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Healthy for life: Boosting longevity

So you want to live longer? Hint: It has a lot to do with what you eat and how you move. Find out ways to live a longer, healthier life now.

  1. What can I eat to boost longevity?
  2. Are there any supplements I can take to boost longevity?
  3. Will drinking wine help boost my longevity?
  4. What level of exercise can help boost my longevity?
  5. Do I need to lose weight to boost my longevity?
  6. How can good mental health boost my longevity?
  7. Are there any habits or hobbies I can adopt to boost longevity?
  8. How much sleep do I need to boost my longevity?
  9. Besides my doctor, what other health care providers do I need to boost my longevity?

You’ve seen the stories pop up in your newspaper about the oldest people in the world. And it makes you wonder what they must be doing to live as long as they have. Is it something they’re eating or drinking? Is it their genes? Are they exercise nuts? Or is it something else?

There’s no single answer. And it’s not a good idea to assume that just because your grandmother lived into her 90s, you’ll automatically get there as well.

“Your grandmother lived in a different era, where people were more active and cooked everything themselves,” says Pamela Peeke, M.D. She’s an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fit to Live. “Good genetics can help, but lifestyle and environment are really what’s important.”

So, how do you get to that place? You know, the one where you can live a long, healthy life? Let’s take a closer look.

Need a health insurance plan? Explore your options now, or contact a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

What can I eat to boost longevity?

The answer might surprise you: Nothing too out of the ordinary. It’s the healthy basics, which include foods like:

  • Beans and nuts
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Lean protein
  • Whole grains

“Eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do to lengthen your life,” says Hector Perez, M.D. He’s a general and bariatric surgeon and member of the advisory board. “You not only fuel your body for daily activities but also provide it with antioxidants and other disease-fighting nutrients.”

In fact, a study published by researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway suggests that healthy eating can extend your life by up to 6 or 7 years in middle-aged adults and by about 10 years in younger ones.

If you’re looking to get even more out of your eating habits, the researchers advised focusing on:

  • Beans: On average, they add about 2 years of life for women and 2.5 years for men.
  • Whole grains: They add 2 years for women on average and 2.3 years for men.
  • Nuts: They add 1.7 years for women on average and 2 years for men.

The study also suggests cutting back on red and processed meat, which on average can add 1.6 years of life for women and 1.9 years for men.

Another study by researchers from UCLA and the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that you can achieve longevity if you follow a mainly plant-based diet.

But perhaps just as important as what you eat is when you eat it, adds Dr. Peeke. Research suggests that your body gets the most benefits when your day’s meals are all within a window of about 10 hours.

“In the best of all worlds, you eat your last meal no later than 8 p.m., so your body can fast until the morning,” says Dr. Peeke.

Are there any supplements I can take to boost longevity?

Probably not. You’re better off getting your nutrients from food. That’s according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements.

There are some situations, however, where supplementing certain vitamins and minerals may help keep you healthy. But in all cases, taking supplements should be done after consulting a doctor or other health care professional.

Nutrients you may want to get additional amounts from supplements include:

  • Calcium. This is particularly important for postmenopausal women to prevent weak bones and osteoporosis. That’s because the body doesn’t absorb or hold on to calcium well after menopause.

    If you don’t eat dairy, you may also benefit from a calcium supplement. This is because dairy products such as yogurt and milk are high in calcium.

    Keep in mind that calcium is best absorbed when you only take 500 milligrams at one time. If you need to take more, you can split up your supplements throughout the day.
  • Iodine. This is a mineral that’s needed to make thyroid hormones. It’s found mainly in animal products. That’s why if you’re vegan, you may not be getting enough and may need a supplement.

    If you’re already taking a multivitamin, check the ingredients label. Many multivitamins contain iodine. If yours doesn’t, you may want to consider supplementing, but talk to your health care provider first.
  • Magnesium. Getting enough of this mineral may help prevent migraines. Some small studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements (about 300 milligrams twice daily) — alone or while taking a migraine medication — may help.
  • Vitamin B12. After age 50, the body may not be able to absorb enough of this vitamin from food. That’s why it may be necessary to supplement with a B12 supplement as you get older. This is particularly true if you’re vegan, as B12 is found mainly in foods from animals.
  • Vitamin C. In some cases, taking a vitamin C supplement may lessen the duration and severity of a cold.

Supplements containing a mix of nutrients may also help. A mix of nutrients has been shown to slow down the progression of age-related macular degeneration. This includes vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, copper, and beta-carotene or lutein, along with zeaxanthin.

It’s important to know that taking too much of a supplement can be bad for your health. That’s why it’s a good idea to check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

Don’t have insurance to cover a doctor’s visit? Enter your ZIP code to search available health insurance plans, or call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss your options.

Will drinking wine help boost my longevity?

Drinking red wine may be associated with better heath. As one study found, it may have health benefits when part of an overall Mediterranean diet. But moderation is key. That’s because higher alcohol consumption can put you at higher risk of:

  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Death

People who consume 2 to 3 drinks per day may increase their risk of dying from all causes. But this risk increases significantly among those who drink 3 to 4 or more drinks per day.

So, it’s best to limit your alcohol consumption to just a couple of drinks per week — if that.

What level of exercise can help boost my longevity?

Getting the right amount of exercise can certainly help you live longer. And research suggests that there is a sweet spot: just under 4,000 steps per day.

