help me live forever
January 29, 2007 1:38 PM   Subscribe

What things should I be doing now, in my early 20s, to be sure I live the longest, healthiest life possible?
posted by logic vs love to Health & Fitness (39 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Sunscreen, every day.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:43 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

posted by mr_roboto at 1:45 PM on January 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

posted by gaspode at 1:45 PM on January 29, 2007

Floss daily! (God, I wish I had.) Take to heart this article. Meditate fifteen minutes a day; combine it with some gentle yoga to kill two birds with one stone. Exercise, at the very least go on a vigorous half-hour walk every day.
posted by Specklet at 1:47 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Calorie Restriction . I personally don't think it would be worth it, but YMMV.
posted by slenderloris at 1:48 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't smoke. Also, stress in your life will be inevitable but if you learn how to cope with it positively you can extend your life. My 106 year old great-grandpa was one of the most optimistic, happy people I ever knew. See this study.

The authors concede that these long-lifers are probably genetically gifted, something all of us cannot be. One interesting finding is that they all tended to remain healthy most of their lives, compressing their "sick days" into the very end stage of their lives. How did they do it? In an interview with WebMD, Dr. Silver stated the secret of these centenarians' healthy long life is that they were particularly adaptable; they were "the natural athletes of stress."

"It's not that they avoided stress," she said. "This was an immigrant generation. They didn't have easy lives. They left family in the old country and struggled when they came here. Some were Holocaust survivors and widows who raised children alone and worked by scrubbing floors. But they were people who seemed able to cope with their problems and tragedies and move on with a fairly positive attitude. They didn't get overwhelmed by things. They seemed to be born with that temperament."

posted by vacapinta at 1:49 PM on January 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Learn to surf, and do it regularly.
posted by saladin at 1:51 PM on January 29, 2007

use condoms
posted by SBMike at 1:51 PM on January 29, 2007

Sunscreen everyday, take up jogging, and travel as often as possible. Eat real food, not processed stuff.

Oh, and wait to get married until at least 30.
posted by four panels at 1:53 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get in the habit of a reasonably active lifestyle. Early twenties was when my friends got more and more used to just hopping the car for shorter and shorter trips, that previously they would have just walked or cycled, and the effects were noticeable in the space of just a few years. Habits can work for you or against you - get into some good habits that you can keep for life.

It may also be a good time to make the transition from white bread to less refined bread, and similar dietary improvements, if you haven't already. Kids often seem to strongly prefer white bread, while adults often find that they prefer (or are indifferent to) the taste and texture of whole grain. Good dietary habits are one of the most effective ways to avoid myriad common cancers, and heart disease. And if you live a ripe old age, cancer and heart disease are the Big Two.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:56 PM on January 29, 2007

Vegetarianism lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, and chances of heart disease (#1 or 2 killer in the US) by significant margins. It is statistically linked to lowered cancer rates for lots of varieties, but I don't have anything but third-hand info to back that one up. I'd suggest hitting your library for a copy of Howard Lyman's Mad Cowboy if you're interested. The first few chapters are full of horrifying statistics on what meat can do to your health. There's also a good section on Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, which isn't much of a threat anymore, but it makes a good point of what meat industries can accidentally do to you.
posted by tylermoody at 1:59 PM on January 29, 2007

Move to Japan away from industrial cities. Actually living far from any industrialization will help you. Staying away from any electromagnetic radiation will do you good, so you may want to ditch the computer.

