Unlocking longevity: Healthy lifestyle habits for a longer life


In May, María Branyas Morera blew out the candles on her 116th birthday cake, making her the oldest living person in the world and raising the question, “What’s the secret to a long life?” Then, in July, a team of researchers presented a study to the American Society for Nutrition detailing eight lifestyle habits that could add a whopping 24 years to a person’s life. Here’s what they advised:

  1. Never smoke.
  2. Be physically active.
  3. Do not regularly binge drink.
  4. Practice good sleep hygiene.
  5. Eat a good diet.
  6. Have minimal stress.
  7. Foster positive social relationships.
  8. Avoid opioid addiction.

To the layman, the findings from this nine-year study of nearly 720,000 U.S. military veterans may sound like the holy grail of health. But are they?

“When looking at these types of studies, I don’t get caught up in specific data. This isn’t providing you with the map to the fountain of youth,” says Roper St. Francis Healthcare primary care physician Dr. Matthew Demarco. “But, the study does give credence to the things that we try to emphasize with patients every day.”

Overall, Dr. DeMarco’s approach looks similar to what the researchers found, but he found those eight habits too broad to encourage real change in the average person. So, we asked him for more detailed directions.

Dr. DeMarco’s thoughts on:

Diet: “I like author Michael Pollan’s directive to ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ Try to include as many unprocessed foods as you can.”

Exercise: “Build movement into your day. It doesn’t have to be a 30-minute structured workout. Maybe it’s a regular stretch break, a quick walk after each meal, yoga while watching TV, or just taking the stairs.”

Sleep: “Try for seven to eight hours a night. And create a routine, which initiates the sleep mechanisms in your brain.”

Connection: “In today’s world, there are interest groups that meet for anything. Find people who are passionate and excited about the same things as you. A lot of times, the best friendships start with a shared interest.” (Seniors should check this out)

Substance abuse: “Drugs and alcohol can have such a negative impact on your life, but there are good treatments and support systems for those who are struggling. If you think you have a problem, that’s a great reason to see your primary care doctor.”

For anyone looking to make a positive shift in their daily habits, Dr. DeMarco advises:

Before you make any changes, talk to your primary care doctor about the insights shared in this article. They can provide you with personalized advice unique to your health journey.

If you don’t have a primary care doctor, you can find one here or call (843) 402- CARE. Prioritizing your health today is an investment in your future. Want to read more about forming a habit? Dr. DeMarco recommends adding The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear to your bookshelf.