How to live longer… Hmmm. That’s the age-old question and in this article, we lay out 7 scientifically proven steps to living longer, pain free, and with all your faculties intact.
The life expectancy of humans in the early 1900s was 31-32 years; the world average in 2019-20 is around 73 years.
Can we use our understanding of human physiology to prolong our lifespan further… say up to 130 years?
Well it would seem that way thanks to advancements in our understanding of how to promote cell health, and the advancements made in the supplement industry to help turn back the clock.
Here are the 7 key elements that make up our formula for a long, healthy life – that you can start actioning today to improve your health and longevity.
7. Improve Sleep Efficiency To Live Longer
We spend around 1/3rd of our life sleeping. Scientists understand that a regular and consistent sleep pattern across the lifespan is vital for higher life expectancy.
Optimal sleep – as passive as it seems – is the key to abundant physical, cognitive, and emotional health, especially as we get older.
We know 7-8 hours of quality shut-eye helps with so many different aspects of our health, from memory formation and retention, to repairing overworked muscles, to even burning fat.
Consistent sleep plays a huge role in ‘updating and repairing’ our bodies and brains, ready for the challenges of the next day.
Sleep deprivation speeds up aging and age-related illness
While poor sleep for a night can make you bad-tempered and less productive the next day, long-term sleep deprivation can pose serious health risks.
Poor sleep can affect the nervous system, immune system, endocrine glands, and cardiovascular system.
Chronic sleep deprivation can often lead to hypertension, diabetes, depression, anxiety, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and alcohol and drug addiction.
Less than 7 hours of quality REM sleep can lead to neurodegeneration, which in turn increases the chances of brain related illnesses later in life such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Several studies have set out to find the optimal sleeping hours and the effect of sleep duration on longevity.
One of the best-known experiments – the Finnish Twin Study – revealed surprising trends.
While the findings might not be universally true, it gives the scientists something to work on, to research further the impact of sleep on our health.
The researchers found that regular sleep of fewer than 7 hours/day – or more than 9 hours/day increased the risks of mortality by 24% and 17% respectively.
Let’s look at common sleep habits from people who live well into their 90’s and beyond:
- Follow a sleep routine by maintaining a consistent bedtime, and wake-up time.
- Avoid alcoholic drinks or coffee close to sleep time – and limit intake.
- Avoid watching TV or using screens before bed. The ‘blue light’ screens emit slows melatonin production – the sleep hormone.
- Cover LED alarm clocks and keep the bedroom as dark as possible with black out curtains. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin which helps you fall asleep.
- Stress can affect sleep. So, exercise in the morning, meditate, take a hot shower, or follow measures that help relax the body and mind.
6. Family and Relationships
Our family and social relationships are important, not just to talk or share our love and affection. Having close relationships with people can add years to your life.
Humans are rightly called Social Animals. Throughout our history, humans have been dependent on others for food, protection, and other elements that improve the quality of life.
Nothing much has changed, despite the technological advancements, we still rely on others for practically everything.
Relationships matter because it adds to the emotional support of the individual.
People may live longer if they believe they can rely on one or more people for support in their time of need.
The belief that ‘someone is there to support me when I fall sick’, ‘there is a shoulder to cry and share my troubles’, and ‘I can seek help when I’m in a financial jam’ can lower Cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and add years to your lifespan.
Family and relationships are also vital for the mental health of an individual.
We might not be aware but close relationships develop qualities such as resilience and adaptability.
People with family, close friends, and other relationships have better mental health than people who live alone.
Researchers found that the mental support that relationships offer, reduces stress and anxiety which if not controlled have serious health implications.
A study that analyzed 148 reports on the link between death risk and social relationships, found that people with strong social connections are 50% more likely to live longer.
Researchers also found that strong social relationships are as important as weight loss, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle in improving overall health.
5. Food and Hydration
How to live happier, healthier, and longer? Each person has an opinion and a suggestion for longevity.
But everyone, without exception, would agree that food and hydration (our diet) is a big piece of the puzzle.
A report in the British Medical Journal that examined data from several health studies found higher consumption of vegetables (3 bowls) and fruits (no less than 2 bowls) lowered the risk of mortality caused by certain diseases (example, stroke, cardiovascular diseases).
Fruits and vegetables are not the only elements in a healthy diet.
We hear a lot about them because less than 10% of adults consume enough fruits and veggies despite scientists and nutrition experts endlessly recommending eating a balanced diet.
The two best diets for longevity
You may have already tried a hundred different diet plans, but the two that are most popular and effective are the Mediterranean Diet and the Japanese Diet.
It’s common knowledge that Japan is home to the highest number of people in their 90s and over 100.
In the 1960s, the Mediterranean countries were among the top places with the highest life expectancies.
Scientists believe it’s not just the genes at play here.
