21 Ways to Live Longer

What you do while your young can increase your life span

Learn to Play Piano
Brain cells work together, so learning new skills improves your brain function generally. 'Whatever your age, ongoing mental stimulation will keep your brain building new spines on the dendrites of your brain cells,' says Dr. Thomas Crook, author of The Memory Cure.

Look on the Bright Side
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that optimistic people live about 12 years longer than pessimistic ones. Pessimists are more prone to viral illnesses, such as colds and flu. They are also less likely to carry out the essential self-examinations that detect breast or skin cancer, while positive thinkers are more likely to take health advice, say the researchers.

Never Smoke Again
The earlier you give up the better. Because the damage caused by smoking is cumulative, the longer a person smokes, the greater the risk of developing a smoking-related disease such as lung cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States are caused by smoking, according to the American Cancer Society.

Get Along with Your Mother
A study by Harvard Medical School found that 91 percent of people who weren't close to their mothers developed a serious disease—high blood pressure, alcoholism and heart disease—by midlife. Only 45 percent of participants who said they had close relationships with their mothers developed these serious illnesses.

Keep Taking Exams
The more qualifications you have, the higher your life expectancy, according to research at the University of Arkansas. The less well-educated are more likely to smoke, which increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, and they are more likely to work in jobs with a high risk of injury, say the researchers.

Enjoy Chocolate
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who eat a moderate amount of chocolate live longer than those who eat sweets three or more times a week, and those who never touch sweets. Chocolate contains chemicals called phenols, which are thought to protect against heart disease and cancer.

Play Chess
As you get older, playing games or going shopping could be just as good for your health as physical exercise, according to a Harvard University study. The key to good health, conclude the researchers, is doing what you enjoy and feeling good about yourself.

Cancer-Proof Your Diet
About 40 percent of cancers are diet related, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day to reduce your risk of cancer of the lung, digestive tract, bowel, bladder and breast.

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