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26 Anti-Aging Secrets That Could Add Years to Your Life

While the exact location of the fountain of youth still eludes us, these expert-approved anti-aging secrets may lengthen your life span.

How to slow down aging

Yes, it is possible to take steps that will help you look younger, feel younger, and keep yourself in tip-top shape. What’s more, these steps may slow down the negative effects of aging and even potentially add years to your life. Here are the expert secrets you need to know.

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Deep-six the sugar

Sugar is public health enemy No. 1 when it comes to aging, says Troy, Michigan–based plastic surgeon Anthony Youn, MD, author of The Age Fix: A Leading Plastic Surgeon Reveals How to Really Look 10 Years Younger. “One study attributed 184,000 deaths each year to sugary drinks like soda pop and punch,” he says. “Not only do they increase your risk of [type 2] diabetes and being overweight, but the sugar in the drinks also can make you look older.” (Here are more details about how sugar plays a role in type 2 diabetes.)

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Give up gluten, if you have a sensitivity

Gluten-free diets are trendy, Dr. Youn says, and for some people they make sense. About 1% of the population has celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition in which gluten—a type of protein found in wheat and other grains—triggers an immune attack on the intestines. For those people, a gluten-free diet is essential to avoid malnutrition, fertility problems, osteoporosis, and host of other health problems. Other people can have a gluten sensitivity, “which can cause [gastrointestinal] distress, brain fog, weight gain, and generalized inflammation,” he says. Inflammation is the smoking gun in a long list of diseases that can shave years off your life. That said, most experts do not recommend going gluten free unless you have to. Gluten-free diets can be expensive and also make it more challenging to get the nutrients that you need.

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Eat the rainbow

Colorful fruits and vegetables are chock-full of anti-aging antioxidants—the valuable substances are in the actual pigments that make up the color of these foods, Dr. Youn says. “Eat a wide array of colors to improve your health and slow down the aging process.” Find out the 15 foods you should stop eating after age 40.

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Floss your teeth

Flossing your teeth daily will decrease inflammation in your gums, says Michael Roizen, MD, Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer and author of several books, including Real Age: Are You as Young as You Can Be? “Inflammation is one of the greatest causes of aging; it’s linked to heart disease and stroke and impedes the immune system, which increases the risk of infection, cancer, and brain dysfunction,” he says. “Gum disease is one of the biggest causes of inflammation that we have, but we can prevent it by flossing and seeing a dentist twice a year.” (Skipping this important step is one of the everyday habits that can shorten your life.)

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Stress and stressors are everywhere. While that’s tough to change, you can shift the way you react. That’s key because not coping well with stress can take its toll on health and longevity, Dr. Roizen says. “Learning how to manage stress with guided imagery, meditation, deep breathing, or another practice can add years to your life,” says Dr. Roizen, who puts a finger on his belly button to feel it going in and out—and confirm that he’s taking deep breaths—when he’s combating the effects of stress. Read about the 22 habits that could be making you age faster.

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Consider joining the D team

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a host of age-related diseases, many of which can shorten your life, according to 2018 research published in Aging and Disease. “Get your blood levels tested and supplement accordingly,” Dr. Roizen says.

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Ask about aspirin

Taking low-dose aspirin every day may reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack, but discuss with your doctor whether this therapy makes sense for you (it can also increase the risk of uncontrolled bleeds, or stroke). “We also know that daily baby aspirin reduces the risk of nine major cancers,” Dr. Roizen says. While once routinely recommended, the American Heart Association now recommends that you never start taking low-dose aspirin without consulting with your doctor first—the risks sometimes outweigh the benefits.


Take a coffee break

Drinking coffee or tea daily is associated with a lower risk of developing cancer, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. “Decaf has half of the effect, so caffeinated is better, especially if you are a fast caffeine metabolizer and don’t get headaches, gastric distress, or heart palpitations from caffeine,” Dr. Roizen says. “The more you drink without side effects, the greater the benefits.”

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Jumping 40 times a day on a hard surface will strengthen your bones and spinal discs and decrease your risk of breaking a bone, Dr. Roizen says. Here are other ways to slash your risk of developing the brittle bone disease osteoporosis as you age.

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Be first in line for your shots

Make sure you are up-to-date on all of your shots and immunizations since this is the best way to keep your immune system in tip-top shape. Immunizations are especially important if you are one of the millions of people living with diabetes.

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Walk the walk

Sitting or being sedentary for long periods of time increases the risk for all sorts of diseases and conditions that can shorten lives, Dr. Roizen says. “Don’t sit for more than two hours in a row, and walk at least two minutes every two hours,” he says. There are benefits of walking for just 15 minutes a day.

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Quit smoking

Smoking tobacco is linked to a laundry list of diseases that will shorten your life, including cancer, heart disease, and stroke. It’s not just cigarettes, either: Vaping or spending time in hookah parlors is also dangerous, Dr. Roizen says. Your body will heal in lots of mind-blowing ways once you quit smoking.

