Whether it’s due to poor lifestyle habits, an event that ends in tragedy, or an incurable disease, a person’s life can be taken too soon. When a loved one dies before his or her time, it’s tragic no matter what the cause of death may have been. Granted, humans today live long lives compared to our ancestors. It might have been common to die during childbirth in the past, but there’s nothing expected about it anymore.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths due to accidents was the leading cause of mortality for American adults between the ages of 25 and 44 in 2014 at 28.3%. Another top killer? Heart disease, which was responsible for 11.6% of deaths. Based on these stats, it’s clear some fatalities could have been avoided with better decision making and lifestyle choices. While several circumstances of an untimely death are out of human control, there are steps you can take to reduce your odds. Here are 10 ways you may be able to steer clear of an early grave.
1. Quit smoking
In today’s society, it should be a total no-brainer that smoking is no good for your health. But despite the mounds of research about how tobacco use can eventually lead to death, a surprising number of people still never leave home without a pack of smokes. The CDC estimates 15.1% American adults currently smoke cigarettes. According to U.S. News & World Report, the American Heart Association recommends people avoid smoking, exercise more, and make good nutritional choices in efforts to prevent heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.
2. Limit excessive drinking
You know that drinking too much doesn’t do much good for your body, even if you do subscribe to the idea that antioxidants in red wine are good for you. Binge drinking, however, can increase the risk of certain cancers and liver disease. It can also contribute to high blood pressure. According to a Time article, educating people about the risks of excessive drinking and taxing alcoholic products are two initiatives that have proven somewhat successful in curbing alcohol abuse. Consider this a mini lesson.
3. Know your family history
While it’s true you don’t have control over your genetics, it’s important to be aware of all family history that might play a role in the future of your health. If one of your parents has been on blood pressure medication since an early age, it’s imperative you let your doctor know, even if your blood pressure has been perfect your entire life. “Your genetic profile is the one risk factor we can’t modify,” Rob Michler, director and chairman of heart surgery at the Montefiore-Einstein Heart Center in New York, told U.S. News & World Report. Even so, knowing your family’s health history can keep you from getting caught off guard.
4. Accept that your body will change with age, and adjust accordingly
As your body ages, it will face new challenges and you won’t be able to do everything you once could. Being able to identify physical changes and recognize the need to adjust your lifestyle may benefit you in the long run, enabling you to live a longer, healthier life. “No one likes to think about getting old and becoming infirm,” Carolyn Rosenblatt, an elder law attorney and co-founder of AgingParents.com in San Rafael, California, told USA Today. “I say, ‘Get over it.’ You are not superhuman. We all have wear and tear over time and if we also have longevity, we will deal with impairment of some kind,” she added. Learning to deal with life’s ongoing changes and modifying to fit your aging body will benefit your overall health down the road.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
That obesity has become a serious epidemic isn’t shocking news. And diabetes, which often accompanies obesity, can increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and other conditions that can shorten life, Time explains. Addressing obesity could help in avoiding such problems. This means you should work to limit processed foods and get plenty of physical activity if you want to live a long life. Take care of yourself — physically, mentally, and emotionally — because you only have one body. Treat it right and you’ll be rewarded with a lot of healthy years.
6. Have sex
Here’s one we can really get behind. You probably don’t need much convincing on this one. And lucky for you, getting lucky two to three times a week can tack up to three years onto your life, according to Health. Additionally, romping around between the sheets can sometimes burn as many calories as running for 30 minutes. Health also mentions regular sex can “lower your blood pressure, improve your sleep, boost your immunity, and protect your heart.” Couple that with all the other benefits of sex, and you’ve got plenty of reasons to get busy on the reg.
7. Be positive
Laughter. Silliness. Genuine happiness all around. Whatever you call it, having a positive outlook on life and consistently being in a good mood may just grant you admission into the 100+ club. In a study of 243 centenarians, researchers evaluated certain traits the participants had in common. It turns out, a positive attitude toward life was a common theme.
8. Put down the remote
There’s a time and a place for binge watching your favorite series on Netflix, but it’s worth taking a closer look at just how often you engage in this sedentary behavior. While TV itself won’t directly lead to an early death, so much sitting certainly isn’t helping with longevity. According to research conducted in Australia, people who watch about six hours of TV per day tend to die five years sooner. Additionally, researchers found, on average, each hour spent in front of the TV after the age of 25 reduces a person’s life expectancy by about 22 minutes.
9. Choose locally owned businesses over big chains
This may sound a bit funny, but it’s true, and there’s science to back it up. According to research from Louisiana State University and Baylor University, “communities with higher concentrations of locally owned small businesses have lower rates of mortality, obesity, and diabetes than those that rely heavily on big-box chains and other large businesses for their economic well-being.”
Whether you’re a loyal patron who consistently shops locally, or a dedicated owner of a small business, you’re setting yourself up for success in more ways than one. Fostering a sense of community and supporting people in your town earns you some serious brownie points in the longevity department.
10. Protect yourself from the sun
Skin cancer affects more people than all other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Did you know that one in five Americans will get skin cancer at some point in their life? That’s a pretty daunting number. It’s possible to dodge the alarming statistics, though. Being proactive about protecting yourself from the sun’s powerful rays will help lower your risk of developing skin cancer. Lather up the SPF, wear protective clothing and sun hats, and park yourself under an umbrella when you’re at the beach or lounging by the pool. Be smart and keep yourself safe.