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10 Proven Ways You Can Live a Longer and Healthier Life

These are the secrets to aging gracefully.

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woman walking

1. Go for a walk

Even if you’re 50 and have never taken part in a physical activity, a brisk half-hour walk three times a week can “basically reverse your physiological age by about ten years,” says Gareth Jones, director of the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging in London, Ont.

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woman eating fish

2. Eat more fish

Eating fish once or twice a week can cut your risk of having a fatal heart attack by more than a third. It may also reduce the risk of several cancers and ease the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

Omega-3 fats also lower blood triglycerides (a type of stored fat that is associated with increased blood clots), reduce abnormal heart rhythms and the incidence of stroke, slow the buildup of artery-hardening plaques and lower blood pressure.

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3. Lift weights

Scientists once believed that nothing could be done about the withering of muscles associated with aging. Then,  a study in 1990 was published by the August Krogh Institute in Denmark. Researches found there was one group of aging athletes who maintained the strength of men half their age: weight lifters.

More studies have confirmed that muscle and bone loss could be stopped and even reversed through weight training. After lifting weights twice a week for a year, a group of postmenopausal women in their 50s and 60s made gains in bone density, and their scores on strength tests soared to levels more typical of women in their late 30s.

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4. Get a pet

Seniors who own pets are less likely to be depressed than those who don’t, according to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Cindy Adams, a professor and specialist in the human-animal bond at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, believes positive effects stem from the fact that pets force us to focus on something other than ourselves. “It takes our minds off our own aches and pains,” she says.

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5. Add supplements to your diet

Vitamin B12 deficiencies can result in dementia and memory loss, so make sure you’re getting enough. Boost calcium intake, too, to guard against osteo­porosis. And taking a multi­vitamin containing folic acid daily may help to cut the risk of colon cancer.

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6. Quit smoking

If you quit smoking by age 30, your survival rate can rival that of lifelong nonsmokers, according to a report in the British Medical Journal. Quit by 50 and you have half the risk continuing smokers have of dying in the next 15 years.

However, even if you’ve already developed a smoking-related health condition, you’ll benefit. “People who quit smoking after having a heart attack reduce their chances of having another by about 30 percent,” says Dr. Neville Suskin, a cardiologist at the London Health Sciences Centre in Ontario.

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7. Challenge your mind

Stimulating mental activities, like reading a challenging book, or doing crosswords may keep you mentally alert as you age, says Angela Troyer, a psychologist specializing in aging and memory at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto. “People who do more of these things in older adulthood tend to develop dementia at a lower rate.” Try one of our games.

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8. Be optimistic

One quality most centenarians share, according to the large-scale New England Centenarian Study, is an ability to not dwell on difficulties. Stress provokes a physiological response that’s hard on the body, says Hymie Anisman, professor of neuroscience at Carleton University in Ottawa. Your body pumps out adrenaline and cortisol, which are meant to help you cope with danger in the short term but which can damage your immune system, heart, and brain when you’re constantly keyed up.

Dr. Becca Levy, from the Yale School of Public Health, has found some extraordinary benefits of an optimistic outlook. In one study, she looked at 660 people who’d completed a survey about their attitude to aging. Then, she correlated their responses to the ages at which they died. “We found that individuals with a more positive view of aging tended to live seven-and-a-half years longer than those with more negative views of

“We found that individuals with a more positive view of aging tended to live seven-and-a-half years longer than those with more negative views of aging,” says Dr. Levy. “This advantage remained after adjusting for a number of factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness and functional health.”

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9. Spend time with friends

If you can’t stand to jog and refuse to swear off chips and dip, we’ve got good news. Hanging out with your pals may be equally beneficial.

Thomas Glass, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, tracked participation of almost 3,000 people aged 65 and up for over 13 years. He found that social engagements may add as much to your life span as cutting your cholesterol or lowering your blood pressure. 

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10. Help someone else

Participants in a York Univesity study were asked to be helpful and act considerately toward another person for just a few minutes a day. After six months, participants reported much greater self-esteem and happiness than those in the control group.