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Take care of your cells

Telomeres are protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes that dictate how long cells live. Short telomeres are linked to a host of age-related diseases and conditions, but a small study shows that positive changes in four key areas—your diet, exercise, stress management, and social support—may lengthen telomeres, according to research published in The Lancet Oncology.

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Eat like a Greek

The anti-aging Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein: Research published in Ageing Research Reviews in 2019 found that people who eat a Mediterranean diet have longer telomeres.

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Say “cheers”

People who have around one to two drinks a day appear to be less likely to develop dementia or suffer a premature death in comparison with people who don’t drink at all. But moderation is crucial, says Dr. Roizen. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men—that’s it. More than that erases the benefits, he says. Also, if you have a problem with alcohol, alcohol’s possible benefits in this area are not a reason to start drinking again, because the risks outweigh the benefits. (Here’s what happens to your body when you drink a glass of wine each day.)

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Avoid these top five offenders

The top five food offenders are saturated fat, trans fats, added sugar, syrups, and refined carbs. “By avoiding these five food categories, you can significantly lower your chances of disease and premature aging,” Dr. Roizen says.

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Live with purpose

Having a deeper meaning and purpose in your life encourages healthy choices and behaviors, according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Health Psychology. The researchers found that people with a higher sense of purpose were more likely to eat lots of vegetables, exercise, get good sleep, and even floss their teeth.


Get your zzz’s

Good sleep reduces stress and your risk of developing chronic health conditions associated with stress, says Los Angeles sleep expert Michael J. Breus PhD, author of several books on sleep, including The Power of When. Poor sleep, however, sets us up for obesity and other diseases that can shorten lives.

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Know your numbers

Take control of your health and aging by learning these six numbers: How many calories you need in a day, your waist size, cholesterol levels, triglyceride levels, blood pressure, and morning pulse rate. Another good one to know? Your blood sugar. Tracking these numbers and keeping them in healthy ranges will tack years onto your life.

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Get screened

We live in a wonderful age in which there are countless screening tests for numerous deadly diseases and conditions—and they allow doctors to catch problems early when they are most treatable. Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vary by age and other risk factors.

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C’mon, get happy

Of 100,000 women in the Women’s Health Initiative study, those with an optimistic outlook on life were 14 percent less likely than pessimists to die during the study’s first eight years, according to the research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Check out the 9 habits to develop today that your 80-year-old self will thank you for.

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Limit red meat

Eating red meat is associated with a higher risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, kidney disease, and liver disease. On the other hand, eating white meat like fish and chicken reduces the risk, a 2017 study in the BMJ suggests. Although it’s often hard to determine if a specific food is the actual cause of a health outcome, many experts recommend limiting your intake of red meat, specifically if it’s processed or cured (think bacon and hot dogs). Here are the five best types of meat to eat, and two to avoid.

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Care for others

Grandparents who care for their grandchildren live longer than grandparents who don’t pitch in, according to a 2016 study in Evolution and Human Behavior.

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Avoid AGEs

Advanced glycation end products—AGEs—are chemicals found naturally in food such as aged cheese and meats and grilled or fried food. In some research published in Scientific Reports, people who follow a low-AGE diet have lower measures of cholesterol, inflammation, and risk factors for diabetes.

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Donate blood

Frequent blood donors live longer than people who don’t give blood, according to a 2015 study published in Transfusion. Blood donors are known to be healthier in general, but the researchers still found an added benefit from the act of giving itself.

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Learn from super agers

“Super agers” have cognitive abilities that are on par with people decades younger than they are. Learn how to eat, exercise, socialize, and more to become a super ager yourself.

Medically reviewed by Elizabeth Bahar Houshmand, MD, on May 27, 2020

Denise Mann, MS
Denise Mann is a freelance health writer whose articles regularly appear in WebMD, HealthDay, and other consumer health portals. She has received numerous awards, including the Arthritis Foundation's Northeast Region Prize for Online Journalism; the Excellence in Women's Health Research Journalism Award; the Journalistic Achievement Award from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery; National Newsmaker of the Year by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America; the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism from the Magazine Association of the Southeast; a Bronze Award from The American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors (for a cover story she wrote in Plastic Surgery Practice magazine); and an honorable mention in the International Osteoporosis Foundation Journalism Awards. She was part of the writing team awarded a 2008 Sigma Delta Chi award for her part in a WebMD series on autism. Her first foray into health reporting was with the Medical Tribune News Service, where her articles appeared regularly in such newspapers as the Detroit Free Press, Chicago Sun-Times, Dallas Morning News, and Los Angeles Daily News. Mann received a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. She lives in New York with her husband David; sons Teddy and Evan; and their miniature schnauzer, Perri Winkle Blu.