Health

The Habits That Are Proven to Help You Cheat Death

Published On 08/29/2016 Published On 08/29/2016

Dying young isn't on most people's to-do lists. Sure, with age comes lots of joint pain, gray hair, and an overall decline of aesthetic appeal, but living for several more decades means getting to experience brain microchipsrobot butlers, and maybe even paying off your student loans.

To be a healthy octogenarian and beyond, scientists have basically cracked the code on what most sprightly old people have in common, aside from increased hearing loss and a collective disdain for "kids these days." These lifestyle habits are pretty common sense, but they've been proven by study after study, and carry benefits that will last you well into your golden years. So put down the beer (but not for too long), take some notes, and start saving for that futuristic BMW -- here's your guide to living longer.

Indulging in your coffee addiction

Coffee tends to inspire militant opinions. People who believe it's the lifeblood of all human existence, and the monsters who want to take that joy away from the world because "caffeine is a drug," or something.

If you fall into the first camp, you're in luck -- java does help people live longer, even the decaf crap. It's all-natural, calorie-free, and makes you a somewhat tolerable human in the morning. Feel no guilt over your coffee addiction. In fact, use it as proof that you're helping your future self grow to a ripe old age

Not freaking the fuck out

Life is hard, and it's how you handle everyday stress and major life events that can literally make or break you. People with chronic stress have a higher risk for obesity, inflammation, and mental illness.

The Grant and Glueck studies out of Harvard, which assessed the same group of men for 75 years, found that how well people adapted to aging and all the shitty life challenges that come with it impacted how long they lived. The participants who didn't cope with stress well ended up with unhealthy habits, including smoking and alcohol abuse. Learning how to roll with the punches, whether that's internally or with the help of a professional, will impact your mental well-being -- and your lifespan -- tremendously. 

Picking up a book

It's hard to remember a time before you were able to stream your favorite shows whenever you wanted. The problem is that in the time you're spending watching TV, you could be reading, which is something that will actually help you live longer

Education is also vital to a longer life, as the Grant and Glueck studies proved -- the participants who graduated college lived longer than the ones who didn't. And learning something new well after your college years is important, too; stimulating your brain could help lower your risk of Alzheimer's. Try and trade in a couple hours spent in front of the TV for a couple hours reading some typed words, preferably about a new subject. Or you can watch every good show and die young. No one's making you do anything, really. 

Hitting the sack at a reasonable hour (and not overdoing it)

If you live by the philosophy "I'll sleep when I'm dead," then you may get your shut-eye much sooner than you bargained for. But sleeping too much can also have negative effects on long-term health. Finding that sweet spot -- between seven and nine hours a night -- can really impact how long you'll live.

Better sleep is also linked to lower weight, less chronic disease, and even safer driving. All of these factors are related to growing old, and all of this is to say: stop depriving yourself of those much-needed Zzzs! 

Getting your ass off the couch

Exercise has so many health benefits. Seriously, aside from helping you lose weight, working out has proven to extend your life. Over and over again. What is wrong with you, why do you keep arguing against exercise?! There's no need to continue harping on this subject, except to say that, well, sitting down too much will also kill you. Just get moving; aim for 150 minutes a week, and make it a regular habit.

Keeping your weight in check

Being obese -- considered a BMI of 30 or more -- generally (though not always) means putting yourself at risk for life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Morbid obesity is where things get really risky. Come on, they put "morbid" in there for a reason.

The good news with this one is that you can get some extra time on the clock. If you're overweight and lose some pounds, that could actually add years on to your life. 

On the flip side, overweight (a BMI of 25-29) people have been proven to have a longer mortality compared to average-weight or obese people. So although it's important to maintain a healthy weight, if your body naturally holds on to a few extra pounds, that could actually be a good thing. To sum it up: obesity = bad, morbid obesity = really bad, normal weight = good, and being slightly overweight = also good. Science, man. 

Not going full rockstar with the booze and drugs

It's pretty obvious that abusing hard drugs is a slippery slope that can lead to overdose and an early death. Hate to break it to you, but drinking too much alcohol falls in that camp, too. It doesn't matter if everyone else in your band is doing it! You're not them! 

That same Harvard study (75 years is a long-ass time to follow people, you learn some things) found that alcoholism was the biggest contributor to early death among the participants, and even moderate drinking can impact lifespan. Drinking is fine, but drinking heavily can result in a younger death than non-drinkers. So cutting back on binge drinking isn't such a bad idea. And don't do drugs. 

Eating your damn vegetables, duh

Reality check: it's time to grow up and realize that mac & cheese out of a box isn't a real dinner. The more you incorporate actual whole foods into your diet, mainly fruits and vegetables, the better chance you have at living longer. Cutting back on processed meat will make a big impact, too; it's been labeled a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, which means too many pepperonis could be just as bad as cigarettes. But come on, even Bears fans have known that one for a long time

A Mediterranean diet, which focuses mostly on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, with little meat, has been proven time and time again to boost longevity. No wonder Greek people age so well

Not smoking, obviously

It's no surprise that regular smokers don't live as long as those who quit, or who never took it up in the first place. You know this. Your parents know this. Generations to come will know this. There's not much more to it. 

Hanging out with people you actually enjoy

Seems like this should be easy, but it's definitely not! The key to a long and happy life isn't slaving away at the gym or eating kale every day; it's actually putting yourself out there and having a social life. People who have strong social relationships live longer than people who are isolated, even independent of other physical health issues. Yet another excuse to blow off your responsibilities and hang with your buddies; you're looking out for your long-term health. 

And before you think of this as the scientific affirmation that will indefinitely prolong your swingin' 20s, where romances come and go but TRUE FRIENDS ARE 4EVER (that's how millennials act/talk, right?), healthy marriages might be the best of all. People in happy marriages live longer than those who are divorced or in unhappy marriages, and in general, married men tend to live to an older age.

Whether that's because they have a partner to look out for their well-being, or they're emotionally fulfilled with their spouse is unclear, but it doesn't really matter; being in love is good for the heart in more ways than one. 

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She tends to freak the fuck out. She's working in it. Follow her @ChristinaStiehl.

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