One hundred years ago, the life expectancy was at a maximum of 60 years of age for women, and 58 for men. Today, we’ve added 20 more years to those numbers, with women and men in Canada living until 84 and 81 years on average, respectively. While there are many factors that contribute to these statistics, the ultimate question for many of us is still, “What is the secret to living longer?”
First, let’s look at why people typically don’t live as long as they should.
While society has made leaps and bounds when it comes to treating illness and preventing disease, ultimately the onus is on the people themselves to take initiative with their health. Unfortunately, many people today get so busy with life, careers and goals, and they simply don’t make health a priority. Men are typically at a disadvantage on top of this, as the hormone balance in women tends to keep them living longer and more vibrant over time.
So where do we start? How can we live longer?
“Living longer is all about prevention,” explains Dr. Rhonda Low, Family Physician at Copeman Healthcare. “It’s important to get routine check-ups in order to know what your risks might be. This includes taking a look at your family history of disease and talking to your physician about important age milestones and what to look out for.”
In a study done by explorers at National Geographic, researchers looked at some of the highest populations of 90 and 100 year old citizens in the world to determine which factors contributed to long-lasting life. These areas, known as “blue-zones,” showed that there are nine commonalities between these populations, many of which can be incorporated into your daily routine and can actually help add years to your life.
The 9 secrets to living longer
- Move naturally. You don’t need to hit the gym for an hour a day, every day, but do try to go for a walk at lunch or start a garden at home. Any bit of movement will help.
- Live with a sense of purpose. Establish a “why I wake up in the morning” mantra. This could add up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
- Down-shift. Everyone, blue-zone or not, experiences stress. Try to take even just 10 minutes of your day to relax & unwind.
- Follow “hara hachi bu” or the “80% rule.” Eat until you’re 80% full or no longer hungry, rather than feeling 100% full. This will save calories and, ultimately, inches around your waistline.
- Consider a plant-based diet. This doesn’t necessarily mean ditching meat altogether, but try to focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods and trying out a “Meatless Monday.”
- Drink wine in moderation. Stick with one or two glasses of red wine with dinner and try to avoid drinking a whole bottle to yourself in one night.
- Find a sense of belonging. Make a point of spending time with those who share your faith or beliefs. It can add up to 4-14 years to your life!
- Put family first. Keep in touch with your relatives and spend more time at home. These are the people who will be with you through thick and thin, so it’s important to develop and maintain a relationship with them.
- Find the right tribe. Did you know that if you have three or more friends who have a bad habit, you are three times as likely to develop that same habit? Keep yourself in social circles that promote healthy behaviours. This will increase your likelihood of sticking to your long-term wellness goals.
While all of these tips won’t necessarily apply to everyone, there are still important lessons that we can pull from these commonalities and put toward making our own lives a little bit healthier.
“Ultimately, it’s really just important to look at your lifestyle choices,” says Dr. Low. “By taking the time to reflect on your bad habits and make changes, you can end up adding many more years to your life. Don’t wait, start now!”