10 Ways to Live a Long and Healthy Life

Achieve your goals of health and happiness with these easy lifestyle tips.

By Leslie Kramer, New York, New York

WEB EXCLUSIVE

It's hard to keep track of the latest research on what's good for you and what isn't. But there are definitely strategies that will help you live a longer, healthier life. The best part is, these things all improve the quality of your life too.

1. Exercise
Just 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise can cut your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes-four of the leading causes of death in the United States.

Sticking to a healthy diet and engaging in regular physical activity can reduce the incidence of cancer by as much as 30 to 40 percent, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Exercise also strengthens your immune system, relieves stress and boosts your mood.

Unpublished

2. Eat fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients that keep your body and brain functioning properly—in particular, antioxidants.

What's so great about these compounds? One theory is that our cells age because of damage by unstable free radicals, which has been linked to cancer, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer's. Antioxidants soak up free radicals, slowing the aging process. Berries, beans and red grapes are excellent sources of these protective compounds.

3. Get your chocolate fix
Cocoa, chocolate's main component, contains antioxidant flavonoids that decrease buildup in blood vessels and can lower your blood pressure. These cardiovascular benefits reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death among American women. Stick to dark chocolate, which has the highest percentage of cocoa.

4. Adopt a pet
Why does having a pet extend your life? Interacting with a pet lowers your blood pressure and stress hormone  levels, says gerontological nursing professor Rebecca Johnson, director of the Research Center for Human Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri. Owning a pet also helps you get more exercise—your dog needs to be walked, right?

5. Get enough sleep
The National Sleep Foundation says that sleep deprivation has lasting impacts on our health, contributing to everything from hypertension to depression to obesity. During sleep, your immune system is strengthened in ways that don't occur when you're awake. That's why scientists believe getting a good night's rest enhances your ability to fight disease.

FREE eBook

The Power of Positive Thinking with Norman Vincent Peale

Positive Thinking 2014

Download a FREE condensed edition of Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.

6. Brush and floss daily
Studies show a connection between gum disease and potentially life-threatening problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia. Brush twice a day and floss daily, as the American Dental Association recommends, and you'll preserve more than your pearly whites. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

7. Drink green tea
Want a wonder drink? Try green tea. It has a high concentration of polyphenols, among the most powerful antioxidants known. The polyphenol EGCG inhibits the growth of cancer cells and helps prevent hardening of the arteries.

According to a study in the Journal of the American Medicine Association, adults in Japan who consumed higher amounts of green tea had a lower risk of death and a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Check with your doctor first; green tea can interact adversely with certain medications.

8. Make lifelong friends
Having close friends in your older years helps you live longer, researchers at Flinders University in Australia found. A study showed that contact with relatives had little measurable effect on longevity but senior citizens who maintained strong ties with friends and confidants had a significantly higher survival rate over a 10-year period. Call your best buddy and enjoy your twilight years together.

9. Put on your seatbelt.
In 2006, 65 percent of passenger vehicle occupants ages 13 to 34 who were killed in car crashes were not wearing seat belts. "Lap and shoulder seat belts, when used, reduce the risk of fatal injury to front seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 65 percent," the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports. Buckle up! It' s easy and effective and hey, it's the law.