You may want to consider staying away from anything fun because the chances are that it is bad for you. But then again, the fun, dangerous stuff makes life worth living...
posted by JJ86 at 1:59 PM on January 29, 2007

On preview, early 20's is when your eat-anything metabolism starts to wind down, and a healthier diet can improve your digestion.
posted by tylermoody at 2:03 PM on January 29, 2007

For mental health, read challenging books, do crossword puzzles, lateral thinking brain teasers, etc. Studies have shown that these activities may help keep away senile dementia, so keep your mind active. Why be fit and healthy at 80, 90, 100 if you're too out of it to enjoy it?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:04 PM on January 29, 2007

Life is a game a chance... There's really nothing you can do to stack in the odds one way or the other... There are health-food-eating joggers who die in the middle of the street from a heart attack, and there are 90-year-old men at the pool hall who've been smoking unfiltered camels since before they could walk (a point my father always brought up when nagged about his unhealthy lifestyle, but he died of cancer so what did he know?)... But his argument was valid... You just never know what the future holds.
posted by amyms at 2:09 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Get married, become religous. These are proven to lengthen your life, and decrease your stress. No one will agree on why.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:10 PM on January 29, 2007

Best answer: Develop a strong support network of friends and loved ones, and use it. And spend time outside as much as you can.
posted by occhiblu at 2:10 PM on January 29, 2007

Best answer: National Geographic did a nice little feature on this a while ago, focusing on the people and cultures of Okinawa, Sardinia, and 7th Day Adventists.

A short summary: less stress, lots of socialness, good food, stay active, live simply, have fun.
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:24 PM on January 29, 2007 [5 favorites]

I'm in the same boat as you and I feel the need to be asking the same questions. I have noticed over the past five years my moods are more significant as I've left the ignorance of my youth into the grim ditches of reality. That calls for lifestyle changes to keep your emotions and mood in check.

Buy a bike, find a nice beach, and appreciate the air your breathing.

The worst feeling is getting caught up in this daily grind of nothingness.
posted by ageispolis at 2:26 PM on January 29, 2007

Knowing what I know now in my late 30s, I would say:
1. Cut down on the processed foods, sugared sodas, and beer. You don't have to eliminate it, but cut back!
2. Do -not- let your weight go. Refer to Step 1.
3. Dental care, brush often.
4. Lots of water.

That's all I can think of to avoid the "gotchas" you'll be thinking about as the 40s and 50s approach.
posted by rolypolyman at 2:46 PM on January 29, 2007 [2 favorites]

Become and remain rich.
posted by alasdair at 2:50 PM on January 29, 2007

Staying away from any electromagnetic radiation will do you good, so you may want to ditch the computer.
Hahaha. Don't bother with sunscreen then, just stay in your lead lined underground bunker.

To contribute, program some useful habits into yourself (exercise, flossing, whatever) so that you'll feel uncomfortable _not_ doing it when you're old
posted by pantsrobot at 2:58 PM on January 29, 2007

Read "Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy" by the Harvard Medical School and apply their advice.

In summary: don't smoke (avoids cancer), don't be fat (avoids diabetes), ban trans fat & minimize saturated fat (avoids strokes). The food you eat has the largest impact on your most probable causes of death.
posted by gmarceau at 3:00 PM on January 29, 2007

Learn to laugh at yourself.
Get enough sleep.
Stretch everyday to improve/maintain your flexibility.
Consider taking up a martial art (even if only for a short time - learning how to breakfall could prevent some injuries over your lifetime).
posted by Rc at 3:03 PM on January 29, 2007

Best answer: I asked a related question a few months ago.
posted by joshuaconner at 3:03 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Go to this finance blog and get your finances/retirement funds, etc started.

I know you mean to ask this question in terms of physical health, but having enough money to live comfortably into those advanced years will aid in your longevity.
posted by spec80 at 3:24 PM on January 29, 2007

As for food, the single most important thing is to eat more vegetables, especially leafy greens. If you really want to go all the way, I suggest reading Eat to Live for the diet part.
posted by davar at 3:30 PM on January 29, 2007

Relax, stay active, enjoy life. If you die young, at least you'll have loved life. You might live to a ripe old age, but if you're not living it up, what's the point?

Staying away from any electromagnetic radiation will do you good, so you may want to ditch the computer.

