Wellness: Add 30 Years to Your Life

November 2012

Author Dan Buettner believes you can add up to 30 years to your life—you just have to choose to do so. How we decide to spend our days, who we spend them with, and where we elect to call home all play a part in determining the length and wellness of our lives. Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, has travelled the globe in search of communities—he calls them "blue zones"—filled with happy, healthy, and long-living individuals. He found them in places as diverse as Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Okinawa, Japan.

Now we can add Denver to that list, sort of. On a recent trip to the Mile High City, Buettner told me that Denver ranks high when it comes to overall quality of life and longevity of its citizens. “As far as America goes, Denver has the deck stacked in its favor,” Buettner says. “It has one of the lowest obesity rates and highest life expectancies.” But, he also said there are additional things locals can do to get closer to the fountain of youth. The key is to make permanent changes to your habits and environment. How? Follow Buettner's tips:

Make movement part of your daily life. Every time you stay seated for more than 90 minutes, your body begins to hibernate. It’s better to get up from your desk and move for five minutes of every hour than to sit all day and then spend an hour and a half on a treadmill. 

Develop a green thumb. Plant a garden in May and harvest into the fall. Gardening decreases stress levels, works your range of motions, and provides fresh, nutritious vegetables for your household.

Be mindful of your company. The people you surround yourself with impact your behaviors, both healthy and unhealthy. Their action (or inaction) is as contagious as a cold. Choose friends who are physically active rather than couch potatoes.

Go nuts. People who eat nuts can add up to three years to their life expectancy. Keep a can of nuts around places where you get the urge to snack (the office, family room), and eat a variety of them so you don't get bored with one kind.

Find religion. Choosing to belong to a faith-based community has been shown to extend a person’s life by four to 14 years. It doesn’t matter what religion; the key is attending four times per month and being an active member of the community. Don’t think you want to go back to the church from your upbringing? Try a few different places to see which best aligns with your personal beliefs.

Know your purpose. If you can clearly tell a stranger what you are on Earth to do, you can add up to seven years to your life. Write down a list of five things you like doing best even if you’re not paid to do them. Then, write down five things you do well and another list outlining your values. Use them to figure out what you should be doing with your life.

Volunteer. Research shows that altruism is as addictive as crack cocaine. Volunteering also has health benefits, like lowering body mass index and improving cardiovascular health.

Watch your money. Save your pennies until you have pulled together enough money to rank in the top 20 percent of Americans in wealth and you’ll add an extra six years to your life than the bottom 20 percent have. 

Follow editorial assistant Lindsey R. McKissick on Twitter at @LindseyRMcK.