Aging starts from the moment we’re born. Of course, most of us aren’t concerned about aging until many decades later, when our bodies don’t recover as fast as they used to, or we start to become more forgetful. Scientists have been investigating the aging process in an effort to extend the human “healthspan” — the length of time people can live free of diseases and disability related to aging. While no one has found the proverbial Fountain of Youth, there’s plenty of promising work being done. So far, most of the groundbreaking discoveries come from animal studies—including the ability to make old cells young again and destroy cells that cause most age-related illnesses . As we wait for human trials, following these steps may help you live a longer, healthier life:
- Don’t smoke: Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. In addition, smoking has also been shown to accelerate the aging process by damaging our DNA.
- Try a Mediterranean-style diet: To reduce the risk of chronic disease, and potentially improve your healthspan, eat plenty of plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and unprocessed cereals) and fish while limiting dairy products, meat and meat products; avoid processed foods.
- Exercise regularly: Doing some physical activity, even if it’s less than the recommended 75 minutes of vigorous or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, lowers mortality risk, and doing more activity than recommended lowers that risk even more. Choose a social sport or partner activity over solitary exercise to benefit from the correlation between social connection and longevity.
- Control stress: The ability to handle daily stressors can impact health, and high levels of chronic stress are associated with numerous diseases and health conditions. Make yoga, meditation, or deep breathing part of your regular routine.
- Get your zzs: Poor quality and too little sleep are strongly associated with age-related diseases.
- Engage your brain: Mental activities, craft activities, and playing games, have been shown to decrease risk of age-related mild cognitive impairment.