These 8 habits could add up to 24 years to your life

Healthy eating can add years to your life. File image.

Healthy eating can add years to your life. File image.

Published Jun 14, 2024


Chronic diseases are a leading cause of death worldwide and they are often influenced by lifestyle and genetics.

But Richard Smith-Bernal, the founder of health organisation, The Juice Smith, believes that people have the power to change their habits, which can ultimately save their lives.

Here are his eight practices that can notably extend your lifespan.

What are the eight habits?

A 2023 study conducted by the American Society of Nutrition released highlighted the habits that dramatically correlated with longevity.

The research states that by adopting these eight habits from the day you turn 40, you can increase your lifespan by up to 24 years for men and 21 years for women:

  • Not abusing opioids
  • Not smoking tobacco (including vaping)
  • No alcoholism or regular binge drinking
  • Managing stress
  • Having positive social relationships
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Sleeping well
  • Getting regular physical exercise

Smith-Bernal said that some may seem obvious but many of these items are life-long habits that can be hard to develop and stick to.

He breaks down ways to start a positive relationship with healthy habits.

1. Diet

The health expert believes that maintaining a healthy diet is about finding balance.

“Instead of focusing on restriction, shift your mindset towards adding more nutritious foods.”

He suggested starting by incorporating an additional vegetable into your daily meals this week, then gradually introducing a new type of seed or nut the following week. After that, incorporate another superfood fruit into your diet.

“Remember, it's okay to indulge occasionally, so don't be too hard on yourself if you slip up,” he insisted.

“The key is to strive for balance and consistency in your eating habits.”

Getting quality sleep can add years to your life. File image.

2. Sleep

Getting quality sleep can be challenging, especially when balancing work, social activities, and other commitments.

Smith-Bernal said that rather than focusing solely on going to bed earlier, prioritise improving the quality of your sleep with the time you have.

“Establishing a winding-down routine can help you gradually transition away from technology as bedtime approaches.”

“By reducing your exposure to blue light and minimising stimulation, your body can naturally ease into a state of drowsiness earlier, leading to a more restful and rejuvenating sleep,” he said.

3. Exercise

Incorporating regular physical exercise into your life can significantly boost your chances of living longer and healthier, Smith-Bernal stressed.

He said that the trick is to discover activities that you genuinely enjoy, instead of investing in a gym membership that you might never use because you dislike exercise machines.

“Perhaps you find joy in rock climbing or participating in a local sports league. If you're a fan of audiobooks or podcasts, why not combine your exercise routine with a leisurely walk or run around your neighbourhood while catching up on your favourite listens?”

“By finding activities that bring you pleasure, you'll be more likely to stick with them,” he said.

Opioid painkillers pose many dangers. Picture: Wikimedia Commons

4. Not abusing opioids

This one may seem obvious or completely avoidable, but with opioid epidemics sweeping through communities over the past decade, it’s becoming more challenging to avoid.

“In fact, most who get swept up in an opioid addiction initially start on benign prescribed opioid-based painkillers for medical reasons,” Smith-Bernal said.

He explained that 50 million people were prescribed opioids last year in the UK alone.

“The opioid death rate increased more than 10 times in the last 10 years in the USA, and similar increases occurred in the UK and Canada.”

He stressed that not just any prescription from your doctor should be taken lightly.

“Talk with your doctor about the risks of opioids and find a plan that balances your need for pain relief with the dangers at hand. And if you find yourself having a hard time getting off the prescription, seek help: the earlier, the better.”

Experts warn about the dangers of binge drinking. File image.

5. Avoiding alcoholism and binge drinking

Avoiding binge drinking is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it simply means consuming enough alcohol to get drunk, which can vary depending on factors like body type. “For instance, the UK government defines binge drinking as six drinks for women and eight drinks for men,” Smith-Bernal said.

“In the United States, it's typically considered four drinks over two hours for women and five for men.”

He believes that binge drinking is manageable.

“Finding alternative ways to socialise without relying on alcohol is key,” he recommended. “Explore alcohol-free drinks and cocktails and consider bringing your own fancy juice to parties. Staying hydrated is also essential.”

He added that with alcohol being such a prominent part of our culture, many underestimate the strong connection it has to chronic disease.

“It’s never too late to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol.”

6. Avoiding tobacco

The health community has been in agreement for decades about the dangers of smoking. But with the emergence of e-cigarettes or vapes, there’s a new way of smoking that has been marketed as “safer” than traditional cigarettes, Smith-Bernal said.

“Many vapes still contain tobacco and other harmful chemicals that you inhale directly into your lungs,” he said.

“E-cigarettes are not the solution to a smoking problem. Talk to a doctor about other ways to ease off of a nicotine addiction that don’t include harming your lungs.”

7. Positive social relationships

Building and maintaining positive social relationships throughout life is crucial for our well-being.

Smith-Bernal said that recently, the United States Surgeon General raised concern about a “loneliness epidemic”, which became even more pronounced during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Loneliness can have severe consequences for both physical and mental health, including increased stress, depression, and even a higher risk of certain chronic illnesses.”

He added that there are many ways to cultivate meaningful connections with others.

“One option is volunteering your time and skills to help others in your community. Volunteering not only allows you to make a positive impact, but also provides opportunities to meet like-minded individuals who share your interests and values.”

“You can also discover other social activities in your community, such as local sports leagues or art classes.”

Smith-Bernal also believes that technology can also be a valuable tool for finding and maintaining social connections.

“Online resources such as meet-up groups and social networking platforms provide opportunities to connect with people who share your interests or hobbies.”

“Additionally, there are now apps specifically designed to help individuals find platonic friendships, functioning similarly to dating apps but focused on fostering non-romantic relationships.”

8. Managing stress

Managing stress is essential for maintaining good health, as constant stress can strain the body and increase your risk of disease.

“The good news is that many habits that promote overall well-being are also great for reducing stress,” Smith-Bernal said.

This includes healthy eating, regular exercise, positive social interactions and getting enough sleep, which are all critical components of stress management.

“By adopting these habits, you're improving your health and actively reducing stress levels in both your mind and body,” he said.

“Think of it as a two-in-one package. Each positive habit you incorporate contributes to both your overall well-being and your ability to cope with stress.”