10 Things to Stop Doing If You Want to Live a Long Life

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How long do you want to live?

If you’re anything like the nearly 70% of adults represented in a poll by Edward Jones and Age Wave, 100 might sound like a good round number. However, you aren’t likely to reach that milestone age without first cultivating some healthy habits.

Here’s a look at some of the things you should stop doing if you want to live a long life.

1. Stressing out

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Chronic stress can make life feel miserable, may age your body and can even cause premature death. Several studies have linked chronic stress to conditions such as heart disease, digestive disorders and cancer, all of which have the potential to cut short your lifespan.

If you’re feeling stressed, check out these cheap and easy ways to find inner peace.

2. Sitting

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Some say sitting is the new smoking, and studies have shown that prolonged time in a chair can have serious negative effects on your health.

In 2022, researchers from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia and Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Medical Services reported the findings of their research that tracked data from more than 100,000 people over an average 11-year period.

They found those who sat for six to eight hours a day had a 12%-13% increase in their chance of early death and heart disease. The risk factor rose to 20% for those who sat more than eight hours a day.

3. Eating processed foods

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If you’re living off frozen pizzas and microwave meals, it might be time to dust off a cookbook. Eating ultra-processed foods like these was linked to 10% of all-cause, premature preventable deaths in Brazil in 2019. Similar results have been found in studies out of France and Spain.

And if premature death doesn’t scare you, maybe you’ll be motivated to change your eating habits by the fact that processed foods have also been linked to cognitive decline.

4. Overeating

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Regardless of what you eat, having too much of it can shorten your lifespan if it makes you obese.

A 2016 study of data from more than 10.6 million participants from 1970 to 2015 found that as a person’s body mass index (BMI) increased, so too did their risk of mortality. In particular, overweight people are more prone to deaths related to cardiovascular health, respiratory disease and cancer.

Don’t think you can starve yourself and live forever, either. The study also discovered that underweight individuals were at a higher mortality risk.

5. Drinking heavily

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While there are some health benefits associated with wine, there is also no doubt that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your body. The CDC says there are more than 380 deaths in the U.S. each day due to excessive alcohol use. Those who die prematurely may have cancer, liver disease or heart disease, and they shorten their lives by an average of 26 years.

What is excessive drinking? For women, the government says it’s four or more drinks on a single occasion or eight or more drinks a week. For men, the numbers are five and 15, respectively.

6. Turning down invitations

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Even introverts need to get out and socialize from time to time. In fact, the CDC warns that social isolation after age 50 can increase your chances of premature death by as much as smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.

A lack of social relationships is linked to a 29% increase in heart disease risk and a 32% increase in stroke risk.

If that weren’t bad enough, social isolation can raise your risk for dementia by about 50%, the government says.

7. Staying up all night

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Some people revel in their ability to function on a minimal amount of sleep, but staying up all night could mean you have fewer years left to enjoy. A 2018 review of the matter found that those who get fewer than six hours of sleep each night are 10 times more likely to die prematurely.

Insufficient sleep has been linked to a myriad of health problems including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. What’s more, you may be more likely to have fatal accidents if you are operating on too few ZZZs.

8. Ignoring your teeth

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If you bypass your toothbrush more nights than not, you might want to rethink your bedtime routine. Several studies have linked good oral health to longer lifespans.

For instance, research published in 2015 found that those who had 20 or more teeth at age 70 were more likely to live longer than those with fewer teeth. A different study indicated that those ages 65-74 with more teeth were more likely to reach age 100.

Although the reasons for this are still being studied, poor oral health has been linked to several health conditions including cardiovascular disease and pneumonia.

9. Watching TV

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Zoning out in front of the TV is another habit to kick to the curb if you want to live a long life. A 2012 study based on data from Australia calculated that those who watch an average of six hours of TV every day reduce their lifespan by 4.8 years.

That may be because watching TV usually involves sitting, which has been shown to be bad for you, but perhaps it could also be because it pulls you away from more beneficial habits such as exercising or reading.

In fact, turning off the TV and opening a book could be doubly helpful as a 2016 study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found book readers tend to live two years longer than non-readers.

10. Smoking

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This should surprise no one: Smokers don’t live as long as non-smokers. In fact, life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than that of non-smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Smoking is linked to cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease, and smokeless tobacco products can be just as bad as cigarettes.

Fortunately, quitting this habit can extend your lifespan. If you stop using tobacco prior to age 40, you reduce your risk of dying from smoking-related illnesses by about 90%, the CDC says. Even 60-year-olds who quit smoking can add another three years to their lives, according to a 2004 study.

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