits because they tend to walk more often and cover more ground. And one study found that heart attack victims who own dogs are eight times more likely to survive attacks than non-pet owners because their hearts handle stress better.


+2 Years

Make love often. Getting lucky two to three times a week can add close to two years to your life. In addition to the emotional connection, sex relieves stress, lifts spirits, induces sleep, and counts as exercise. Plus, a Scottish study found that adults who made love at least three times a week looked ten years younger than their lower libidoed counterparts. 


+3 Years

Exercise. People who work out — even simply walking a half-hour a day — can add three years to their lives, according to the Framingham Heart Study. By helping you burn calories and maintain a healthy weight, regular physical activity helps ward off chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and colon cancer. Weight training two or three times a week is also important and can keep you strong well into your 80s and 90s.


Lose the flab. Your body mass index or BMI (a measure of how much body fat you’re carrying based on your height and weight) can affect how long you’ll live. Being overweight (a BMI of 25 to 29.9) takes 3 years off your life, while obesity (a BMI of 30 or higher) takes 7. A BMI range of 18.5 to 24.9 is healthiest. To calculate yours, go to http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/.


+ 6 Years

Practice good oral hygiene. The same bacteria that cause periodontal diseases like gingivitis also trigger an immune response that causes your arteries to swell, constrict blood flow and collect plaque — all of which increase your risk of cardiovascular disease. Routine daily flossing combined with regular brushing after meals and periodic dental check-ups gets rid of the bacteria that’s bad for both your gums and heart.


+ 7 Years

Look forward to the future. A rosy outlook increases life span by at least 7.5 years — even after accounting for age, gender, socioeconomic status, and physical health, according to Yale University researchers. A glass-is-half-full attitude boosts the body’s immune system, enabling it to better fight off infection and handle the destructive effects of stress, explains Gary Small, MD, director of UCLA’s Center on Aging.


+ 8 Years

Kick the nicotine habit. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that female smokers who quit by age 35 live an average of 8 to 9 years longer than people who continue lighting up. Kicking the habit lowers your risk of death from lung cancer and other diseases, including heart disease, stroke, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and at least 13 other kinds of cancer.   JEANNETTE MONINGER


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