(This story originally appeared on Grandparents.com.)
We all want to live a long, healthy life. Recent research studies show that longevity can often be traced to seven common traits:
1. Living in an affluent community
It’s long been known that the poor tend to have shorter lifespans than those with more money (who can afford better medical care and tend to smoke less), and this was shown again in a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors collected more than 1.4 billion Social Security and tax records to measure the relationship between income and life expectancy. Surprisingly, the study also showed that poor people who live in expensive, well-educated cities such as San Francisco and New York tend to live longer — up to three or four years longer — than low-income people in less affluent places like Tulsa, Okla. Experts aren’t sure exactly why, but it may be that certain cities are better about promoting healthy lifestyles with things such as smoking bans or that people tend to adopt healthier habits if they live in a place where everyone else is doing it, say study authors.
2. Flossing your teeth
Did you know that flossing your teeth actually keeps your arteries young? According to studies at Emory University by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can also trigger inflammation that causes your arteries to swell, which constricts blood flow and can lead to heart disease and stroke. Other studies have shown that periodontal disease leads to a higher white blood cell count, which can indicate that your immune system is under increased stress, making it harder to fight off infection. According to Dr. Michael F. Roizen in his book, Real Age, daily flossing adds an average of 6.3 years to a person’s lifespan.
3. Staying social
Maintaining close ties to friends and relatives is important for those who want to live a long life. Researchers at Brigham Young University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill compiled data from 148 studies on health outcomes and social relationships and found that those with poor social connections had on average 50 percent higher odds of death in the study’s follow-up period (an average of 7.5 years) than people with stronger social ties. There are several theories as to why social connections may improve health, including that people with strong social ties may be more active, more likely to seek medical care and have lower stress. So join that regular poker game, organize that girls’ night out or call that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with.
4. Having a fall birthday
OK, this you can’t do much about, but it’s good news for those who were fall babies. A study from researchers at the University of Chicago published in the Journal of Aging Research shows that people born during September, October and November are much more likely to live to be 100 than people born at any other time of year. Why? Researchers hypothesize that seasonal vitamin deficiency during the critical periods of fetus and infant development may affect a child’s later health and longevity. Also, people born during the fall months were less likely to experience an early exposure to infectious diseases, which were more common during summer, early winter and spring months.
5. Practicing a religion
Many studies have shown that religious people tend to live longer. But why? In their book The Longevity Project, University of California, Riverside, psychologist Howard S. Friedman and co-author Leslie Martin compiled findings from their work on an eight-decade research project of the same name examining the longevity of more than 1,500 children first studied in 1921. According to the researchers, it was the social involvement and service to others that went along with being religious that explained why religious people, especially religious women, live longer. People who pray together stay together and can help each other stay healthy, says Friedman, and many people find purpose and meaning in their lives through this service to others.
6. Living near green spaces
A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that living around nature, particularly green spaces, was linked to a nearly 12 percent reduction in mortality rates among the more than 100,000 American women studied. Living in the country is great, but even being near urban green spaces such as city parks decreased mortality rates, according to the study’s lead author, Harvard research associate Peter James. The study showed that that women living around greener spaces were nearly 13 percent less likely to die from cancer and 34 percent less susceptible to respiratory-related mortality than women less exposed to green surroundings. According to James, factors commonly associated with green spaces such as less air pollution, increased physical and social engagement and a reduced risk of impaired mental heath contribute to the overall increase in longevity.
7. Cleaning your house
Dusting those shelves, mopping the floor, vacuuming — turns out it can all help you live longer. According to a study by Swedish researchers in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a generally active daily life, regardless of exercising regularly, was associated with better cardiovascular health and longevity in adults over age 60. People whose daily activities kept them active reduced their risk of a heart attack or stroke by 27 percent and the risk of dying from any cause by 30 percent, compared to people who spent the least amount of time on their feet. If cleaning’s not your thing, try gardening, washing the car or playing with your grandchildren. Staying active is the key.
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