They credit the longevity of people in this region to a special lifestyle and diet, predominantly comprising of herbs, seafood, legumes, dairy and local vegetables, and local fruits.
A recent study on this subject, after examining the dietary habits of 4,000,000, people found that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of mortality by 8%.
The Spinning Top food guide (as recommended by the Japanese health authorities) has water and tea right at the top of the chart for their health benefits. This might be surprising for many.
Water with ‘no perceived nutritional value’ is far more important for cell health than the food we eat?
Well, yes. And here’s why…
Water hydrates the cells, manages our body’s cooling system, helps in the absorption of nutrients from food, removes toxins from our system, aids digestion, supports brain activity through keep the brain supple (neuroplasticity), and fuels the body to create the ATP energy we need to function.
The list of benefits is long and water is indispensable for good physical and mental health.
But exactly how much water should we drink? Well It’s about 3.7 liters per day for men and 2.7 liters of water for women according to the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
So, keep drinking it if you want to see your 130th birthday!
4. Connect with Nature
For a century or so, humans have insulated themselves from nature.
The result is there for everyone to see. Not connecting with nature is affecting our health, mind, relationships, and our overall well-being.
E.O. Wilson, the famous evolutionary biologist, had a theory…
According to him, humans are drawn to nature because of evolutionary reasons.
But, connecting with nature goes way beyond the need for food and shelter.
Dozens of studies show connecting with nature, living near nature, or even watching nature has a positive impact on our behavior, emotional health, and social interaction.
Getting out among nature for a walk or hike is also the cheapest and most effective known treatment for stress and anxiety according to scientific studies.
The studies back up the claim that connecting with nature helps you live longer
In one of the poorer areas in Chicago, people who resided near a forest, trees, green spaces, etc. were found to be calmer, happier, and more civil, courteous, and friendly towards their neighbors.
Connecting with nature can help us live longer by lowering the Cortisol hormone and stress – one of the main contributors to various cancers, heart diseases, and numerous other health problems.
Catharine Ward Thompson conducted a study that uncovered lower Cortisol levels in people living near trees and large green spaces.
The participants also reported feeling less stressed than others and had a better appreciation for life.
Another recent analysis of several studies that examined the benefits of walking through woods, watching green spaces, and viewing green landscapes as images or videos, helped reduce stress in the elderly.
The review also found that activities helped cardiovascular patients recover from illness faster.
In another study, tests on people who enjoyed and appreciated nature showed lower inflammation levels.
Uncontrolled inflammation can cause autoimmune diseases, depression, cardiovascular diseases, and general pain and discomfort.
Can exercising the brain prolong your life? Scientists bet on it. Our brains don’t stop growing or changing as we age.
Research shows that many regions of the brain can produce new neurons and re-wire themselves for as long as we live, given the right resources and environment.
Experts consider brain (cognition) exercises as one of the four exercises that can add at least a decade to the lifespan of the average person.
A healthy cognition is also vital for living a quality life during those extra years.
According to doctors, whenever our brain performs a challenging task, or something new or different, the neurons start buzzing and there is a high probability of neurogenesis and the formation of new connections among brain cells.
The brain – the matter inside the skull – is no different from the muscles in the body.
You need to exercise the brain just like you exercise the muscles to increase strength… In this case Neuron strength.
Even in the case of the brain, some exercises are better than others.
Online games to try to exercise cognitive function for longevity
Perhaps the easiest method to work out the brain ‘muscles’ is to play brain training games. Brain games are fun, effective, and mostly free.
Lumosity, Neurobics, Brain Dots, Logic Puzzle, MentalUP, and Brain Age are some of the top brain training apps you can easily download and start training today.
These computerized cognition-improving exercises will keep the brain young and healthy.
They’ll make you mentally sharper, creative, and flexible.
And if you’re not computer savvy, you don’t have to rely on computerized games alone…
Offline games to try to exercise cognitive function for longevity
Games like Sudoku, logic puzzles, word puzzles, and reasoning quizzes are available both online, and offline in good old fashioned books.
These games will test and train various faculties of cognition.
Other lesser-known brain training activities include learning a new language, taking up music lessons, drawing from memory, using the non-dominant hand and working on balance, and of course – socializing.
2. Age-Related Exercise
Let us begin with a big revelation that’ll make many people happy. It’s never too late to start exercising or partake in moderate physical activity.
According to a study regardless of your past activity levels, taking up exercise, especially in middle and old age people, can improve life expectancy greatly.
Regular exercise that pushes blood and oxygen around the body prolongs life by reducing the mortality risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and cancer.
This is significant information because the top three causes of death in the western hemisphere are heart attack and stroke, cancer, and respiratory diseases.
What do the experts suggest as the ideal physical activity to prolong life?
