Living up to Your Potential Life Span

Longevity may increase with some health practices

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

No one lives forever. But you may be able to increase your life span.

Your genes can have a big impact on your longevity. According to the National Institutes of Health, genetic factors account for 20 to 30 percent of the variation in adult life span.

While you can’t change your genes, you can make changes to your lifestyle and health habits — and these changes may help you live up to your genetic life span potential.

dailyRx News asked Miranda Wellington, MD, of Baylor Family Medical Center at Lake Ridge in Texas, about her strategies for those looking to live up to their potential.

"The most helpful strategies for patients who are trying to change long-standing health habits would be making realistic short-term and long-term health goals and having someone hold them accountable — whether it be a personal trainer, friend, family member, electronic fitness device or fitness app," Dr. Wellington said.

Follow these health do's and don’ts, and you may one day find yourself blowing out 100 candles!

Diet Makes a Difference

What you put in your mouth, day in and day out, may be a factor in longevity.

Joel Fuhrman, MD, a family physician who specializes in nutritional research and author of "Eat to Live," has a top 10 list of foods that promote health and longevity.

At the top of Dr. Fuhrman's list are green leafy vegetables and non-leafy vegetables (such as broccoli), berries, beans, mushrooms, onions, seeds, nuts, tomatoes and pomegranates.

To live longer, Dr. Furhman recommends on his website avoiding refined white sugar and flour, sodas and other sweetened foods. These foods have been implicated in life-shortening chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, according to Dr. Fuhrman.

Dr. Wellington also recommended a healthy diet for promoting longevity.

"I would recommend eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables and limits saturated fats and sweets," Dr. Wellington said. "It is also important to drink at least six to eight glasses of water daily to stay well-hydrated."

Brush Those Pearly Whites

Taking good care of your teeth may have a significant impact on life span, according to a recent study in the Journal of Aging Research.

Annalia Paganini Hill, PhD, of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, and colleagues studied more than 5,000 older adults from 1992 to 2009.

These researchers found that flossing daily, brushing every night before bed, and regular dental care were strongly associated with longevity. Dr. Hill and team also found that those who had lost all of their teeth had a 30 percent higher risk of dying before those who kept all or some of their teeth.

Nix Tobacco

What you don’t do for your health may be just as important as what you do for your health. That’s right — that means no smoking.

If there is a single health message to take to heart, it’s this one: Don’t. Smoke. At. All. Ever.

Smoking — not just cigarettes, but the use of tobacco in all forms — increases the risk for developing heart disease and lung cancer, and having high blood pressure or a stroke. Centenarians (people who live beyond the age of 100 years) rarely have a smoking history, according to the ongoing New England Centenarian Study from Boston University School of Medicine.

Move It

You may know that exercise can improve longevity, but a lot more exercise may not necessarily be better.

A recent study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine looked at the exercise habits of more than 660,000 Americans and Europeans. These researchers found that even those who exercised less than the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week had a 20 percent lower risk of death, compared to those who did not exercise.

Patients who upped that exercise level to one to two times the recommended amount saw their risk drop by 31 percent. However, these researchers found that upping the exercise level to three to five times the recommended amount didn't provide any extra benefits but also didn't harm the participants.

Dr. Wellington recommended physical activity for fostering longevity.

"Exercising a few times a week for at least 30 minutes helps to maintain cardiovascular health, which can prolong one's genetically programmed lifestyle," Dr. Wellington said.

Catch Some ZZZs

During sleep, your body is actually very active. One of sleep’s main functions is to maintain the body’s equilibrium and hormonal balance.

As you age, your sleep patterns may change. A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that the oldest adults in this study went to sleep before, and woke up earlier than, the younger adults. They also tended to have very regular sleep cycles — typically going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. The oldest adults were also more likely to take an afternoon nap.

Finally, these researchers found that older adults with regular sleep patterns were less likely to have high LDL cholesterol — sometimes known as "bad" cholesterol.

High levels of LDL cholesterol have been implicated in heart disease, according to these researchers.

Review Date: 
May 29, 2015