The Ultimate Longevity Guide: How to Live a Longer, Fuller Life
Life often throws us painful reminders that nobody is guaranteed another day on this planet. The myriad sacrifices we make for a future that may not exist can seem trivial and pointless.
But the way I see it is, if you can do something now that is going to significantly increase your odds of one more year, one more month, one more day with the people you love who are still here, then that’s a worthy investment of time.
So, the purpose of this longevity guide is to help you stack the deck a little more in your favor and boost your odds of living a longer, healthier, happier, more fulfilling life.
Click the following links to navigate to each section in the guide:
- What is longevity?
- Recommended health screenings by age and gender
- Exercise: how much you need for optimal health
- Eating: what to pay attention to for best results
- Sleep: how much you need and how to get more
- Stress and anxiety: how to better manage your mental health
- Breathing: the art and science of the breath
- Gut health: how to improve yours naturally
- Supplements: whether you need them and which ones work best
What Is longevity?
Longevity is typically defined as having a long life. But if you’re not healthy, then having a long life may not necessarily mean having a good life.
A more practical way of looking at longevity, courtesy of Peter Attia, M.D., is this:
Longevity = lifespan (length of life) + healthspan (quality of life).
To achieve this, you need to delay the onset of chronic disease as much as possible. We all have genetic predispositions to certain afflictions … but our genes are not our destiny, and there are action steps you can take right now to dramatically increase your odds of living a longer and healthier, more fulfilling life.
Recommended health screenings by age and gender
The following list of recommended health screenings by age and gender is by no means exhaustive and is meant as a general guide only–it is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor, so please talk with your healthcare professional(s) about which tests are right for you based on your age, gender, and individual health needs.
|Gender||Age||Health Screening||Why and How Often You Need It|
|Men and Women||18+||Blood cholesterol / blood pressure check||Having high blood cholesterol raises your risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death, and for stroke, the fifth leading cause of death. Yet only half of U.S. adults who could benefit from cholesterol medications are currently taking them.
A cholesterol check should be completed in your twenties, and then annually once you turn 35; it will be checked every five years if normal, annually if you have risk factors.
Your blood pressure should also be checked at least once every year, especially if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, are overweight, have a first-degree relative with high blood pressure, are black and/or had high blood pressure during a pregnancy.
|Men and Women||18+||Full body skin check||1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. But when detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.
Adult men and women should get a full body skin check to examine for moles or skin lesions once per year.
|Women||18+||Breast exam, pelvic exam, pap test (smear)||Breast cancer is currently the most common cancer globally, accounting for 12.5% of all new annual cancer cases worldwide. About 13% (about 1 in 8) of U.S. women are going to develop invasive breast cancer in the course of their life.
Mammograms start the age of 40 and should be done annually; if breast cancer runs in your family or you have other risk factors, you may need to begin regular mammograms at an earlier age
Pap testing should be conducted every three years starting at the age of 21 to test for cervical cancer.
|Men||18+||Testicular exam||Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men aged 15 to 34 years.
In most cases, testicular cancer is first discovered by men themselves, either by chance or during self-exam.
It’s also important to have a primary care doctor do a testicular exam at least once a year during your annual physical exam.
|Men and Women||45-75||Colonoscopy||In the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women, and it’s the second most common cause of cancer deaths when numbers for men and women are combined. It’s expected to cause about 52,550 deaths during 2023.
Regular screening, beginning at age 45, is the key to preventing colorectal cancer and finding it early. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) recommends that adults age 45 to 75 be screened for colorectal cancer. The Task Force recommends that adults age 76 to 85 talk to their doctor about screening.
People at increased or high risk of colorectal cancer might need to start colorectal cancer screening before age 45, be screened more often, and/or get specific tests. This includes people with:
|Men||40-64||Prostate screenings||Doctors are still studying if screening tests will lower the risk of death from prostate cancer. The most recent results from 2 large studies were conflicting, and didn’t offer clear answers.
