Only 30 percent of age-related disease is a result of our genetics. The other 70 percent is related to our lifestyle. That means we have a lot of power over how well we age, so here’s how to live a longer, healthier life:

  • First: You can extend your life by expanding your knowledge. When we continue to learn new things throughout our life, it keeps our brain healthy. Researchers now know that new synapses, the connections between brain cells, can be formed throughout life. Mental activity builds synapses just like physical activity builds muscle. Our best line of defense: Spend at least 1 hour a day performing rigorous mental activity. Read books on subjects that demand concentration, do difficult crossword puzzles, take adult education courses, or learn a new language. 
  • Another life-lengthener: Be active. A huge study of more than 20,000 people found that adults who get regular exercise, even jogging slowly for as little as one hour a week, live 6 years longer than couch potatoes. Physical activity also cuts the production of stress hormones, and stress is one of the roots of inflammation that breaks down our bodies and causes disease.
  • Also: Be a good person. Researchers at U.C. Riverside found people who were thoughtful and helpful to others were less likely to drink, smoke, and have a bad marriage. And, in study after study, people who were highly conscientious were less likely to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, bone problems, stroke, and Alzheimer’s! A big reason is because nice people have more friends.
  • Which brings us to the final key to healthy aging: Having friends. Research shows that the more social connections we have, the stronger our immune system gets. In fact, interacting with just 6 friends a week, makes us 4 times less likely to get sick. So what the connection between friends and health? Knowing you’ve got a lot of support helps lower stress, which means less inflammation, less strain on your heart, and better immunity.