The positive psychological changes associated with regular meditation may slow down aging, researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found. Meditation lowers levels of an enzyme that eats away at telomeres, the endcaps on DNA like the tips on shoelaces, that protect chromosomes from destruction. As telomeres shorten, chromosomes are damaged, causing cells to die.
2. Pop a multivitamin
A study by the National Institutes of Health found that women who took a daily multivitamin had, on average, 5.1 percent longer telomeres, the equivalent of almost 10 additional years of life. Multivitamins reduce oxidative damage and inflammation, which may help maintain telomere length in cells.
3. Connect with a friend
Good friends may be even more important than family when it comes to living longer. Researchers followed nearly 1,500 older people for 10 years and found that those with the strongest network of close friends lived longest. Friends can exert a healthy influence on risky behaviors like smoking and drinking, plus you can count on them to shore up mood and self-esteem and help you cope in times of trouble.
4. Stay active
“All you have to do to increase your longevity and improve your health dramatically is to amble along at a 20-minutes-per-mile pace for a couple miles, at least five times a week. What insurance policy could you buy that would be more effective or cheaper — or more pleasant — than that?” says Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, Texas. Exercise, too, slows the shortening of telomeres.
5. Seek marital harmony
Couples who are happily married live on average four years longer than single people. In one survey, nearly all couples who said their marriage is happy also said they share chores equally. “So, guys, being romantic is important, but equally or more important is doing your fair share of housework,” says psychologist Dr. Joshua Coleman, author of The Marriage Makeover.
6. Brush and floss
Gum disease can lead to problems such as stroke, diabetes and respiratory disease. Flossing is your best defense, since about 40 percent of your teeth surfaces are unreachable by toothbrush. “What’s more, as gum disease eats away at jaw bone, it creates a sunken look that exaggerates wrinkles and makes you look undeniably old,” says Dr. Donald Clem, a dentist in private practice in Fullerton, Calif.
7. Eat this meal
A meal of red wine, fish, fruits and vegetables, almonds, garlic and dark chocolate eaten daily (skip the fish three times a week) is calculated to cut the risk of heart disease by 76 percent and increase life expectancy an average of 6.6 years for men and 5 years for women.
8. Sack out early
Skimping on sleep affects hormones and carbohydrate metabolism in a way that mimics aging, and may speed the onset of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and memory loss. People who trade sleep for work or play may get used to it and feel less tired, but they’re still doing bodily damage.
9. Cuddle with a cat
Cat owners are 40 percent less likely to die of a heart attack and 30 percent less likely to die of any type of cardiovascular disease, including stroke, heart failure and chronic heart disease, than people who have never had a cat. One rationale: Interacting with cats reduces anxiety and stress. Plus, cats need less time and care than dogs. (But pets in general—even fish—are associated with better health in owners.)