Want a healthy old age? Here are three simple habits doctors say you should start doing right now if you want to live to 100 years old.

Who wouldn’t want to live to 100? The good news is that reaching a century of life is certainly possible if you lead a healthy lifestyle—but what exactly qualifies as a “healthy lifestyle” that can support longevity? As it turns out, reaching this milestone will require dedication to a number of habits that can benefit both your physical and mental health. The good news is that many of them are simple things you can do on a daily basis.

To shed some light on some of the healthiest daily habits that can help you live to 100 and beyond, we spoke with health experts Katelin Maidment of Eternal Wellness LLC, dietitian; Alex Foxman, M.D.; and Sheri Berger, dietitian and nutritional consultant for Health Insiders. They emphasized the importance of plant-based foods, social connection, and regular exercise. Find all of their expert insight below.

How to Have a Healthy Old Age

1. Prioritize Plant-Based Foods

You probably already know that your diet plays an absolutely crucial role in your overall health. This isn’t just true when it comes to things like weight maintenance; it can also contribute to connectivity. And although the best diet for you should be personalized to meet your health needs, Berger tells us that following a mostly plant-based diet is a good idea for many people who want to live a long, healthy life.

“Choosing a mostly plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for a longer life,” she says. She makes note of the habits of people in the regions of the world in which people live the longest, known as the Blue Zones. “People who live in Blue Zones such as Okinawa, Japan, Ikara, Greece, and Loma Linda, California choose diets that mainly contain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and very little meat, sugar, dairy, and processed foods,” she says.

Just make sure you’re getting all of the essential nutrients your body needs to thrive. Fortunately, there are tons of great plant-based proteins out there to help with this.

2. Fit in Some Social Interaction

Maidment notes that in addition to the healthy diets of the people in the Blue Zones, one of the most important pillars of longevity is social connection. In fact, she says, research suggests that it’s the most important contributor, even before nutrition and exercise, according to a study conducted by the Harvard Study of Adult Development.

“This study started in 1938 and tracked the habits of the participants over an 85 year-period. The people who took care of their health, got regular exercise, and ate well lived an average of 10 years longer than those who didn’t,” Maidment explains. “Most remarkable, the people who stayed healthy and lived the longest were those who had the ‘warmest relationships’ and connections with other people.” It turns out that social connection can reduce stress by boosting oxytocin levels, which can slow the aging process and reduce the risk of disease.
“We evolved connecting with others in our ‘tribes’ and communities, and our brains are still wired this way and expect us to connect,” Maidment explains. “Connection sends safety signals to our genes, keeping us healthy longer and contributing to longevity.”

A lack of regular social connection can even be detrimental to your health. “Research shows that people who are the most isolated and less connected stay in a constant state of chronic stress, marked by higher levels of stress hormones and inflammation, which breaks down the body systems slowly and gradually over time (taking years off our life span),” she warns.

All in all, it’s extremely important to carve out time to spend with loved ones. You should find a way to fit social interaction into each day if possible. Not only will this bring joy to your life; it can also add years to it.

3. Exercise

It’s certainly no secret that exercise is an important pillar of health. But we really can’t overstate how valuable regular exercise can be to every area of your wellbeing. According to Foxman, taking time to move your body and get your blood pumping every day is one of the best things you can do if you want to live to be 100. “This habit can significantly contribute to a longer and healthier life,” he says.

Daily exercise can promote a healthier heart, for one. “Regular exercise strengthens the heart and improves circulation, reducing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide,” Foxman says. “Even small amounts of physical activity can have a significant impact on heart health.” On top of this, exercising daily can help with weight management, prevent obesity, and build strong bones and muscles.

Beyond the physical benefits, exercise is also great for your brain. “Exercise is known to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed, improving overall mental health,” Foxman tells us. It’s even great for neurological health. As Foxman says, “Exercise can improve brain health and protect memory and thinking skills. Physical activity, especially in middle age, is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline in later years.” Amazing!

Then there’s the role that exercise plays in your immune system. “Exercise is effective in preventing and managing various chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis,” Foxman goes on. “Regular exercise as a key factor in chronic disease prevention.”

Ultimately, he says, “Numerous studies have linked regular physical activity with a healthy old age and a longer lifespan. As little as 11 minutes a day of moderate-intensity physical activity could increase lifespan.”

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