8 Habits that Help Seniors Live Longer, Healthier Lives

8 Habits that Help Seniors Live Longer, Healthier Lives

When it comes to healthy habits, you probably already know quite a few: eat right, exercise, get more sleep, don’t smoke, and be careful about how much alcohol you drink. Then there are others such as taking your medication on time, going to the doctor on a regular basis, and using a personal emergency button alert.

But while you might know that certain habits can improve your health, a new study has actually put a number on just how much longer you might live if you engage in the right habits as you get older—and it’s significant!

The Study on Healthy Habits

A study was presented by the American Society for Nutrition at their annual conference that looked at almost 720,000 military veterans, male and female, aged 40 through 99. The study tracked several different healthy habits to determine how many years of good health each of those habits could add to someone’s life, and how that number of years changed with age.1

For instance, the study found that if you adopt one healthy habit on the list at the age of 40 and keep it up through the rest of your life, you could add an additional 4.5 years to your lifespan. Adding another healthy habit led to seven more years of good health. The more healthy lifestyle changes were adopted, the more longevity resulted, eventually leading up to almost 25 years of longer living for men and up to 23 years of extra life for women!

And if you started later? That’s okay. Those who were 60 when they started adopting the healthy habits gained 18 years of longevity. And it didn’t matter if they had chronic illnesses when they started, such as diabetes or heart disease; the healthy habits still made an enormous difference in how far they could extend their golden years. In fact, after adjusting for body mass index, race and ethnicity, sex, and social factors, the study found that those who adopted all eight lifestyle changes in the study had an 87% reduction in mortality rates from all causes.

This study is part of a larger one called the Million Veteran Program, which aims to explore the health of U.S. veterans across the world. If you are a veteran, you might be eligible to join the study!2

So what are those 8 healthy, life-extending habits?

The 8 Healthy Habits for Longevity

The effectiveness of these habits has been proven by scientists time and time again. And the possibility of adding a quarter-century to your life by simply adopting good habits is significant!


And remember – even adding just one of these could make a difference!


1. Exercise.


The study found that adding regular exercise to your routine could reduce the risk of death from all causes by 46%. Though the CDC suggests moderate exercise activity for better health, the study found that even light activity made a difference. That means that simply walking up a flight of stairs can have an impact.


Though you should always aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times week to meet the total of 150 minutes recommended by experts, even light exercise adds up. Here are some ways you can incorporate exercise into your day-to-day life:


·        Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

·        When you go for a walk, carry weights in your hands.

·        Park at the far end of a parking lot so you have to walk further to get to your destination.

·        Get to the mailbox by taking the “long way” around the block.

·        Do a series of easy balance exercises while you watch television.

·        Do an extra “lap” around the grocery store while shopping.


2. Avoid Opioids.


The opioid crisis in the United States is considered a national public health emergency, and for good reason; those who are addicted to opioids show a decreased quality of life and often face an early death.


The vast majority of individuals don’t go out seeking opioids, but instead wind up using them in the wake of a serious injury that resulted in pain that had to be controlled through the use of heavy-duty painkillers. It can be easy to become addicted to opioids, but if that happens, you face a 38% increased risk of early death.


If you are in serious pain and your doctor prescribes opioids, take them – but be sure to take them exactly as directed and only for as long as directed. And as soon as you can “step down” to something simpler, such as Tylenol or Motrin, do so.


It also helps to do everything you can to avoid the need for opioids in the first place. For instance, while a hip fracture can lead to a hip replacement and either one of those issues definitely warrants the use of opioids, things can get more complex if you lie in pain for hours while you wait for help to arrive. The use of an alert for elderly adults can help you avoid that awful outcome by giving you the opportunity to call for help as soon as an accident occurs. In-home or on-the-go medical alert systems save lives and secure help fast, 24/7.


3. Don’t Smoke.


If you want to live a long life, put down the cigarettes. Those who never smoked reduce their risk of death by 29%. Though the study looked only at those who had never smoked, there was no doubt that those who were former smokers and stopped at any age improved their quality of life and potentially improved their longevity, too.


According to Medical News Today, improvements in your health begin almost immediately when you stop smoking. Within hours, your blood pressure begins to drop. Within days, the carbon monoxide levels in your body return to normal, and your oxygen levels go up. After the third day, you no longer have nicotine in your system. And within a month, your lung function begins to improve.3


4. Manage Stress.


The study looked at the levels of stress among the participants, with the knowledge that stress can have devastating consequences for those of any age. The study found that lessening stress in your day-to-day life could reduce your risk of early death by 22%.


But how do you do that? Here are some tips:


·        Take the time for meditation and deep breaths.

·        Reframe a situation to find the positive points.

·        Write down what you are grateful for.

·        Practice active gratitude by telling others how grateful you are to have them.

·        Stretch or take a walk to get your blood pumping.

·        Talk to someone who makes you feel good.

·        Watch a quick video or two that makes you laugh.

·        Write in a journal or do something that gets your creative juices flowing.


5. Watch Your Diet.


The study found that those who ate a plant-based diet had a 21% increase in longevity, but the authors pointed out that going vegan or vegetarian wasn’t necessary. Rather, those who followed a diet rich in plants and moderate on meat, such as the Mediterranean diet, were much more likely to see better health benefits. The idea is to fill your plate with leafy green veggies, whole grains, and plenty of fruits, as well as lean proteins like beans or fish.


6. Reduce the Alcohol.


While some studies have found that a glass of wine a day might be good for you, others suggest you should stay away from alcohol altogether. This study found that those who engaged in binge drinking, or having more than four alcoholic beverages a day, was the biggest problem. Avoiding binge drinking resulted in reducing the risk of death by 19%.


If you do drink, do so in moderation. A glass of wine with a nice meal is likely acceptable for most, but drinking with frequency could quickly lead to problems. And remember, some medications can interact in a bad way with alcohol, so be sure to ask your doctor if it’s okay before you pour a glass.


7. Get Your Sleep.


Those who got at least seven hours of sleep a night saw an 18% reduced risk of early death. A good night of sleep is usually defined as getting between seven and nine hours of sleep with no insomnia involved.


Sleep does all sorts of good things for you, such as lowering stress levels and helping your body recover from the events of the day. In fact, better sleep can reduce your risk of dementia, as the brain has an opportunity to repair damage during those hours when you are getting solid shut-eye.


8. Foster Social Relationships.


It’s well-known that seniors often face significant loneliness and social isolation, and studies have shown that this can have an adverse effect on health. The study on veterans found that those who surrounded themselves with positive social relationships improved their longevity by 5%.


Though that might not seem like much, keep in mind that not only does being less lonely increase longevity, it also improves quality of life, sometimes quite significantly.


How can you foster good social relationships? These tips can help:


·        Reach out to friends you haven’t heard from in a while.

·        Join a community center or senior group.

·        Volunteer at a local organization.

·        Go online to find chat rooms and support groups that interest you.

·        Spend more time with extended family.

·        Go to places where the community gathers, such as a farmer’s market or a local coffee shop.


It’s Never Too Late


Even seniors who haven’t engaged in the healthiest habits in the past can do so now and see an increase in longevity and quality of health. As you resolve to add these healthy habits to your routine, let an Alert1 medical alarm keep you safe as you embark on your new journey to a healthier you and add many more golden years to your life.