Most of them agree on three categories of exercises for people in the middle and old age group:
One form of physical activity that people above 50 can utilize is yoga.
Various yoga routines can be used to stretch muscles, tendons, and ligaments, to help keep us supple for longer.
After all, there’s no point living to 130 if you have to spend the last 30 of those years in bed!
In the elderly, a yoga routine can help maintain flexibility, avoid aches, and prevent injuries.
Yoga, and equally effective Tai Chi, will also help improve mental and physical energy levels by increasing blood flow.
Both these practices – Yoga and Tai Chi – are low energy expenditure routines to increase aerobic capacity.
In a study, 54 people in the control group practiced aerobic exercises for two years.
The yoga group comprised 58 people with a mean age of 50. They practiced an hour of yoga every day for two years.
The results showed those taking up yoga performed better in several cardiorespiratory fitness parameters.
Moderate Strength Exercises:
Certain strength exercises are easy to perform in and outside the gym. They are safe and effective in increasing life expectancy.
People in their 50s can start with squats, sit-ups, push-ups, and lifting light weights.
Seniors can maintain muscle strength with routines such as hill walking, climbing stairs, and resistance band workouts.
Regular gardening activities such as digging and shoveling are also highly effective strength exercises.
1. Supplements For Longevity
If you are really serious about holding on to your youthfulness and good health, you’ll need to go a step beyond the six ideas we just discussed.
That’s because they don’t directly address the biochemical changes that happen in the body as we age.
Scientists have identified substances – available to us in dietary supplements – that target the biochemical reactions in the body to slow down the natural wear and tear of the body and prolong lifespan.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom:
A mushroom that appears unlike any other member of the same family. It’s considered a powerful brain tonic.
Erinacines and hericenones – the active ingredients in this mushroom stimulate the production of NGF – the Nerve Growth Factor.
This incredible fungi helps prolong life by reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.
It also promotes neurogenesis – the creation of new brain cells – thereby delaying age-related cognitive decline.
The various nutrients found in green tea possess neuroprotective, blood pressure-lowering, anti-obesity, and anti-cancer properties.
In an experiment, L-theanine was shown to extend the lifespan of C. Elegans roundworms.
Scientists are confident the compound will have a similar effect on mammals including humans, and the anecdotal evidence confirms it.
High inflammation and oxidative stress are terms often used when discussing the causes of aging.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that works at the cellular level to prevent the damage caused by free radicals and other toxins that can build and grow within our arteries and cells.
Glutathione is one of the most promising anti-aging compounds that the scientific community has agreed works!
From the pancreas to our skin, our eyes and vision to our hearts and liver… Glutathione has shown in studies to support the healthy function and repair of the majority of our organs.
As mentioned above, our body’s produce unhealthy ‘free radicals’ all the time.
To counter free radicals, our body produces compounds called antioxidants to fight and clear our systems of this toxic debris.
As we age, the natural ability to fight free radicals reduces, increasing oxidative stress known to lead to cell death.
Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation are also the primary causes of diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and dementia.
As noted several times in this article, these conditions lower our life expectancy.
The evidence for Glutathione helping you live longer
The Journal of Cancer Science and Therapy reported that higher Glutathione levels reduced oxidative stress by improving antioxidant levels in cancer patients.
In one study, Oxford University found that moderate obesity can reduce life expectancy by at least 3 years.
Obesity is also known to cause insulin resistance, which can lead to uncontrolled diabetes and affect lipid metabolism.
According to another study however, administering Glutathione improved fat burning and insulin resistance.
In another study, researchers saw significant mobility improvement in people suffering from peripheral artery disease.
The researchers concluded Glutathione improves mobility by increasing blood circulation by clearing plaque deposits – known as Lipofuscin.
In addition, there is strong scientific data to back the claim that Glutathione supplementation helps reduce respiratory diseases, fights autoimmune diseases, and reduces the impact of uncontrolled diabetes.
In fact, it’s pretty much agreed upon that pound for pound – Glutathione supplementation is the very best way to start looking after your future health and wellbeing… And you can start today…
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Final Thoughts on living longer
Scientists are yet to discover an elixir of immortality and many people doubt there’ll ever be one.
That said the secret to long life surely rests on many small but important decisions you make in life.
These matters of vital importance – 7 of them are discussed here – determine your long-term health, quality of life, and life expectancy.
And whilst 130 years old may make you laugh today, I’m sure had those people living 400 years ago been told we’d double life expectancy in as many years – they’d likely have laughed too.
Keep active, eat good, sleep well, work that brain, hang out with friends, and add Glutathione to your shopping list if you want to live longer…
Do that and you very well may get to squeeze in a lot more years yet, just be sure to send us a Birthday invite for the big 100!
May the rest of your life be the best of your life,
Dr. Gina Nick.