10 Ways to Add Years to Your Life

Turn Back the Clock

Although we face plenty of health threats daily, the global lifespan is about seven years longer than it was two decades ago, according to research published inThe Lancet. Looking at data from 188 countries, the researchers calculated that the average age of death across the globe increased from 65 to 72.

The leading causes of death are cardiovascular disease and stroke, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease, lung cancer, road injuries, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and tuberculosis.

Fortunately, you are (mostly) in control of your fate. "How and how quickly (or slowly) we age is determined 30 percent by genes and 70 percent by choices within our control," explains Lauren Kessler, author ofCounterclockwise. "This is huge, empowering, energizing news for everyone."

Here are 10 ways you can take control of your risk factors and add years to your life...

Stop Stressing, Save 10 Years

The proof is in the genetic pudding: Stressing ages your cells. "In an important study that compared the telomeres of under-stress mothers of chronically ill children with those of mothers of healthy children, the difference in length was significant," says Kessler. "Women with the highest stress levels had telomeres the equivalent length of those of women 10 years older."

Fortunately, the solution is easy and free: Meditate. "In a three-month study of people who learned how to mediate, telomere shortening slowed compared to that of nonmeditators," she explains.

Lose Weight, Save 8 Years

There's nothing to love about your love handles, especially since they may be the biggest threat to your life. Research from The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology reports that obesity can decrease your life expectancy by as much as eight years.

Simply being overweight shaves three years off your life. In fact, the researchers went so far as to say that being overweight is as bad for your health as cigarette smoking. (Check out these 5 other factors as bad for you as smoking.)

Stop Drinking Soda, Save 5 Years

Research published in the American Journal of Public Health found that drinking 20 ounces of soda daily shortens your life by 4.6 years.

The researchers measured lifespan by length of telomeres, the protective caps on your DNA. Shorter telomeres have been associated with shorter lifespan. (This soda infographic shows how soda impacts almost every part of your body.)

Eat Fish, Save A Year

Eating fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, is a great way to keep your mind sharp for years to come. Researchersfrom North Carolina found that a weekly serving of fish slowed down cognitive decline in older adults by 1.6 years.

Not all fish are created equal, though, so check out which fish you should (and shouldn't) eat

Ditch Sugar, Save 5 Years

Given that nearly 30 percent of Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes, it's clear that we have an unhealthy relationship with sugar. Not only does sugar contribute to wrinkles that make you look older, but it also leads to diabetes.

Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicinereported that diabetes can age your brain by five years and puts you at greater risk for cognitive decline 20 years from now. Want to cure diabetes? Consider going vegetarian.

Go Vegetarian, Save 11 Years

Going vegetarian doesn't just improve your diabetes; it may also save your life. Research published in Cell Metabolism found that getting more protein from animal sources increases your risk of death by 75 percent versus those who got protein from plant sources.

The high-animal-protein group also had a fourfold increase in mortality from cancer for people under 65 and a fivefold increase in mortality from diabetes across all ages.

Avoid Cadmium, Save 11 Years

Research published in the American Journal of Epidemology found that individuals with high cadmium exposure had cells that were 11 years older than people who had lower cadmium exposure, measured by telomere length.

The biggest sources of cadmium are tobacco smoke, eating contaminated fruits and vegetables, and living near industrial sites; however, research is coming out that suggests that this heavy metal is more common than you may think. It's even been found in chocolate!

Avoid Flame Retardants, Save 9 Years

This is a prime example of why testing chemicals before they go into mass use is imperative.Polychlorinated biphenyls, known as PCBs, were used as flame retardants for electric and cooling systems from the 1930s to the '70s. Although they were banned, PCBs are still affecting our health. Research published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that, not only are we still contaminated with the stuff, but it also translates to nine years of aging in older adults.

Reduce your exposure by avoiding animal products like meat, butter, and dairy and generally eat smaller fish, since PBCs accumulate in the big ones.

Start Running, Lower Your Death Risk by 30 Percent

Research published in the Journal of the American Collage of Cardiology found that running can lower your risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent, and of dying from heart disease by 45 percent. You don't even have to run fast or for very long. Running even 10 minutes a day at a slow, 6-miles-per-hour pace shows these benefits.

Running can also keep your ability to walk strong, asresearch published in the journal PLOS ONEdiscovered. The researchers found that older runners were able to walk just as well as people in their 20s. 

Quit Smoking, Save Nearly 10 Years

Smoking shaves 10 years off of your life; however, if you quit before the age of 40, you can reduce this risk by 90 percent, according to researchers from Oxford University. If you quit before the age of 30, you can avoid 97 percent of this excess mortality risk.