Would you like to know the secret behind eternal life?
Me too. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer.
But thanks to the advancement of science, I can give you actionable advice on how to become an ass-kicking centenarian.
These are the top 14 anti-aging hacks that will maximize your chance of becoming 100+ years old:
Yes, you guessed it! What you eat greatly affects your health status and ultimately how long you will live.
By analyzing 150 dietary studies of centenarians living in so-called Blue Zones (the places on earth where people live the longest, Dan Buettner and his team of experts found 15 eating habits that make you live longer.
The 15 habits are:
- 95% of what you eat should come from plants.
- Only consume meat twice a week.
- Eat fish (up to 3 oz/day).
- Consume limited amounts of dairy products.
- Eat 2-3 eggs/week.
- Eat a ½ cup of cooked beans a day.
- Bread should be sourdough or whole-wheat.
- Limit sugar consumption to a minimum.
- Eat nuts every day.
- Choose whole foods over artificial foods.
- Drink more water.
- If you must drink alcohol, stick to red wine.
- Drink green tea.
- Drink coffee (but no more than 4 cups/day).
- Eat vegetables that are rich in protein.
A final advice on eating habits comes from a Japanese teaching called Hara hachi bun me: Stop eating when you are 80% full.
If you stop eating when you’re 80% full (that’s when you’re no longer hungry), you’ll stop yourself from overeating.
Dan Buettner talks about these 15 eating habits (along with other beneficial habits):
Sleep is a very important factor for health and longevity. Probably more than a lot of people think.
To improve your chances of becoming a centenarian, you should follow these steps:
- Sleep 7 hours/night.
- Go to bed, and get up, at the same time every day of the week.
- Create an optimal sleep environment: Get a bed that fits your body, and make sure the bedroom is cool and dark.
- Avoid using any electronic equipment the last 90 minutes before bedtime.
- Take short naps. Regular napping reduces the risk for coronary heart disease with 37%.
- Stop snoring.
If you want to know more, have a look at these tips for better sleep.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that keeping fit increases the chance for a long life.
Moderate exercise (like walking) for at least 150 minutes per week reduces the mortality risk by 31%. To get the best results – 39% lower risk – you should exercise moderately for 450 minutes per week.
Some researchers claim that if you sprinkle in some vigorous exercise, the risk for premature death would decrease even more.
But as Dan Buettner explained in his excellent TED talk, you don’t need to go to the gym or hire an expensive PT to live longer. For a lot of people, doing everyday low-intensity activities is quite sufficient. Like living in a vertical house with only stairs, by taking the bicycle instead of the car, or by doing manual work (gardening etc).
#4 Close Relationships
Research shows that loneliness increases the mortality risk by around 30%.
Living with a partner and a having family to interact and share experiences with greatly increases your wellbeing, and thereby prolonging your life. Close friends can also have that positive effect.
If you live alone and don’t have close family, I can really recommend another type of close relationship; the one with a pet. For example a dog.
When petting a dog, your body is literally showered in healthy dopamine and oxytocin, while levels of harmful cortisol are reduced. As a bonus, you get a great low-intensity exercise when walking it.
#5 Social Integration
Similarly to close relationships, daily social interactions with neighbors, co-workers, or even complete strangers greatly affect your longterm health.
It can be hard to think that chatting two minutes with a tourist asking for directions could impact your health, but it does. Studies show a clear connection between these everyday interactions and longevity.
Researchers call it social integration.
Developmental psychologist Susan Pinker explains just how important in-person social interactions are:
#6 Winning the Gene Lottery
Let’s be honest. To become really old you need luck. More specifically, you need to have good genes. You need to win the gene lottery.
Even if you follow all the other 14 hacks religiously, you won’t become a centenarian if you are born with a severe genetic disease.
Now don’t get me wrong, you could still extend your life with several years by making the right choices, but you won’t live to be a hundred.
#7 A Sense of Purpose in Life
Having a sense of purpose in life matters more than you might think.
New research published in Psychological Science shows that no matter your current age, finding a meaning and a direction for your life can make you live much longer.
Some people turn to religion, while others devote their time to charity or volunteering.
To live longer, it’s important to find a reason to get up in the morning. To find something that’s worth living for.
#8 Positive Thinking
By using the other longevity hacks on this list, positive thinking will probably come naturally.
Because if you have good health, get an optimal sleeping habit, are surrounded by people you care about, and experience a deeper meaning with your life, chances are pretty good that you will see things through a positive lens.
Another positive thing about positive thinking (!) is that it’ll make you laugh more. Laughing releases endorphins and decreases levels of several stress hormones. It makes you feel relaxed. And it makes you live longer.
#9 Avoiding Drugs
Avoiding excessive consumption of drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and other poisonous substances (e.g. sugar) is vital to becoming 100+ years old.
Now there’s no need to dig any deeper, because it’s pretty straightforward. Tobacco, narcotics and alcohol are harmful.
An exception to this is red wine. Low to moderate amounts of red wine could actually be beneficial.
#10 Reducing Risk
Now, what do I mean by reducing risk?
Well, we expose ourselves to many types of risks in our lives. Risks that we can mitigate. For example:
- Type of work. Being a librarian is not as risky as being a police officer, soldier, or an Alaskan fisherman.
- Hobbies. Avoid high-risk hobbies like wingsuit flying and rock climbing.
- Traffic. From a risk perspective, airbags and seat belts are good, while motorcycling and jaywalking are bad.
- Crime. Don’t hang out with the wrong people. Avoid bad neighborhoods.
- Geography. If you live in a country that’s plagued by wars and droughts, you will likely not live to be a hundred.
So by making the right decisions (where to live, occupation, etcetera) you could reduce the risk of dying prematurely.
#11 Minimize Stress
Stress is a killer. Both long-term via high blood pressure, and in the short term (e.g. car accidents caused by stressed drivers).
Researchers at Harvard and Stanford studied how much a stressful workplace affects life expectancy. The results differed a lot depending on race, gender, and level of education, but some groups lost up to three years of their lives! All because of a stressful workplace.
From a personal standpoint, I would recommend that you have at least thirty minutes of free time in your daily schedule. Time for yourself, to relax, unwind, and let your mind wander. If not, stress will affect the quality of life, and ultimately your life expectancy.
Meditation, yoga, and other techniques, can do wonders for stressed people. Maybe you should give it a try?
#12 Regular Medical Check-Ups
Stopping small medical problems before they become serious conditions is crucial if you want to live a really long life. To have your medical status regularly checked by your doctor does just that.
For example, screening for colon cancer or hepatitis C can help prevent serious illness at an early stage. It could potentially save your life.
There are many supplements and vitamins that could potentially help you live to be a hundred years old. But there are even more supplements out there making ridiculous and unrealistic claims. It’s a jungle.
To give you some guidance, this article lists 20 vitamins and supplements that could boost longevity.
But remember, centenarians living in the Blue Zones don’t take supplements. Think about that for a minute!
#14 Financial Security
the average life expectancy of the lowest-income classes in America is now equal to that in Sudan or Pakistan.
In other words, having your finances in order is good for longevity.
Money will help you buy a home in a secure and peaceful place. It will also help you buy locally grown whole foods, get good medical care, and not having to worry about the next utility bill.
As you can see, financial security touches on several of the other hacks. Having money in the bank allows you to manage risk, to eat healthy foods, to visit your doctor regularly, and not having to deal with financial stress.