A 2023 study found that people who took at least 4,000 steps a day had a reduced risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or any cause. And taking more steps may even be better for you: For every extra 1,000 steps taken, mortality was reduced by 15%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that adults need a mix of physical activity: moderate- or vigorous-intensity exercise for certain amounts of time, plus muscle strengthening activities twice a week. Here’s how they break down:

150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise weekly. This could include:  

  • Brisk walking  
  • Dancing 
  • Hiking (not strenuous)
  • Jogging 
  • Yard work  
  • Yoga


75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity weekly. This could include: 

  • Martial arts
  • Running (at a faster pace) 
  • Strenuous, uphill hiking 
  • Swimming multiple laps 


At least 2 weekly sessions to strengthen muscles. This includes:  

  • Body-weight exercises (planks, squats, push-ups or sit-ups) 
  • Lifting weights (chest or shoulder presses, deadlifts, biceps curls and triceps extensions) 
  • Using a resistance band   

Another important factor: how much time you spend on the couch. The more you sit, the greater your risk of developing diseases such as diabetes. Simply breaking up sitting time with low-intensity activity, such as a walk, may help. One study found that doing so may improve short- and long-term management of blood glucose levels.

Looking for the family or individual health plan that’s right for you? Learn more about what insurance plans are available, or call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss them further.

Do I need to lose weight to boost my longevity?

If you’re overweight or obese, yes, losing weight can help you live longer. Either condition raises inflammation in your body. This sets you up for other health problems that can shorten your life, such as heart disease or type 2 diabetes, says Dr. Peeke.

How can good mental health boost my longevity?

The easiest way to put it: Get your stress under control. While stress is part of life, over time, chronic stress can cause brain changes and increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. “[Stress] ramps up inflammation,” explains Dr. Peeke. Things that can help relieve stress include:

  • Regular exercise. Try tai chi, yoga or nature walks.
  • Journaling. Jotting down worries can help you work through them or let them go.
  • Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. These help lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
  • Staying positive. Looking on the bright side has been shown to improve resilience and life satisfaction. This was found to be true among older adults.
  • Getting the right health insurance — and coverage for visits with doctors and mental health professionals — may help as well. Explore your options now or contact a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

Are there any habits or hobbies I can adopt to boost longevity?

A great place to start is by building a social network around you — and that doesn’t mean downloading a social app. “Spending time with loved ones is crucial for both your mental and physical health,” says Dr. Perez. “Strong social connections have been linked with a lower risk of developing depression and other chronic conditions.”

It can be as simple as spending time with your family or friends on a regular basis. Supporting others through volunteering or just lending a helping hand may also help. One study found that this type of supportive behavior may lower inflammation in the body.

How much sleep do I need to boost my longevity?

You need a fair amount of sleep for it to help you boost your longevity. Current guidelines from the CDC recommend 7 to 9 hours for adults ages 61 to 64, and 7 to 8 hours for adults ages 65 and older. “When you sleep, your body is doing its housekeeping,” explains Dr. Peeke.

While you’re sleeping, your body increases blood flow to your muscles and promotes tissue growth and repair. It’s especially important to get deep, or alpha wave, sleep, adds Dr. Peeke.

According to Dr. Perez, ways to do this include:

  • Avoiding caffeine before you go to bed
  • Creating a regular sleep schedule
  • Establishing a relaxing wind-down routine

Besides my doctor, what other health care providers do I need to boost my longevity?

Going to your primary care doctor for annual wellness visits and following up whenever needed are important ways to boost your longevity. But there are other health care providers that can help you live a longer, healthier life. These include:

Dentist. Poor oral health has been linked to earlier death, which isn’t surprising, considering that you need strong teeth to eat foods such as fruits and veggies. But poor oral health is also linked to other conditions that can be bad for your overall health. For example:

  • Bleeding gums and infections in your mouth can be symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
  • The same bacteria that clog up your blood vessels are also found on your teeth (plaque), so there may be a link between oral and heart health.
  • Oral cancer
  • It’s thought that the bacteria in your mouth can raise inflammation throughout your body.

Eye doctor (optometrist and/or ophthalmologist). Getting your eyes checked regularly not only helps prevent you from losing your vision but can also help diagnose other conditions such as:

  • Autoimmune diseases. These can cause inflammation throughout your body, including in your eyes.
  • Cancer. Certain lesions on the retina may be a symptom of certain eye cancers.
  • Diabetes. A symptom of type 2 diabetes is blurry vision or even vision loss.
  • High blood pressure. The curving of your retina’s blood vessels may mean that you have hypertension.

Ear doctor (audiologist). While it’s a good idea to get your ears checked at any age if you think you’re suffering from hearing loss, it’s particularly important if you’re over the age of 65. That’s because hearing loss can lead to loneliness and social isolation, which in turn can lead to:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Depression
  • Heart disease

Looking for the individual or family health plan that’s right for you? Learn about available insurance plans now or call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss your options.

For informational purposes only. This information is compiled by UnitedHealthOne and does not diagnose problems or recommend specific treatment. Services and medical technologies referenced herein may not be covered under your plan. Please consult directly with your primary care physician if you need medical advice.


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National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. “Iodine fact sheet for consumers.” July 28, 2022. Retrieved from

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