For now, the American Cancer Society recommends that men thinking about getting tested for prostate cancer learn as much as they can so they can make informed decisions based on available information, discussions with their doctor, and their own views on the possible benefits, risks, and limits of prostate cancer screening. Men should not be screened unless they have received this information. The discussion about screening should take place at:
|Men and Women||65+||Bone density, vaccines||Starting at the age of 65, men and women should have a bone density study every 2 – 5 years; this may start at the age of 60 if you’re in a high-risk population.
Check this PDF from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out which vaccines are recommended for adults age 65 and older, including pneumococcal and shingles vaccinations.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screenings
- MyHealthfinder Tool from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Search by age and gender to see which screening tests and vaccines you or your loved ones need to stay healthy.
Exercise: how much do you need each week?
It’s no secret exercise is one of the, if not the single best, things you can do for your health and longevity. In a study of more than 100,000 adults, researchers found that people who followed the minimum guidelines for physical activity—150–300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75–150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity—reduced their risk of early death by as much as 21%.
But people who exercised from two to four times the minimum were able to lower their risk by as much as 31%.
Getting enough exercise becomes increasingly important as we age because muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30. This rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60.
A decrease in muscle mass is also usually accompanied by a progressive increase in fat mass, which can trigger insulin resistance, lead to decreases in bone density and increased joint stiffness, and makes you more susceptible to type 2 diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain types of cancers.
If you’re not getting enough exercise, then the sooner you start increasing your activity level, the more likely you will be to increase your lifespan and healthspan.
Eating: what to pay attention to for best results
“What to eat” is perhaps the most ambiguous of all the longevity strategies in this guide. That’s because there’s no proven one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating.
There are, however, several things you can do to increase your odds of living longer:
Eat less sugar.
Eat more vegetables and fruits.
Eat more dietary fiber.
Eat more dietary protein.
Sleep: how much do you need and how do you improve yours?
Getting enough sleep is another key to longevity. But sleep-related problems plague 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes.
This is a big problem, because lack of sleep can cause increased stress levels, pain, emotional distress and mood disorders, and cognitive, memory, and performance deficits.
Long-term consequences of poor sleep include increased risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, weight-related issues, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer.
Research also shows that sleep deprivation can lead to loss of muscle mass and hinder muscle recovery post-exercise.
So, let’s explore how much sleep you should be getting and some tips for improving your sleep quality.
How much sleep do you need each day?
National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
How do you sleep better? Try these 5 tips
- Remove as much light as possible from your room before bedtime. Research shows turning off your TV, phone, tablets, etc. is one of the best things you can do to improve your sleep.
- Don’t eat or drink before bed (especially alcohol). Eating or drinking less than 1 hour before bedtime can significantly increase risk of inefficient sleep. And alcohol, in particular, really disrupts your sleep. Even a drink or two can decrease sleep quality by 9% or so, and anything over two drinks can knock your sleep quality down by a whopping 39%, says the Sleep Foundation.
- Be consistent. Waking up and going to bed around the same time each morning and night will improve the quality of sleep, according to The Mayo Clinic.
- Exercise. Charlene Gamaldo, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep says: “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality.” Just make sure you do it at least 1-2 hours before you’d like to fall asleep.
- Try essential oils and/or sleep aids. Using lavender essential oil may help lead to better sleep. And there are many prescription and non-prescription sleep aids that may help promote improved sleep too. Many of these medications come with serious side effects, so if you want to try an all-natural supplement, refer to our article below …
Stress and anxiety: how to care for your mental health
The pervasive effects of stress and anxiety are an epidemic in our society today. The American Psychological Association (APA) says:
We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.
Stress can cause or exacerbate mental health conditions, leading people to commit irrational, senseless acts. Stress can negatively impact your brain health, cardiovascular health, immunity, and GI system.
But there are different types of stress and not all are bad.
What are the different types of stress?
- Acute stress: This type of stress is when your “fight or flight” response kicks in, the autonomic nervous system activates, and the body experiences increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline. Acute stress can be caused by
- Chronic stress: This type of stress is when you have a consistent sense of feeling pressured and overwhelmed over a long period of time. It can be caused by pressures related to finances, society/social issues, marriage, children, work stress, etc.
