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the best way to protect kids from gun violence is to remove guns from homes altogether. But if you must exercise your Second Amendment rights, lock your gun away in a safe. That way, anyone who’s feeling suicidal or murderous will be forced to turn to less lethal means.
6. Don’t Drive
After the four big “natural” causes of death—heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and stroke—the most common way to die in this country is to get into an automobile accident. So getting rid of your car is a hugely healthy step. But unfortunately it only eliminates half of your risk, given that half of all traffic fatalities involve pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists. Until those infallible robot cars come along, we all need to wear seat belts and look both ways when crossing the street.
7. Eat Like a Vegetarian
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” That’s author Michael Pollan’s seven-word summary of the best nutritional strategy for avoiding major killers like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Eating less red meat can lower your risk of heart disease, and foods like berries, broccoli, and tomatoes contain antioxidants that neutralize the free radicals thought to damage cells. Limiting your overall food intake—leaving the table before you’re full—is also an excellent idea. Not so much because of the studies linking caloric restriction to increased lifespan in mammals (that scientific fad seems to be passing), but because it will help you sidestep obesity and all of its attendant health problems.
8. Exercise 20 to 30 Minutes a Day
Yes, this is a no-brainer, but it’s one you can’t afford to dismiss. A recent study from the National Cancer Institute showed that adults who exercise moderately to vigorously for at least 150 minutes per week live 3.4 to 4.5 years longer than those who don’t exercise. If you need a better reason than that, consider that exercise also improves your mood, energy level, sleep quality, and sex life.
9. Be Social and Beat Stress
One key to successful aging may be controlling inflammation, which contributes to atherosclerosis, diabetes, and dementia. And one way to control inflammation is to reduce stress. Hanging out with your friends or loved ones turns out to be a big stress reducer and life-extender. That may be because people who feel connected to groups have a sense of purpose and take better care of themselves, according to one group of researchers at Brigham Young University. The converse also seems to be true—a lack of social interaction is as damaging to health as smoking, being an alcoholic, or never exercising.
10. Get a Cat
The day may come when physicians prescribe a pet as a way to increase life expectancy. A 10-year study of 4,300 U.S. residents by the Minnesota Stroke Institute found that the risk of death from a heart attack was 30 percent lower among study participants who currently owned—or had ever owned—a cat. Alas, there weren’t enough dog owners in the group to reveal whether canines have a similar effect.
I could have listed plenty of other longevity tips. Don’t smoke, obviously. Get your vitamins—including Vitamin D, which is best obtained spending 15 minutes a day outdoors in the sun. Limit your alcohol intake. Floss daily—it not only slows tooth decay and gum disease, but lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease. See your doctor regularly and get all the usual health screenings, in order to catch real problems early.
The point is that we don’t need to wait for some amazing Google-funded medical advance in order to start improving our own chances of living to 100 or beyond. In fact, modernity itself is adding to our lifespans even as we go about our daily tasks. In high-income countries, average life expectancy has been increasing at the rate of 2.0 to 2.5 years every decade since 1900, and there’s no sign that those gains are tailing off.
That means more people are avoiding early death from malnutrition and infectious disease, and living to an age when heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s start to be bigger problems. So if Google and Calico can make progress toward curing those conditions, more power to them. But personally, I’m not going to trust my future to the “I’m feeling lucky” button.
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