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Live long and prosper: 8 mistakes that could shorten your life

You might be surprised to learn that some of your daily activities may be shortening your overall lifespan

Racha Adib

Published: Updated:

In pursuit of living a long and healthy life, you might be surprised to learn that some of your daily activities may be shortening your overall lifespan.

If you’re curious to know how well you’re doing on the longevity scale, click here to take the Living to 100 Life Expectancy Calculator, answer a few questions on lifestyle, nutrition, and family history, and find out the results according to this particular test. The calculator has been developed by Dr. Thomas Perls, who has integrated his research into this calculator in order to estimate how long you’ll live. Perls is the founder and director of Boston University’s New England Centenarian Study, the largest study in the world on people a hundred years and older.

Not satisfied with the result? Fortunately, you can do something about it and gain back those potentially lost years. Read on to see eight ways you may be shaving years off your life without knowing it and how to reverse them.

Sweets

The fact that an animal’s lifespan is shortened by increasing its sugar intake is commonly recognized. In a 2013 study from the University of Utah, mice were administered a diet of 25% added sugar, the human equivalent of consuming an additional three cans of soda. As a result, females died at twice the normal rate while males were less likely to reproduce.

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The culprit here is added sugar, not the sugar you find in fruits. So if you’re craving sweets, why not save it for the weekend.

Smoke and second hand smoke

Not only does smoking shorten your life, but it can also reduce the quality of your life, even it’s someone else’s smoke. In the United States, secondhand smoke is responsible for around 34,000 deaths from heart disease and 7,300 deaths from lung cancer every year, according the Center of Disease Control.

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The good news is that it’s never too late to quit and you might find just the motivation you need in this study. The prospective study on 1.3 million female smokers in the United Kingdom, published in The Lancet in 2012, revealed that women may gain more than 10 years of extra life if they quit smoking in their 30s or 40s.

Sleep

Most of us suffer from too little rather than too much sleep. Harvard Medical School points out that life expectancies significantly decrease in people who average less than five or more than nine hours of sleep a night. Moderation is always key.

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Why is that? Because lack of sleep over a long period of time is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s and weight gain, which can all lead to early death.

Flossing

A number of recent studies suggest that brushing and flossing your teeth may actually save your life. Why? Because oral health and gum disease were found to be related to serious conditions like heart disease.

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A study in the Journal of American Heart Association on 657 people found a direct relationship between certain disease-causing bacteria in the mouth and atherosclerosis.

Weight

Indeed weight can directly affect your lifespan. After all it’s the main cause behind most cases of obesity, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. But that’s not only why. Eating extra calories, according to studies, can decrease your life expectancy.

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The link between aging and calorie restriction has been well studied by researchers. In one study, mice lived 40% longer when their calorie intake was reduced by half.

Junk food

Perhaps this one is obvious, but the truth is that so many continue to do it. Junk food is a blend of bad-for-you nutrients. Packed with salt, unhealthy fats, additives, and sugar, it’s only normal your life span will be affected.

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Eating red meat, processed meats, and deep fried foods should be especially avoided.

Sitting too long

Two whole years of your life could be cut just from sitting more than three hours a day, according to one study in the British Medical Journal. Even regular exercise couldn't deter the potential negative effects of sitting for long stretches of time.

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You can blame long hours of sitting on TV, video games, and computer use. So make sure to get up every 30 minutes and get moving. Star jumps could be quite fun!

Not enough fruits and veggies

Five-a-day is the way to go when it comes to having your required fruits and vegetables for the day. Not only do they contain substances that deter disease, but these substances, known as phytonutrients, can repair some of the damage caused by aging.

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Aim at getting a combination of five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. A portion of fruit is the size of a tennis ball equivalent to one medium apple, two small plums, or half a large grapefruit. As for vegetables, each portion is equivalent to half a cup of fresh vegetables.