Dying is something that none of us can avoid —it is the one certainty in life. However, certain lifestyle choices can help delay it. With the so many deaths each year from around the world directly related to poor health choices, world health leaders set a goal of lowering the number of preventable deaths by 25 per cent by 2025. That would save 37 million lives over 15 years. Here’s how you may add more days to your life
1. Know your family history
Knowing your family history can give you some insight into what might be lurking in your genes, and potentially help you avoid a death that could have been prevented with lifestyle changes or early detection. Risks for diseases such as asthma, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease also run in families. Even though you cannot change your genetic make-up, knowing your family history can help you reduce your risk of developing health problems. If you know that heart disease runs in your family, you can make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. If cancer is common in your family, you may want to consider more frequent screenings. And if a stroke is a concern, you may want to work with your doctor to manage any underlying conditions, such as high blood pressure.
2. Avoid risky behaviours
There are many factors that can contribute to premature death, but some of the most common include smoking, excess alcohol consumption, drug use, and obesity. Additionally, risky behaviours such as unsafe sex and not wearing a seatbelt can also lead to an early death. The best way to avoid these behaviours is to educate yourself on the risks involved. If you know the dangers, you are more likely to make healthy choices.
3. Consider healthy eating habits
There is a direct link between diet and life expectancy. A balanced diet is important for maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been shown to decrease the risk of premature death due to chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Furthermore, maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help to reduce the likelihood of developing these chronic diseases in the first place. Adopting healthy eating behaviours now can drastically increase your chances of living long, healthy lives.
4. Stay physically active
As few as 15 minutes of exercise per day may help you achieve benefits, which could include an additional three years of life according to peer review medical journal, Lancet. A recent review by US National Centre for Biotechnoloy Information observed a 22 per cent lower risk of early death in individuals who exercised — even though they worked out less than the recommended 150 minutes per week. Daily exercise extends life expectancy in many ways. It improves heart health, helps the body detox, supports metabolism and proper digestion and cognitive function.
5. Manage your stress levels
A 2021 study shows that physical and mental stressors can lead to Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD). So stress can cause sudden death by a heart attack, but it can contribute to prolonged health complications, such as substance use disorder, leading to early death. Another study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, shows a nearly 50 per cent increased risk of early death due to chronic stress and depression. Taking time to unwind, implementing a daily breathing or meditation practice and creating a healthy work/life balance is essential to extending life expectancy.
6. Limit alcohol use
Alcohol use can lead to death from a variety of causes, including car accidents, drowning, falls, and cancer. However, the vast majority of alcohol-related deaths are due to liver disease, heart disease, and stroke. However, moderate consumption is associated with a reduced likelihood of several diseases, as well as a 17 to 18 per cent decrease in your risk of premature death,, according to US National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Wine is considered particularly beneficial due to its high content of polyphenol antioxidants. Results from a 29-year study showed that men who preferred wine were 34 per cent less likely to die early than those who preferred beer or spirits. In addition, one review observed wine to be especially protective against heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, and metabolic syndrome. To keep consumption moderate, it is recommended limiting alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. It’s important to note that no strong research indicates that the benefits of moderate drinking are greater than those of abstaining from alcohol. In other words, there is no need to start drinking if you don’t usually consume alcohol.
7. Don’t skip routine check-ups
Getting proper lab work and any other diagnostics that your doctor suggests is important. Screenings such as mammograms, colonoscopies, ultrasounds and scans detect internal abnormalities that may not be causing any physical symptoms yet. This gives you and your doctor time to treat the illness before it is in advanced stages. In addition to seeing your primary care, dental check-ups are paramount. Bacteria in the teeth can cause a life-threatening infection in your heart valves. Studies also show that the state of our oral health can be a sign of other health issues within the body.
8. Your area of residence matters
Living in certain areas can lead to a greater chance of death, especially premature death. Studies have found that people who live in deprived areas are more likely to die younger than those living in less deprived areas. There are many reasons for this. For example, people in deprived areas may be more likely to experience poor housing and overcrowding, which can lead to health problems. They may also have limited access to healthcare and healthy food options. In addition, they may be more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol.
9. Cut back on salt
High sodium diets can increase blood pressure and contribute to heart disease and stroke. One study found that an average person consumes about 800 milligrammes more salt every day than health experts consider acceptable. Promoting alternatives, such as the citric acid in lemons, to satisfy the need for salt, can help to bring sodium consumption down.
10. Nurture your social circle
Maintaining healthy social networks can help you live up to 50 per cent longer, according to a study by US National Centre for Biotechnoloy Information. In fact, having just three social ties may decrease your risk of early death by more than 200 per cent. Studies also link healthy social networks to positive changes in heart, brain, hormonal, and immune function, which may decrease your risk of chronic diseases. A strong social circle might also help you react less negatively to stress, perhaps further explaining the positive effect on lifespan. Another study reports that providing support to others may be more beneficial than receiving it. In addition to accepting care from your friends and family, make sure to return the favour.