There has been a lot of discussion amongst the futurist crowd recently about projections for longevity advancements over the next 50 years. Some are saying that by 2050, nanotechnology might have advanced to such a state that we are able to live forever (naturally anyway, forgoing any accidents). More conservative estimates are highlighting the fact that humans will regularly live to be 150 by the end of this century. What all of them have in common is a sense of certainty that we are about to increase our lifespan significantly.
Obviously, ideas such as this have a great deal of appeal to people who wish to prolong their lives so that they can see, do, learn, and love more. The kinds of longevity being discussed don’t just mean that we will be frail and near death for 50 years, but that our quality of life as we get older will also improve in leaps and bounds.
So, today I’ve compiled 7 different things to focus on that can help us increase our average life-expectancy. These methods won’t necessarily help you live longer – which is to say increase your maximum lifespan – but they may just allow you to live long enough to take advantage of any medical advancements that are on the horizon. If you take 2050 as a yardstick, consider how old you will be by that date. The current, world-wide, average is about 66 years. In more developed countries such as the UK, the USA and Japan, it is somewhere between 75 – 81.
For those of us who are younger than 35, this means that we have to seriously consider our lifestyle habits and practices – because to do so won’t just mean that we will live for 4 or 5 years longer: it could literally mean you live for 40 or 50 years longer, or even achieve immortality.
1) Healthy Eating – The amount of information about the benefits of a healthy, nutritious diet is well documented and known by almost everybody. Simple things such as 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day have been shown over countless studies to reduce the risks of many different types of cancer and heart disease. Particularly when it comes to mortality rates from cancer, modern medicine is advancing at a phenomenal rate. Everything you can do to postpone such illness drastically increases your chances of surviving it.
2) Regular Exercise – Like healthy eating, regular exercise is a category that has long been pushed as beneficial to those who wish to increase their life-expectancy. There is little evidence to show that exercise will increase your maximum achievable lifespan, but then, for many of us, that is not the point of this exercise (pun intended). Not only will you increase your chances of living long enough to benefit from medical advancements, but you will also improve your quality of life considerably by ensuring that you are fit and healthy.
3) Positive Attitude – There has been a few landmark studies recently, as well as during the past 50 or so years, that have highlighted the idea that an optimistic, positive attitude towards life affects average life-expectancy amongst large sample sizes. In some instances, this is thought to increase life expectancy by anything up to 8 – 10 years. Just how or why this may be the case is still completely unknown, but the other benefits of generally being positive are worth it regardless. Long and stable marriages have shown to lead to increased life expectancy, as has an active social life (when not combined with copious amounts of drugs!). In many ways, it is thought that a positive attitude leads directly to less stress in life – which brings us nicely to our next point.
4) Low Stress Levels - Stress is commonly linked to a wide range of terminal illnesses, most often those associated with the heart. Lowering stress levels through various means is therefore one of the best ways that we currently know about to help you live longer than you might have otherwise. Exercise can help with this, as can healthy eating and a positive outlook on life – so it is certainly feasible that many of the benefits that we see emerging out of those other areas are directly related to lower stress levels.
Activities such as yoga and meditation are well documented to leading to vastly decreased stress, and are relatively easy to take up and practice (just be careful which groups you end up doing this with…). Increased sexual activity can also help a great deal, for quite obvious reasons, but just make sure that you always practice safe sex or you are certainly playing with a two-edged sword. Forgetting those options, just taking up a satisfying hobby can do a world of wonders.
5) Cut Out Poisons – Drugs: in particular, alcohol and cigarettes, are some of modern societies greatest killers. Alcohol, when done in moderation and knowledge (such as small amounts of red wine, small amounts) can actually help you fight off various illnesses. But copious amounts of binge drinking, and those daily tokes on a cigarette are doing absolutely nothing other than decreasing how long you will live by a number of years. Before, a smoker might have been able to justify smoking by saying ‘it’s only going to cut off 4 or 5 years’. But how much harder is it to tell yourself: ‘it’s only going to cut off 40 or 50 years’? Think about it seriously and it’s surprising how much of a motivation it can become.
6) Network – All of the previous tips have been things that are well known to increase average life expectancy. But what about living forever? Well, networking with relevant people and those who are intently focused on the topic of increasing maximum life span (remember, there is a big difference between life expectancy and maximum life span) will increase the chance that you could be exposed to effective treatments before it is too late. This is not to say that you should start going to the local new-age festivals and trying any old crap thrown your way with lofty promises – far from it! What it means is getting to know those who are taking this very seriously, very scientifically, and who have studied for a very long time to know what they are talking about. For those of us on the cusp, those who may or may not benefit, being well-connected could (unfortunately) make all of the difference.
7) Keep up to Date – One of the most important aspects you can do, particularly when networking is just not feasible or of interest to you, is to keep abreast of modern advancements and studies. Knowledge about living longer changes all the time, and it is vital that you are able to be aware of what is occurring on the cutting edge of medical study. Not only will this help you decide just what is and isn’t good practice, but it can also help improve that positive outlook – because there is nothing that will make you more optimistic than the idea that you might have twice as long on this Earth to love, to learn, and to experience all of its wonders. In addition, learning and maintaining knowledge is important to ensure that your brain remains as active as possible to help combat against degenerative conditions such as dementia.
Bonus Tip: Accident Awareness – A final thing to keep in mind is that none of these improvements to your lifestyle will mean anything if you succumb to a tragic accident. Many of these are unavoidable, but many more are completely under your control. Look both ways before crossing the road; stand back from the platform edge as a train approaches; simply, don’t do anything stupid. Be aware of your surroundings and the risks that it may pose.
Many of these things will seem blatantly obvious, and indeed they really are. But the purpose of this post wasn’t necessarily to tell you anything you didn’t already know. It is more intended as a call-to-action, a reminder that now there are far greater things worth striving for than just living for a few years longer than your peers. It is quite possible that there will be people alive today that will never know a natural death. The implications of this are many, not all of them good, but for those of us who are excited by such an idea: now is the time to start making sure we have the best possible chance to experience it.