This is nonsense and impossible. EM radiation is everywhere, all the time. Your body produces it -- in many forms -- all the time. Light is EM radiation. You cannot avoid it and none of it (except maybe UV, X-Rays, and more exotic, highly energetic forms of it) is remotely harmful. Enjoy your computer.
posted by dseaton at 4:04 PM on January 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Look at the leading causes of death for Americans and take all of the appropriate measures to prevent them.

1. Heart disease: No smoking, control your cholesterol, exercise, control your blood pressure, don't get type II diabetes, eat healthy, drink red wine

2. Cancer: lung (don't smoke), breast (self-exams, mammos), colon (regular colonoscopy), prostate (get checked), skin (sunscreen, get your moles biopsied), testicles (check your undercarriage), cervical (get paps)

3. Stroke: see #1

4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases: don't smoke, have good genes (don't have CF or alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency)

5. Accidents: #1 killer of people below age 35. Famous last words: "Hold my beer while I try this..."

6. Diabetes: Eat healthy, don't get fat, exercise

7. Alzheimer's disease: keep your mind active, have good genes.

8. Influenza/Pneumonia: Vaccines, don't smoke, practice good hygiene.

9. Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: the vast majority are diabetes/hypertension related (see above), others are autoimmune (can't really help).

10. Septicemia: stay out of the ICU, go to the ER if you have a stiff neck (meningitis).

Preventive medicine is incredibly cheap. Paying for everybody who gets diabetes, heart disease, preventable cancers, and COPD is incredibly expensive. But cancer keeps me in business, so smoke 'em if ya got 'em. But nothing beats having good genes and being a mean son-of-a-bitch (the nice patients always have the horrible diseases and die painfully).
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 4:44 PM on January 29, 2007 [3 favorites]

Best answer: get a periodic physical. If you ever develop high blood pressure, treat it aggressively, by whatever means necessary, and don't explain it away due to 'stress', even if it is.
posted by docpops at 4:52 PM on January 29, 2007

Brush and floss daily.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Better, if you can, live in a walkable city where movement is a built-in part of your daily activity.

Eat leafy dark green vegetables.

Keep your brain active: crossword puzzles, classes, trips to new places, and other things to stretch your head a bit.

If you work with computers, do hand and wrist stretching exercises.
posted by cadge at 4:55 PM on January 29, 2007

Pet owners live longer.
posted by HotPatatta at 4:58 PM on January 29, 2007

Vacapinta got it right. It is all about your ability to deal with the stress in your life- each and every minute you are alive. If you can conquer that then you will life well into your 100s. Google "Stress Eraser", get one and learn how to use it with out the device.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:33 PM on January 29, 2007

docpops has a great tip. High blood pressure is easy to diagnose and easy to treat, but left untreated it can cause major health problems.
posted by anjamu at 7:42 PM on January 29, 2007

stay out of the hospital. they'll kill you in there.
posted by brandz at 7:48 PM on January 29, 2007

Don't eat any processed food. Just meat (wild or grassfed), vegetables, some fruit, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats (definitely fish oil).
posted by Durin's Bane at 8:15 PM on January 29, 2007

Best answer: There was a great essay by Michael Pollan in yesterday's NYT Magazine on healthy (as opposed to merely nutritious) food. That article is here.

Pollan ends with 9 recommendations for healthy eating:

1. Eat food....Don't eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.

2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.

3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.

4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.

5. Pay more, eat less.

6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.

7. Eat more like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.

8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden.

9. Eat like an omnivore. Try to add new species, not just new foods, to your diet. The greater the diversity of species you eat, the more likely you are to cover all your nutritional bases.

Also from the article:
"Once one of the longest-lived people on earth, the Okinawans practiced a principle they called 'Hara Hachi Bu': eat until you are 80 percent full."
posted by bokinney at 8:23 PM on January 29, 2007 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the awesome answers! I want to start developing good habits now so that my 80-year-old self isn't forced to invent a time maching just to come back and punch my 20-year-old self in the face for being too lazy to floss. There's so many great ideas here!
posted by logic vs love at 9:45 AM on January 30, 2007

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