Habits 5, to stay alive
No big surprises, but we've got them all in one place. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
Maybe there isn't a fountain of youth. But there are some simple, scientifically proven habits that can add years to your life, on average.
However, there is also a problem: Many of these habits are the things people often feel forced to set aside.
We don't have time to deal with things that are merely important. We're busy dealing with things that are truly urgent.
I'm not going to tell you that you need to change your habits. For one thing, I'm an insane workaholic—and I’m probably writing about these because all writing is at least partially autobiography. I try to keep my hypocrisy down to a dull roar.
But on the assumption that perhaps you're in a similar boat, and that like me you think March 1 is a better time for a new year’s resolution or two, anyway, here are five key health habits science says will extend your life, along with the life reality for extremely busy folks, and some good news about what you can do anyway.
(Credit to Christie Aschwanden, whose work in The Washington Post a while back prompted me overthinking about this.)
1. Get more exercise.
We know that regular exercise can lead to greater longevity: Between 30 and 40 minutes of jogging a day, five days a week, for example, can supposedly help your body mimic the "natural age progression" of someone nine years younger.
The summary: "The most powerful way to promote longevity and improve your long-term health is also simple and, depending on how you do it, free," as Aschwanden writes.
The reality: That's a beautiful thought. But honestly, it requires five hours a week or more of dedication. I know many readers do this as a matter of course; for others, finding five hours is a struggle.
The good news: You don't have to do much. You just have to do something. "Going from sedentary to even just a bit of exercise is where you get the biggest payoffs," as Aschwanden writes, including lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
2. Get more sleep.
This one makes me laugh, because for me, sleep has been the first thing to go for longer than I’d like to admit.
The summary: "Take someone who needs seven hours of sleep per night and restrict them to only five ... and they experience metabolic changes," Aschwanden writes, citing Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
The reality: Heck, I originally wrote this at 1 a.m., after a previous idea fell through!
The good news: Your body will more or less let you know when you're getting enough sleep. Mainly, you need to trust yourself and listen.
3. Eat better and drink only in moderation.
When it comes to pure longevity, the dietary strategy that seems to offer the most promise is simply caloric restriction. (Personally: no thanks.) Separately, it won't surprise you to learn that drinking copious amounts of alcohol will negatively impact longevity.
Summary: "A Mediterranean diet -- with its heart-healthy emphasis on fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, healthy fats like olive oil, whole grains and limited consumption of red meat—is probably the best approach for improving longevity." Carstensen says.
Reality: Actually, of the five items on this list, I think this is one of the easiest. Mainly, it's because it doesn't take much longer to eat healthily or drink in moderation than it does to be less careful.
Good news: Personally, I try to limit myself to five liquids: water, coffee, tea, beer and wine. The extra good news is that while we don't understand why, as one researcher puts it: "I do firmly believe that modest drinking improves longevity."
4. Manage stress.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha. No, seriously folks, tip your servers, I'll be here all week.
Summary: This one makes sense, but the scientific argument requires connecting the dots. In short, "many conditions associated with older age," as Carstensen put it, "share a common ingredient: inflammation." And stress can lead to inflammation.
Reality: I mean, you've probably got a lot of responsibilities. I‘m guessing, it's stressful.
Good news: Managing stress effectively is likely to make you a better leader, and more successful, regardless of its difficulty.
5. Connect with people and have a purpose.
It's almost too easy: every serious study that talks about happiness and purpose in life comes down to one thing: connecting with other people and creating purpose.
Summary: "Forging connections with other people has been found to be a powerful way to manage stress and improve your overall well-being," Carstensen writes.
Reality: I'm going to put this with No. 3 above, meaning it's one of the two healthy lifestyle practices on this list most entrepreneurs seem to aspire to accomplish. (Of course, see yesterday’s newsletter.)
Good news: "People who have a strong sense of purpose and meaning in their lives have a markedly lower risk of death than those who don't."
Rereading what I have here, I have a sense some of you will have two things to share: (a) a sixth habit I should add to the list, as well as (b) some smart habits, tricks, or hacks that helped you add the five I’ve talked about to your life. Pitch in and help your fellow readers (and your humble newsletter writer) in the comments.
7 other things worth knowing today
For more than 50 years, the U.S. and Russia have had agreements in place that capped their ability to produce or deploy nuclear weapons. Vladimir Putin’s announcement Tuesday that he's suspending participation in the New START Treaty could end that era. “Putin’s clearly trying to inject nuclear leverage into both Ukraine and his relationship with the United States. And that should worry a lot of people.” (NBC News)
The U.S. Supreme Court grappled with the scope of a liability shield for internet companies on Tuesday, at times expressing confusion and skepticism about arguments to narrow the industry’s protections. "I mean, we're a court. We really don't know about these things. You know, these are not like the nine greatest experts on the internet," Justice Elena Kagan said, drawing laughter from the room. (Fox News)
It’s one of the thorniest financial questions: how much is enough to retire comfortably? The answer is somewhere between $3 million and $5 million, according to the 553 investors worldwide who shared their views in the latest MLIV Pulse survey. About a third of investors pegged it at $3 million, and roughly another third at $5 million. (Bloomberg)
When the going’s good at Amazon, employees certainly get their cut. But when shares slump—and Amazon’s have fallen by around 35% in the past year—staff incomes can take a hit. Because Amazon’s share price was so underwhelming in 2022—down almost 50%—pay packets may sink anywhere between 15% and 50% below compensation targets, according to sources familiar with the matter. (Fortune)
Not just for slackers anymore: Meet the high-income earners who are moving back into their childhood bedrooms and putting off vacations: "We’re not suffering in any way, but it's as clear as night and day what the spending power of $10,000 a month has turned into." (NBC News)
Driving a car was once a widely coveted rite of passage, but a rising number of kids no longer see it that way: 60 percent of American 18-year-olds had a driver's license in 2021, down from 80 percent in 1983. One teen mom's theory about her son: "He spends a lot of time playing video games. That's where his community is. So he doesn't really need to go anywhere to hang out with people." (WashPost)
This is something I knew 20 years ago when I was on active duty, but maybe it's the first time there's an official announcement: The Pentagon is warning service members not to eat poppy seeds—on bagels or really anything. Why? They can lead to false negatives on drug tests. “Consumption of poppy seed products could cause a codeine positive urinalysis result and undermine the Department’s ability to identify illicit drug use.” (WSAV)
Thanks for reading. Photo by jack atkinson on Unsplash. I wrote about some of this for Inc.com. See you in the comments.
If you're going to casually say that a researcher says that moderate drinking improves longevity, you also need to reference the considerable body of research demonstrating that the alleged benefits from drinking alcohol require more than modest amounts. And that alcohol in any amount is a carcinogen. In the relatively short time I've been a subscriber, you've promoted the idea of alcohol consumption on a few occasions and I'd like to see some guardrails around it. Love the column.
I have narrowed all 5 things down to one necessary ability which is the ability to say no. The ability to say no to those people and/or tasks that steal a large chunk of your personal time. Imagine this: "Can you come over and help me with this or that or the other thing?" The response: "No I can't, I'm about to go for a run or I'm going to bed in 20 minutes or I have to fix my healthy dinner...etc". The ability to say no at key times of your day could free up your time which would reduce stress. Just say No.
I've heard the poppyseed argument since I was on active duty almost 40 years ago.