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No, the fountain of youth doesn’t exist

How long do you plan to live? If you’re like many people, you may think you don’t have much choice in the decision.

However, research suggests our genetic makeup only accounts for 20 to 30% of our longevity. That leaves 70 to 80% to lifestyle choices — which means how you live your life can have a big impact on how long you live. Here are some healthful moves you can make to live a longer, fuller, happier life and age gracefully.

Eat a healthy diet
This may seem like a no brainer, but it’s important to eat healthy more often than not.

“You should avoid eating too many overly processed foods that might be high in added sugar, saturated fat and sodium and focus instead on eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains,” explains Dr. James Tricarico, a family medicine physician at Geisinger’s 65 Forward Health Center in Kingston.

In addition, if you want to live longer, try “Hara hachi bu,” a traditional Okinawan saying which means, “Eat until you are 80% full.” Learning to eat slowly and with a purpose will help you avoid overindulging. 

Exercise regularly
Exercising daily can have the same benefits as bathing in the fountain of youth. 

“Exercising regularly has numerous benefits including helping you maintain a healthy weight, keeping your heart healthy and helping you manage stress,” says Dr. Tricarico. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. Try a brisk walk, going for a bike ride with your family or swimming laps at your gym. 

Manage stress
“Few things age a person faster than constant stress, whether it’s from work, family or finances,” says Dr. Tricarico.

Yes, stress can be unavoidable. It plays a role in all of our lives, and in small doses it can actually be beneficial. However, if stress is a part of your daily routine, it begins to take its toll. Try to control stress using meditation and regular relaxation. 

Keep your mind active
Research suggests memory loss can be improved simply by doing mental exercises. Staying mentally active may also help you prevent cognitive decline, which is thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s.

Stay mentally healthy by keeping your mind active. Things like reading, doing crossword puzzles, watching a challenging game show and engaging in stimulating conversations can all help you live longer.

Don’t smoke
We all know smoking cigarettes is bad for us. It not only causes significant heart and lung disease, but also accelerates aging, especially of the skin. Even if you smoke, quitting before the age of 40 might help you live as long as someone who never smoked a cigarette.

Think positive
Do you see the glass half empty or half full? If you see it half full, you might live longer. 

According to research in the American Journal of Epidemiology, older women who thought more optimistically about the future lived longer than those who did not. Other research shows that being optimistic is linked to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are risk factors for heart attack, stroke, heart disease and heart failure.  

Take a nap or find some other way to relax daily. Studies have consistently shown that sleep deprivation or sleeping less than five hours a night can lead to major health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. 

“There may not be one secret to living to 100 years old, but there are many small decisions you can make throughout life that will affect your long-term health,” assures Dr. Tricarico.

Next steps:

Make an appointment with James Tricarico, DO
Find a senior health provider
Learn more about Geisinger 65 Forward