- Eustress: This is the type of stress in which things may feel challenging but they’re manageable and lead to positive changes and growth. Examples of eustress include marriage, getting a promotion at work, having a baby, making new friends, graduating from school, or retiring.
How to manage stress better
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the following strategies for managing stress in their Stress Management Guide:
- Learn stress management
- Keep a daily routine
- Get plenty of sleep
- Connect with others
- Eat healthy
- Exercise regularly
- Limit time following news
Breathing: the art and science of breath
We each take roughly 20,000 breaths per day, most of them unconsciously.
But maybe we should be paying more attention because the breath is one of the best stress-relieving tools humans possess.
Most people breathe through their mouth too often, which can lead to dental issues, sleep disorders, and more. By making a few tweaks to how you breathe and paying attention to your breath more, you can dramatically improve your health and wellness and lower your stress and anxiety levels.
The best breathing technique for reducing stress and improving mood
In a Stanford University study published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, cyclic breathing proved to be more effective at improving mood than mindfulness meditation and other breathwork techniques. It was also the best way to slow down the number of breaths the participants took per minute, which had a calming effect.
How to practice cyclic breathing:
To practice cyclic breathing (or cyclic sighing):
- Inhale slowly through your nose. Once your lungs are expanded, inhale once more to maximally fill your lungs — even if the second inhale is shorter in duration and smaller in volume than the first.
- Slowly and fully exhale all your breath (ideally through the mouth but the nose also works).
- Repeat for five minutes.
Check out the full article at the link below if you’re interested in digging a little deeper into this topic.
Gut health: how to improve yours naturally
“The gut” refers to your gastrointestinal (GI) system, which is the group of organs that lead from your mouth to your anus.
Organs of the digestive system are categorized into two groups:
- The alimentary canal, which is considered outside of the body, includes the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines.
- Accessory digestive organs include the tongue, teeth, salivary glands, gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.
Your GI tract breaks down food using nerves, hormones, and bacteria so your body can absorb nutrients, which are then transported through the bloodstream.
The bacteria are of particular significance because they also stimulate the immune system, break down potentially toxic food compounds, and synthesize certain vitamins and amino acids.
Your gut health also affects more than just your digestion too–it can have tangible effects on your mood, immune system, and more. 90 percent of the “feel good” neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin are produced in the gut.
4 Ways to Support GI Health
- Eat more fiber and less sugar. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar provides fiber that helps feed the good bacteria in your gut.
- Get more sleep. Not getting enough sleep is linked to higher rates of stress and obesity, which can lead to a multitude of digestive system disorders.
- Move more. Exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy body weight, which can help you ward off GI system issues.
- Manage stress. Stress can reshape your gut bacteria’s composition and release more metabolites, toxins, and neurohormones that can alter your eating behavior and mood. The best ways to manage stress are to practice deep breathing a few times a day, take a walk outside in nature, spend time with people you care about, and exercise.
Supplements: which, if any, are best for longevity?
Can supplements really help with anti-aging / longevity?
Based on what we know right now, not directly.
Some small animal studies have shown improvements to lifespan and/or healthspan from supplements called NAD+ precursors (e.g., nicotinamide riboside and nicotinamide mononucleotide).
But most of the research on these supplements has notable limitations. There is currently very little quality evidence that they promote healthy aging or increase lifespan in humans.
If you want to read about supplements that can help promote improved body composition, gut health, and immunity, check out our Ultimate Supplement Guide below!
To increase your odds of living longer, you need to avoid putting yourself in high-risk situations and delay the onset of chronic disease as much as possible.
We all have genetic predispositions–but our genes are not our destiny.
There are (some pretty basic) habits you can start creating right now that can dramatically increase your odds of living a longer and healthier, more fulfilling life: eating less sugar and more plants, exercising daily, reducing your stress and anxiety levels (which will help you sleep better), practicing breathing, taking care of your brain and your gut.
If you still have your health (mostly) intact, why waste it? Because good health can buy us more time. And there’s no greater asset than that.