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20 ways to live 20 years longer

Having faith adds an extra six years to your life, claims a study.

But, even if you’re not religious, there are plenty of other ways to boost your ­lifespan by up to 20 years.

We reveal the 20 most effective.

1 Believe in something

Religious people live six years longer than atheists, says research by Ohio State University. This is probably down to regular church-goers leading healthier lifestyles.

But any strong beliefs – whether political, spiritual or otherwise – appear to help people deal with stress and offer protection against life-shortening heart and respiratory conditions.

2 Ditch your flat white for a cuppa tea

Good old-fashioned tea is packed with antioxidants that help your body fight heart disease, cancer and premature ageing. One Israeli study found that moderate tea drinkers lived substantially longer than non-drinkers. But remember to give it a good stir before removing the tea bag – research shows this releases 15% more of the health-boosting compounds.

3 Have more sex: twice a week is optimum

People who have sex less than once a month have double the risk of dying prematurely than people who do it twice a week, says a survey.

4 Get cracking

Daily nut-eaters are 20% less likely to die early, according to results from another study.

Specifically, rates of death from cancer, heart and respiratory disease were reduced, with walnuts and almonds found to have the most benefits.

5 Turn off the telly

After the age of 25, every hour of TV you watch could knock about 20 minutes off your lifespan, say scientists at the US National Cancer Institute. This is thought to be down to the fact that the more TV you watch, the longer your body is sat around doing nothing, so muscles aren’t exercised and calories not burned off – raising risks of illness.

6 Get screened

NHS testing aims to catch diseases early while still treatable. So if you’re invited for any screening test – be it smear, blood pressure check or mammogram –book it without delay.

7 Walk down the aisle

Married men are three times less likely to die of heart disease than men who never wed. It halves the risk of cardiac death for women.

8 Have a tipple

Heavy drinking increases health risks, but drinking in moderation – particularly red wine – could help you live longer. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found those who drank lightly (no more than one glass a day for women and two for men) had a significantly lower risk of heart disease death.

9 Eat more plants, fewer animals

Harvard University found people who ate a diet high in processed meats such as sausage and bacon were at a higher risk of death – from cancer and heart disease – than people who got protein mainly from plant sources (nuts, soya and beans). Every 3% increase in plant protein slashed the risk of early death by 10%.

10 Keep up with friends

Close friendships and family ties are the secret of living to 100, according to a study of centenarians. Friends provide emotional support, which helps us deal with stress, and feeling loved boosts the production of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin, which in turn promote brain growth, combating ageing.

11 Stop eating when you’re 80% full

The Okinawans, who inhabit remote Japanese islands, have the highest percentage of people living beyond 100. Their secret? At every meal, they stop eating when they feel about 80% satisfied, leaving any extra food on their plate. As well as combating obesity, eating less is thought to reduce overall stress on the body’s systems, helping cut your disease risk.

12 Get an early night

Lack of sleep can put you at greater risk of health conditions such as depression and heart disease. But even a small improvement can make a big difference – one study found that just going to bed one hour earlier led to a significant drop in blood pressure – lowering your risk of heart attack or stroke.

13 Eat as much fruit and veg as possible

People who eat 10 portions of fruit and veg a day had the greatest reduction in risk of disease, Imperial College London found.

14 Do get bogged-down by the details

Research by psychologist Dr Howard Friedman has found that the best predictor of longevity is how conscientious a person is. People who are careful with money, thoughtful, detail-focused and like to put everything back in its rightful place tend to live longer. 15 Get some pet power

People who own a pet are less stressed, less depressed and can live longer than those who don’t. The calming effect of owning an animal can even reduce blood pressure and lower your risk of a heart attack. Owners who walk their dogs daily live an average of seven years longer than otherwise similar non-dog owners.

16 Sing every day

Singing regularly could be your best health insurance policy, a joint Harvard and Yale University study found. Being a choir member increased life expectancy, and concluded this was because singing slashed stress, promoted
a healthy heart and helped ward off depression.

17 Lend a hand

Helping others not only feels good – it could reap big health rewards too. A long-term study found people who volunteered regularly over a lifetime lived significantly longer than those who didn’t.

18 Brush your gums

Serious gum disease can reduce life expectancy by as much as 35%. Plaque bacteria has been linked to heart disease and other life-shortening conditions. So brush twice a day for two minutes – not forgetting to brush the gums too – and floss between teeth.

19 Look on bright side

Optimists live 12 years longer than pessimists. List three good things that happened each day before bed.

20 Quit smoking

A no-brainer. The habit shortens your life by 10 years and lowers your quality of life in old age.

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