If flipping the calendar to a new year (or counting off another birthday) makes you anxious, stop fighting Father Time and start working with him. Add 20-plus great years to your life—and help celebrate Healths 20-year anniversary—by making simple lifestyle changes, like joining an aerobics class or even having sex more often. Ready to start?
Adds 2 to 4 years
Dutch and Australian researchers found that women who do moderate- to high-intensity cardiovascular exercise—like running for 30 minutes, 5 days a week—can live 2 to 4 years longer and live 1 to 3 more years free of heart disease. Running seems to strengthen your heart, as well as other muscles, and lower cholesterol. (A great way to start: Join the Girls Gotta Move Running Club.) But if you dont think running is the right exercise for you, just walking 30 minutes a day will lower your heart attack risk by half, says Carol Rosenberg, MD, director of Preventative Health Initiatives for Evanston Northwestern Healthcare in Illinois and lead investigator of the Womens Health Initiative (WHI). “Exercise is the closest thing to a magic bullet,” she says.
Eat power foods
Adds 4 years or more
A daily handful of dark chocolate and almonds, plus fruits, vegetables, garlic, fish, and even a glass of wine can increase a womans life by 4.8 years (6.6 for men), according to research in the British Medical Journal. The foods are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and other nutrients that can lower your heart disease risk by 76 percent. The age gains also come from a 22 percent drop in breast-cancer risk linked to consuming less fat and fewer calories as you eat more fruit, veggies, and whole grains, the WHI found.
People in other cultures who live to 100 always eat this way, according to John Robbins, son of the Baskin Robbins founder and author of Healthy at 100. “These people,” Robbins says, “wouldnt recognize a doughnut.”
Next Page: Quit smoking [ pagebreak ]Quit smoking
Adds 2 to 8 years
The younger you are when you quit, the better. Period. A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that female smokers who quit by age 35 could extend their lifespan by 6.1 to 7.7 years.
Lose the flab
Adds 3 to 4 years
Shed those extra holiday pounds, and youll celebrate more holidays. Recent National Cancer Institute research shows that being overweight can increase the risk of death by 20 to 40 percent. Other research links being obese to high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. The reasons are unclear, but obesity can shave 3 to 4 years off your life, says Robert Butler, MD, president of the nonprofit International Longevity Center-USA, an affiliate of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Check your body mass index; 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and 30 or higher is considered obese.
Play head games
Adds 2 years or more
Many experts believe that mental exercises can keep your brain cells active and more efficient as you age. And they say lifelong learning combined with other healthy-lifestyle habits can prolong your life by at least 2 years. Even one mental boost a week can equal a 7 percent gain in mental sharpness. And the more you do, the greater the percentage, says Gary Small, MD, author of The Longevity Bible. Read regularly, toil over a Sudoku grid, or connect a 1,000-piece puzzle to lower your risk for Alzheimers by nearly a third, adds Small, chief of the University of California, Los Angeles, Memory and Aging Research Center.
Adds 3 to 8 years (seriously!)
Having sex two to three times a week can boost your longevity by halving your risk for heart disease and stroke. The trick: Intercourse burns about 200 calories—the same as running for 30 minutes. And it may lower your blood pressure (which offers a 2- to 3-year gain), help you sleep better, boost your immunity, and release heart-protective hormones. Oh, and if the sex is part of a happy marriage, census research shows youll get another 5 years. Whoopee!