Humanity has been searching for the fountain of youth for seemingly as long as time itself. For centuries we’ve been chasing ever-elusive longevity, and along the way countless strategies have been concocted. How to live longer is popular question on Google, and scientists are on a mission to find answers.
Many will tell you to eat right and exercise diligently to ensure a happy, healthy, and — above all else — long life. Others have quirkier approaches like having a glass of wine each night or avoiding sweets after 8 o’clock at night. Of course, there are plenty of naysayers who say these recipes for a longer life are mostly taboo. Nonetheless, there still will likely never be a shortage of research that delve into the way to keep our hearts beating longer.
Here we’ve listed five studies that suggest known ways to extend a person’s lifespan.
Drink at least one cup of coffee daily
Good news, coffee lovers: the secret to a longer life could hinge on you having a steaming cup of joe in the morning, one study finds.
Researchers used health data from individuals dating back to 1992 to analyze how coffee-drinking habits correlate to health outcomes. In all, more than 185,000 individuals were examined. The analysis shows that all racial groups — whites, Asians, African Americans, and Hispanics — had a 12% lower incidence of death due to heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, respiratory problems, or kidney disease when they drank one cup of coffee a day.
Moreover, this decrease in mortality was even greater (18%) for those who drank two to three cups a day. The findings doesn’t actually say that drinking coffee will prolong your life, but associations are greatly seen. Scientists also note that positive outcomes were seen for both decaf and non-decaf drinkers.
The study wasn’t able to confirm that the relationship between improved health and coffee consumption was causal — the two factors could merely be correlated. Ultimately, the rumors that “it might increase the risk of heart disease, stunt growth or lead to stomach ulcers and heartburn,” simply aren’t true. Now, further research is planned in looking into how coffee increases the risk of developing specific cancers.
Add on some pounds?
One recent study concludes that maybe having a “dad bod” isn’t such a bad thing after all. Researchers say that people who enter adulthood at a normal weight and start to pack on the pounds later in life actually live the longest.
Their findings reveal that young adults with a healthy body mass index (BMI) who gradually become overweight — but never obese — have the greatest lifespans. These adults even lived longer that those who kept a normal BMI throughout their whole life.
Researchers examined the health histories of 4,576 people from a long-running study and 3,753 of their children. This review began in 1948, following the parents until 2010. For the children, the study followed them from 1971 through 2014. The results reveal the older generation fell into seven distinct BMI trajectories (or paths) throughout their lives. The younger generation only followed six unique weight paths. Unlike their parents, the younger generation did not have a group with a downward weight trajectory — who lost weight throughout their lives.
Moreover, the study finds the amount of participants with higher BMI paths increased among the younger group. Although people are more likely to survive the health complications obesity can cause today, warning are raised about posing problems when it comes to living a full and long life.
Keep that good gut feeling for a long, healthy life
Living a long and healthy life depends on the unique combination of bacteria in our gut, a new study finds. Patterns in a person’s microbiome — the organisms living in the gut — could determine whether a person is going to age well or die early.
The gut contains mostly healthy bacteria and immune cells, which help ward off infections and diseases. Although a vital component of the body’s immune system, its importance in the aging process has remained unclear.
The study analyzed the gut microbiome of 9,000 people aged between 18 to 101 years old. In particular, survival rates for a cohort of 900 older individuals aged 78 to 98 were tracked. Results show that gut microbiome became increasingly unique as participants got older. Core bacteria, known as bacteroides and common to all humans, start to decline in mid-to-late adulthood.
Despite their increasing uniqueness, healthy microbiome continued to share common traits. People with unique gut patterns had different substances in their blood plasma, known as metabolites. This includes tryptophan-derived indole, which has been shown to extend lifespan in mice. Another metabolite, Phenylacetylglutamine, had previously been found in high quantities in the blood of centenarians. However, this unique transformation only took place among healthy individuals.
Your neighborhood could dictate your lifespan
A new study finds yet another major piece of the longevity puzzle. People who have reached the age of 100 concludes that the neighborhood where one lives plays a big role in their estimated lifespan.
Findings show that Washingtonians living in very walkable, mixed-age communities are much more likely to reach the century mark. Socioeconomic status appears to play a role as well. People living in well-off urban and small town areas enjoy better odds of living to 100. Such areas include the Seattle and Pullman regions of Washington. Moreover, this adds to the growing body of evidence that social and environmental factors contribute significantly to longevity. However, genetics are, of course, a big factor for lifespan.
The study examined data from more than 145,000 Washingtonians who had passed away after reaching the age of 75 between 2011-2015. A number of factors were found to be positively correlated with seeing one’s 100th birthday. These included neighborhood walkability, socioeconomic status, and a high percentage of working age population.
These findings also indicate that mixed-age communities are very beneficial for everyone involved. The study supports the big push in growing urban centers toward making streets more walkable, which makes exercise more accessible to older adults and makes it easier for them to access medical care and grocery stores.
Stay in school, kids
For many people, it feels like their life doesn’t really get started until they finish school. Ironically, a new study finds that staying in school may just extend one’s lifespan.
The study focused on two factors that are often thought to influence one’s lifespan: race and level of education. Data on 5,114 African-American and Caucasian individuals living in four U.S. cities was analyzed for the project. All of these people had originally been recruited for a longevity study roughly 30 years ago when they were all in their early 20s. Today, the participants are in their early-to-mid 50s. Among the over 5,000 participants, 391 passed away since the start of the original longevity study.
The results discovered show that education was a much more accurate indicator of a person’s lifespan than their race. If those deaths are broken down by race, 9% of black participants in the study passed away at an early age, along with 6% of white participants. The most common cause of death regardless of race was heart problems or cancer.
The most notable differences in death rates depended on education level. Roughly 13% of individuals with a high school degree or less passed away, versus just 5% of people with a college degree. In all, 13.5% of black subjects and 13.2% of white subjects with a high school degree or less passed away during the research period. Again, that number dropped to just 5.9% of black subjects and 4.3% of white participants with college degrees.
Even after accounting for other factors such as income, and utilizing an advanced statistical method that compensated for differences in age-related mortality, education was still shown to be by far the most accurate predictor of a longer life.