3 Simple Steps to Increase Your Life Expectancy

3 Simple Steps to Increase Your Life Expectancy

Go Outside for a Longer Life Expectancy

Life expectancy can be increased with simple steps and changes. This guide will help you find ways to increase your life expectancy and improve your health and feel great as you age. Let’s start with the easiest: increase your life expectancy with sunlight.

Life expectancy can be increased simply by going outside. See, what happens when you go outside is that your skin gets exposed to sunlight. That exposure triggers cells in your skin to produce Vitamin D. This vitamin (really a prohormone, but let’s not worry about that here) is essential for bone health and is turning out to be important in depression, heart disease, diabetes and just about everything.

Some estimate that 50% of adults have low levels of vitamin D, because we simply don’t get outside that much (sitting by a window doesn’t count, the glass filters too much of the sunlight). This is a shame, because maintaining vitamin D levels has to be the easiest and cheapest way to improve your health and increase your life expectancy. Getting outside for just 15 minutes a day and exposing your hands and face to sunlight is enough to maintain vitamin D levels in most cases.

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If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, your doctor can order a simple blood test that will tell you if your levels are low. If for some reason you can’t get outside enough, there are vitamin D supplements that you can take (but getting outside is a better option, if you can).

Elderly people need to pay special attention to their vitamin D levels. If you are a caregiver, be sure to assist your loved one in getting outside just a little bit every day. Not only will with improve vitamin D levels, but it could also improve sleep because sunlight also regulates another hormone in the body called melatonin that controls your sleep cycle.

Life Expectancy Increased by Hanging Out

Life expectancy can be increased by just hanging out with your friends and family. The more connected someone is, the better their overall health. Having positive relationships with a spouse, friends and family is the best way to be connected.

We are not sure why relationships play a role in health and life expectancy. It could be that people in positive relationships are less likely to take on risky behaviors and are more likely to take care of themselves. It could be that having people around you reduces the impact of stress on your health. We can make up lots of theories about why relationships have a positive impact, but the bottom line is that people who are engaged in “meaningful” relationships have better health (and therefore better life expectancies).

One way of improving your relationships with people is to get in the habit of telling good stories. Stories are how we communicate with one another, and telling a good story strengthens communications. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on the phone with someone and was just talking about the weather or giving a dry update on my family. Instead, I should be telling a story about a funny thing my kids did or something crazy that happened at work. Stories keep relationships alive.

So make more time for friends and family. Go do things together (create stories together), and make a real effort to improve your communication with them (whether by e-mail, phone or in person) by having a good story always ready for the telling.

Improve Life Expectancy with Daily Exercise

Improve your life expectancy with a commitment to daily exercise. Why daily? Well, after carefully considering all the research and exercise recommendations out there and knowing a bit about how people form habits, I have to conclude that a daily exercise commitment is a great way to improve your life expectancy, your health and your energy level. Here’s why:

A study showed that people who exercise vigorously for around 3 hours a week had DNA and cells that were 9 years younger than nonexercisers. Three hours a week is a little more than 30 minutes a day.

Forget the study, though. What I know (from personal experience and from observing others) is that if you go more than 2 days without exercising, you are at a grave danger of quitting your routine. Somehow it is way too easy to slip from three days of nonexercise to three weeks of nonexercise to three months of nonexercise. The easiest way to create an exercise habit is daily repetition. When you promise yourself to exercise daily, you may skip a day but then get back on the program the following day. If you are exercising three times a week and, say, skip Friday, then you would have gone from Wednesday to Monday without exercising – a total of 4 days with no exercise (very dangerous, from a habit-building perspective). For life expectancy, it is more important that you exercise year after year than go through fits and starts of intense exercise followed by no exercise.

The other reason I feel that daily exercise is important, is that daily exercise will help improve your sleep and your energy level. It is important to just rev up your whole body each day. Remember, daily exercise doesn’t have to mean going to the gym every day. Home exercises, such as yoga, stretching, free weights and more, can be incredibly effective.

Floss Daily for a Longer Life Expectancy

The fact that flossing daily can extend life expectancy falls in the weird-but-true category. In fact, floss does two things: it prevents gum disease (that’s rather obvious), and it prevents heart disease (not so obvious). Preventing both of these together is what adds years to your life. Here’s how flossing improves life expectancy:

When you floss, you help prevent your gums from becoming inflamed. That’s a good thing. What is happening when your gums are inflamed is that you have a chronic bacterial infection in your mouth. This harms your arteries through two mechanisms: the bacteria find their way in to your arteries and hang out (causing plaques), and your body mounts an immune response to the bacteria in your mouth, causing inflammation (which in turn can cause your arteries to narrow). This makes it hard for your heart to do its job and can lead to heart disease.

There is some debate about how many years you can gain with heart disease. Dr. Perls says 1.5 years, while Dr. Roizen says 6 years. Both of these doctors are gerontologists (aging docs) and have popular books on aging and life expectancy (see reviews: Living To 100, RealAge and You! Staying Young). Who is right? It doesn’t matter. Flossing is good for your gums and good for your heart, so we should all just do it.

Of course, this is easier said than done. How do you get in to a solid flossing habit? First, you need to make sure you have some floss. There are tons of different kinds of floss (flavored, unflavored, strings, ribbons and on and on). Pick some and give them a try. Next, you have to remember. Put your floss on top of your toothpaste. Hard to forget that way. Then just do it. You already have a habit of brushing your teeth at least twice daily (right? – please say yes), so just anchor your flossing habit to that.