According to the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy at birth worldwide in 2013 was 71 years. The average human lifespan has increased steadily over the last few decades thanks to progress in the field of medicine.
Effective vaccines and medicines have helped fight diseases that could otherwise cut a person’s life short.
In fact, science has helped extend the average person’s life span by nearly three decades during the last century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Along with medicine, improvements in working conditions and sanitation as well as overall awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle have also played key roles in increasing lifespan.
If you want to be healthier and live longer, you need to pay attention to your lifestyle and dietary choices.
Here are 10 things you should stop doing if you want to live longer.
1. Unhealthy Diet
Unhealthy eating is a major contributing factor to reduced quality of life and several health problems. Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes, high cholesterol, dementia and many types of cancer are closely related to an unhealthy diet.
In fact, in the U.S., dietary factors, high body mass index and physical inactivity cause more health loss than alcohol or drug use.
To improve your health, include organic fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich foods, whole-grain products, low-fat dairy items and healthy fats in your diet.
Also, limit your processed food and salt intake. Plus, avoid caffeine. A healthy diet is incomplete without drinking an adequate amount of water throughout the day.
In addition, do not skip breakfast and eat 3 small meals and some healthy snacks in between.
2. Being a Couch Potato
Lack of physical activity is the single most important factor that affects your longevity. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that lack of physical activity has long been associated with an increased risk of early death, independent of a person’s body mass index (BMI).
Physical activity boosts your immunity, improves cardiovascular and respiratory functions, slows the loss of muscular strength, increases bone mass, improves digestion, promotes sound sleep and prevents depression.
Even if you are busy, it is important to make some time for some sort of physical activity in your daily routine. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day, five or more times per week, can help extend your life.
Go for a walk or run for 20 to 30 minutes daily, enjoy aerobic exercises a few times a week and opt for swimming, bicycling, trekking or other sports on the weekends.
3. Not Getting Proper Sleep
The amount of sleep you get daily can affect your lifespan. A 2007 study published in the Sleep journal showed that both a decrease and an increase in sleep duration are associated with increased mortality rates.
Sleeping less than six hours at night makes you more likely to die prematurely than people who sleep up to eight hours.
Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious health problems, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes. On the other hand, a good night’s sleep can help ward off stress, depression and heart disease.
On average, an adult needs around eight hours of good quality sleep each night to function properly. As a rule, if you wake up feeling tired and look for opportunities to nap, it is a sure sign that you are not getting enough sleep.
To help enjoy good sleep, eat a light dinner, keep your bedroom dark and distraction-free, meditate, drink a glass of warm milk before going to sleep, enjoy a warm bath at night and keep the temperature in your bedroom on the cool side.
4. Stressing a Lot
Too much stress can take a toll on your health and may actually shorten your life. Stress increases the hormone cortisol in the body, which has negative effects on your heart, metabolism and immune system.
A 2012 study published inthe British Medical Journal showed the link between increased risk of heart attacks or strokes and stress, which increases mortality rates.
By taking steps to reduce stress, you can improve your health as well as quality of life. Less stress and anxiety helps strengthen the immune system and decreases susceptibility to disease. It even reduces the risk of depression and anxiety.
Exercise, proper sleep, visualization and meditation can produce visible changes in your body’s stress response.
If you are a smoker, stop smoking now to add years to your life. In fact, it will also increase the chance of a disease-free life.
According to the CDC, an estimated 43.8 million Americans smoke and it is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.
Cigarette smoke contains more than 1,000 chemicals that are harmful to the smoker as well as those exposed to the smoke.
These chemicals can lead to lung cancer, heart disease, skin problems, chronic bronchitis, teeth impairment and accelerated aging.
Once you make up your mind to quit smoking, be prepared to experience withdrawal symptoms like frustration, anxiety, anger, lack of concentration, increased appetite, headaches, higher blood pressure and a constant craving to smoke.
You can get help from professionals, support from family members, prescription medications and natural aids to help quit smoking and cope with the withdrawal symptoms.
6. Drinking Excessively or Using Hard Drugs
Another way to increase your life span is to stay away from hard drugs as well as alcohol.
People use hard drugs for a variety of reasons, such as to have fun, relax, fight depression, gain confidence, escape from reality, relieve boredom and stress, and even as self-medication to cope with problems.
Misuse of hard drugs can be harmful to your health in both the short and long term, and often leads to addiction. Some of the hard drugs that you need to stay away from include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and others.
Similar to hard drugs, excessive drinking can lead to health issues, such as liver disease, digestive problems, heart problems, diabetes complications and a weakened immune system.
Both drug and alcohol addictions are associated with accidental injury, assault, unsuccessful marriages, increased crime and suicide.
To fight these addictions, get help from support groups, family, treatment programs and even medicines, if necessary.
7. Ignoring Oral Hygiene
Proper oral hygiene is important to prevent tooth decay, dry mouth, toothaches and gum disease. It also supports your overall health by removing harmful bacteria from your mouth.
Oral bacteria increases the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and some forms of cancer.
Gum disease is the sixth most prevalent chronic condition in the world, affecting 743 million people. In the U.S., one in every two adults suffer from periodontal disease.
By maintaining oral hygiene, you can prevent gum disease and other oral problems and thus increase your longevity.
Brush your teeth twice daily, floss every day, rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash twice daily and get dental check-ups every six months.
Avoid dry mouth by chewing sugarless chewing gum and drinking plenty of water. Also, avoid sugary sports drinks and beverages.
8. Avoiding Sun Exposure
The link between excessive sun exposure and an increased risk of skin cancer has led many people to avoid the sun entirely. But totally ignoring the sun can negatively affect your health.
Moderate exposure to sunlight stimulates vitamin D production in the body. Vitamin D deficiency is a major risk factor for different types of cancer, heart disease, strokes, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, Type 2 diabetes, depression, birth defects, infectious diseases and more.
A 2011 study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention journal concluded that normal sun exposure helps reduce the risk of both cardiovascular and death.
Expose your body to early morning sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes (without sunscreen). Avoid direct sunlight during the peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) of the day.
Wear sunscreen if you must be outdoors during the peak hours and consider protective film for your car windows to reduce radiation exposure.
9. Negative Thinking
Negative thoughts limit your potential to live a fulfilling, purposeful life. They also have a harmful effect on your health by increasing your stress level.
Other effects of negative thinking include anger, frustration, irritability, anxiety and depression. In addition, a negative emotional state can lead to eating disorders – from over-eating to a complete lack of appetite.
Stay positive by finding a purpose in your life. This will help you feel better about yourself, increase your productivity, reduce stress and ultimately help you live longer. It also helps you cultivate healthy relationships, which surely affects your health in many positive ways.
To reduce negativity in your life, be grateful for everything you have, laugh more, help others who are in need, meditate and surround yourself with positive people.
10. Avoiding Regular Medical Check-ups
Even if you have close family members who have lived long lives, you cannot rely solely on your genetics. Environmental and lifestyle factors play a major role in your longevity.
Therefore, it is essential to take charge of your health by seeing your doctor regularly so that you can get needed screenings and examinations in a timely manner.
When it comes to health problems, prevention is always better than the cure. Early detection ensures better treatment and recovery rates. It will also be less expensive.
Some of the important screenings and tests include breast examination, cholesterol and high blood pressure testing, bone density testing, colorectal cancer screening, dental check-ups and so on.
When visiting a doctor, you need to be truthful about your lifestyle and health symptoms. At the same time, take your doctor’s advice seriously.