15 simple tips to live longer and healthier

Who says just because you have to slow down as you advance in years? Here are 15 expert-backed tips to help you live younger, healthier, and for longer.

“Dunno about you but I intend to live forever,” says straight-talking broadcaster Dr Norman Swan in the introduction to his new book, So You Want to Live Younger Longer.

In good news, the Scottish-born Aussie physician says for the first time in human history, our genes don’t have to be our destiny.

“People are now living to 100, without the genes,” Dr Swan says,

Neuroscientist Dr Julia Jones who spent two years overhauling her lifestyle and reducing her biological age before writing F-Bomb: Longevity Made Easy, says: “It’s the holy grail we all aspire to — a happier, healthier, longer life.”

Here are 15 ways science says we can tip the balance in our favour and live longer.

1. Make simple lifestyle changes

Dr Jones says adopting simple wellness habits in January 2020 extended her healthy life expectancy by years in just 23 months.

Use a longevity app like apps.bluezones.com to calculate your current life expectancy, giving you a starting point for improvement.

2. Know your family history

There remain some genes that can mean you risk dying young unless you make changes, Dr Swan says.

“Knowing what your family dies of and when, means you can look at lifestyle changes or medical screening aimed at early diagnosis and treatment.”

3. Health screens can help you live longer

“Here’s the thing on that topic, clearly around 60 per cent of Australians would rather die, than send in their poo for bowel cancer screening,” Dr Swan says.

Get over the “yuck” and the “ouch” factors and follow up on your eligible screenings, tests and scans.

4. Eat like the Greeks

Dr Swan says Deakin University research found the second-longest-lived people in the world are first-generation Greek Australians.

Not only do they favour fresh ingredients in food, religious traditions mean regular vegan fasts.

5. Eat 30 plants each week

While we’re talking meals, forget the five vege, two fruit rule.

“Recent research has discovered the potential link between gut diversity and the risk of chronic disease,” Dr Jones says.

“New recommendations coming from this now advise a weekly intake of at least 30 different types of plants in order to boost and maintain a more diverse gut microbiome.”

6. Have meals together

The Greek Australians (and this is common in the original Blue Zones longevity hotspots too) tend to eat with family and friends, says Dr Swan.

“Social support is an important element to living longer,” he says.

7. Nurture your ‘moai’

Blue Zones research found that elders in Okinawa in Japan, famous for living long and healthy lives, have a longevity tradition known as moai — a group of lifelong friends and social support network for built-in companionship.

8. Include fermented foods

A diverse gut microbiome is associated with healthy ageing, Dr Jones says.

She suggests we live longer if we eat and drink fermented foods (think kombucha and kimchi) to put new live bacteria into our gut and eat a diverse range of prebiotic fibre (plants) so these thrive and multiply.

9. Drink less alcohol

As well as being directly linked to causing seven types of cancer, alcohol also impacts our brain’s neurotransmitter balance, meaning we release more of the stress hormone cortisol to counter its depressing effects, according to grey area drinking coach Sarah Rusbatch.

10. Your mind does matter

“Your brain, mind and body are a single entity. Inseparable. And the whole staying young thing starts in the brain,” Dr Swan explains, adding that a repeatedly stressful environment can profoundly change the way our brains and bodies work.

11. Turn your shower to cold

“Exposure to cold is a simple way to expose your cellular biology to an extreme temperature stressor and kick those longevity pathways into gears,” writes Dr Jones, who argues that we’ve for too long prioritised physical fitness over wellness at a cellular level.

12. Embrace the magic of music

And music is a super tool, according to Dr Jones.

Describing it as her favourite wellness and performance ingredient, she reveals this “biohack” can help you live longer by reducing anxiety in high-stress situations, boost physical endurance, improve sleep and more.

13. Exercise more than recommended

If you want to live longer, get moving, and if you’re already exercising, move more suggests a new global study.

It found those doing 150-300 minutes per week of moderate activity reduced their risk of early death by as much as 21 per cent.

But if they exercised from two to four times the minimum, they lowered their risk by as much as 31 per cent.

14. Love your pets

Smiling, hugging and stroking your pet can change your brain chemistry, says Dr Jones.

When dogs and humans gaze into each other’s eyes, levels of oxytocin (now thought to be one of the most powerful longevity chemicals) can rise significantly, she reveals.

15. Keep your bullshit meter on high

Final word of advice from Dr Swan who warns us to “stay sensible and sceptical” and to spend your money on a Mediterranean cookbook and guitar lessons to expand your brain.

“Harder work than swallowing a pill, but far more likely to have an effect,” he says.

Written by Liz McGrath.