Illustration of dna and chromosones
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Protect Your DNA

As you age, the ends of your chromosomes become shorter. This makes you more likely to get sick. But lifestyle changes can boost an enzyme that makes them longer. Plus, studies show diet and exercise can protect them. The bottom line: Healthy habits may slow aging at the cellular level.

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Prize winning dog
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Play to Win

An 80-year study found people who are conscientious -- meaning they pay attention to detail, think things through, and try to do what's right -- live longer. They do more for their health and make choices that lead to stronger relationships and better careers. 

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Women wearing colorful dresses
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Make Friends

Here's another reason to be grateful for your friends: They might help you live longer. Dozens of studies show a clear link between strong social ties and a longer life. So make the time to keep in touch.

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Men riding longboards
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Choose Friends Wisely

Your friends’ habits rub off on you, so look for buddies with healthy lifestyles. Your chances of becoming obese go up if you have a friend who adds extra pounds. Smoking also spreads through social ties, but quitting is also contagious.

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Cigarette butts in ashtray
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Quit Smoking

We know giving up cigarettes can lengthen your life, but by how much may surprise you. A 50-year British study shows that quitting at age 30 could give you an entire decade. Kicking the habit at age 40, 50, or 60 can add 9, 6, or 3 years to your life, respectively.  

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Smiling man listening to music
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Embrace the Art of the Nap

A siesta is standard in many parts of the world, and now there's scientific evidence that napping may help you live longer. Those who have a regular snooze are 37% less likely to die from heart disease than those who rarely steal a few winks. Researchers think naps might help your heart by keeping stress hormones down.

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Fresh snapper and vegetable salad
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Follow a Mediterranean Diet

It's rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, and fish. The plan can also put a serious dent in your chances of getting of metabolic syndrome -- a mix of obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and other things that make you more likely to get heart disease and diabetes.

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Sushi with chopsticks
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Eat Like an Okinawan

The people of Okinawa, Japan, once lived longer than any other group on Earth. The region's traditional diet is why. It's high in green and yellow vegetables and low in calories. Plus, some Okinawans made a habit of eating only 80% of the food on their plate. Younger generations have dropped the old ways and aren't living as long.

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wedding rings
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Get Hitched

Married people tend to outlive their single friends. Researchers say it's due to the social and economic support that wedded bliss provides. While a current union offers the greatest benefit, people who are divorced or widowed have lower death rates than those who've never tied the knot.

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Man on scale  with measuring tape
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Lose Weight

If you're overweight, slimming down can protect against diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions that take years off your life. Belly fat is bad for you, so focus on deflating that spare tire. Eat more fiber and exercise regularly to whittle your middle.

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Woman stretching at beach
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Keep Moving

The evidence is clear. People who exercise live longer on average than those who don't. Regular physical activity lowers your chances of getting heart disease, stroke, diabetes, some forms of cancer, and depression. It may even help you stay mentally sharp into old age. Ten-minute spurts are fine, as long as they add up to about 2.5 hours of moderate exercise per week.

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Group of friends toasting
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Drink in Moderation

Heart disease is less common in people who drink in moderation than in people who don't drink at all. On the other hand, too much alcohol pads the belly, boosts blood pressure, and can cause a host of other health problems. If you drink alcohol, the limit should be one drink a day for women and one or two for men. But if you don't drink, don't start. There are better ways to protect your heart!

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Burning prayer candles
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Get Spiritual

People who attend religious services tend to live longer than those who don't. In a 12-year study of people over age 65, those who went more than once a week had higher levels of a key immune system protein than their peers who didn't. The strong social network that develops among people who worship together may boost your health.

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Man looking up to the sky
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Forgive

Letting go of grudges has surprising physical health benefits. Chronic anger is linked to heart disease, stroke, poorer lung health, and other problems. Forgiveness will reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and help you breathe more easily. The rewards tend to go up as you get older.

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Red motorcycle helmet
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Use Safety Gear

Accidents are the fifth most common cause of death in the U.S. and the top cause for people ages 1 to 24. Wearing safety gear is an easy way to boost your odds of a long life. Seatbelts reduce the chances of death or serious injury in a car wreck by 50%. Most fatalities from bike accidents are caused by head injuries, so always wear a helmet.

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Couple sleeping
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Make Sleep a Priority

Getting enough quality sleep can lower your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mood disorders. It'll also help you recover from illness faster. Burning the midnight oil, on the other hand, is bad for you. Snooze for less than 5 hours a night and you might boost your chances of dying early, so make sleep a priority.

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Woman controlling stress level
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Manage Stress

You'll never completely avoid stress, but you can learn ways to control it. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference.

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Man looking at a leaf with a magnifying glass
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Keep a Sense of Purpose

Hobbies and activities that have meaning for you may lengthen your life. Japanese researchers found men with a strong sense of purpose were less likely to die from stroke, heart disease, or other causes over a 13-year period than those who were less sure of themselves. Being clear about what you're doing and why can also lower your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 08/18/2016 Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 18, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) H Singh/Custom Medical Stock Photo

2) Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures

3) Samir Hussein/WireImage

4) Bill Hatcher/National Geographic

5) Thomas Hawk/Flickr

6) Gina Cholick/OJO Images

7) MCT/McClatchy-Tribune

8) Melissa Tse/Flickr

9) Thinkstock

10) Peter Cade/Riser

11) Tim Hall/Cultura

12) Shelby Ross/Riser

13) Remi Benali/The Image Bank

14) Shalom Ormsby/Stone+

15) Ocean/Corbis

16) Le Club Symphonie/OJO Images

17) Wesley Hitt/Photographer’s Choice RF

18) Altrendo Images

SOURCES: 

Preventative Medicine Research Institute: “The Proven Lifestyle.”

The Lancet Oncology.

Friedman, H. and Martin, L. “The Longevity Project.”

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The New England Journal of Medicine.

British Medical Journal.

Archives of Internal Medicine.

New Scientist.

AARP.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

National Sleep Foundation

Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Social Sciences Medicine.

Obesity.

American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

British Journal of Sports Medicine.

CDC.

American Heart Association.

Health Psychology.

University of Colorado at Boulder.

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Medline Plus.

Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute.

Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine.

Journal of the American Medical Association.

Journal of Epidemiology.

American Association for Cancer Research.

PLoS Medicine.

Archives of General Psychiatry

Rush University Medical Center.

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on August 18, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.