Dying earlier than expected was once chalked up to superstition, but breakthroughs in scientific research and observational data have dispelled these myths.
In fact, the truth is much more empowering, revealing instead that human agency in large part determines how long you will live.
Certain lifestyle habits have been shown to be patently unhealthy, for example, so shunning them will help to extend your lifespan.
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Smoking cigarettes was once a common practice in society but sobering statistics now show that smoking poses one of the most dangerous risks to life expectancy.
In fact, a large-scale study shows that people who smoke may lose up to 10 years of life and be three times more likely to die prematurely than those who never pick up a cigarette.
As an added incentive, one study also reports that individuals who quit smoking by age 35 may prolong their lives by up to 8.5 years, so it is never too late to quit.
Furthermore, quitting smoking in your 60s may add up to 3.7 years to your life. In fact, quitting in your 80s may still provide benefits, research shows.
Go easy on the alcohol
Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to liver, heart, and pancreatic disease, as well as an overall increased risk of early death.
However, moderate consumption is associated with a reduced likelihood of several diseases, as well as a 17–18 percent decrease in your risk of premature death.
Wine is considered particularly beneficial due to its high content of polyphenol antioxidants.
Polyphenols are plant compounds found in antioxidants, molecules that protect against unstable atoms known as “free radicals” that damage cells in the body.
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Results from a 29-year study showed that men who preferred wine were 34 percent less likely to die early than those who preferred beer or spirits.
In addition, one review observed wine to be especially protective against heart disease, diabetes, neurological disorders, and metabolic syndrome.
According to the NHS, both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week.
A unit of alcohol is 8g or 10ml of pure alcohol, which is about:
- Half a pint of lower to normal-strength lager/beer/cider (ABV 3.6 percent)
- A single small shot measure (25ml) of spirits (25ml, ABV 40 percent)
- A small glass (125ml, ABV 12 percent) of wine contains about 1.5 units of alcohol
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Avoid stress and anxiety
High stress and anxiety levels have also been shown to shorten your lifespan.
For instance, women suffering from stress or anxiety are reportedly up to two times more likely to die from heart disease, stroke, or lung cancer.
Similarly, the risk of premature death is up to three times higher for anxious or stressed men compared to their more relaxed counterparts.
Making the case even stronger, studies show that pessimistic individuals have a 42 percent higher risk of early death than more optimistic people.
However, both laughter and a positive outlook on life can reduce stress, potentially prolonging your life.
The link between calorie intake and longevity is drawing increasing interest.
Studies of human populations renowned for longevity observe links between low calorie intake, an extended lifespan, and a lower likelihood of disease.
What’s more, calorie restriction may help reduce excess body weight and belly fat, both of which are associated with shorter lifespans.
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