4 Healthy Ways to Extend Your Life

Learn to live longer by making little, but permanent, changes

Living a long, healthy life is important to everyone. Although the steps to extend your life are fairly simple, they are especially effective when practiced together. Here are some smart habits you can start early or later in life. Just be sure to start -- and stick to as many as you can.

Drop bad habits

You probably know this, but I'll say it anyway: Don't smoke and don't drink excessively. But do you know why? Smoking can cause emphysema, lung cancer and mouth or throat cancer. Excessive drinking can lead to liver disease. Both habits can cause heart disease and decrease immunity strength.

According to the American Heart Association, quitting smoking (or any form of tobacco use) and excessive drinking will extend your life whether you've had those habits for just a few years or for a lifetime. Unlike smoking, however, some alcoholic beverages, consumed in moderation, can actually be good for your health. A glass of wine a day, for example, has been linked to increased heart health.

Eat well

Eating properly is more than just getting the correct amount of fruits and vegetables — it's avoiding the foods that don't optimize the functions of the body. The best foods for extending life are organic, whole foods. Organic foods are grown or produced without any unnatural chemicals or fertilizers that can harm the body. Organic produce is not genetically engineered for shipment and shelf-life like some traditional produce, so it's as natural as possible.

Whole foods are unprocessed and simply prepared, which preserves the nutritional elements of the food. An easy way to remember to stick to whole foods is to only shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Most processed foods are kept on the shelves in the middle, while the produce, meats, dairy, eggs and whole grains are kept in sections on the outside circumference of the store.

Exercise

One of the leading causes of death for both men and women is heart disease, a condition that exercise can help prevent. According to the American Heart Association, regular exercise will also increase lung function, improve bone density and strengthen the immune system to help ward off infections. Exercise will also help with obesity, a condition that can lead to several life threatening illnesses, including cancer and diabetes. Regular exercise will also increase your range of motion and prevent injury, which will keep you independent as you age.

Reduce stress

Stress can be hard to avoid with the hectic lifestyles most people lead today. However, too much stress can lead to heart disease and a weakened immune system. It is important to focus on leading a less stressful lifestyle, and taking time to relieve the stress you can't avoid. Yoga, meditation, kick boxing and the creative arts all relieve stress in a constructive and healthy way.

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