Lack of Physical Exercise - I remember when I was a kid and even into my 20s when I looked upon getting old as a time to sit in a rocking chair on a porch, watching the grass grow. Everyone I knew who were in their late 50s and older, were actually that person – or aspiring to it. Things have changed and can even change to have a more exciting, healthy, and longer “old age.”
I’m not going to cite many sources for this because we are constantly hearing that diet and exercise keeps us healthy. Suffice it to say, not exercising can lead to or at least exacerbate arthritis, obesity, cardiovascular disease and others. On the other hand, exercise can help in the healing process of many diseases. Let’s take cancer, for example. It was found that women who were relatively inactive prior to cancer treatment had a lowered mortality risk when engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise after diagnosis . In addition, increased exercise decreased the level of depression in patients with clinical levels of depression due to their cancer condition . Similar findings are reported for other diseases such as cardiovascular disease. Without even considering disease, there is certainly a better quality of life for people who are more fit and more active.
Alcohol Consumption - It seems obvious what kind of dangers exist for those who consume too much alcohol. Of course, most people who drink will say, “I don’t’ drink nearly as much as so-and-so,” therefore perhaps not being very objective about how much is too much for themselves. If a person drinks too much there are many potential problems. Most everyone knows about liver damage from drinking too much. That can be a death sentence. Heavy drinking, according to the NIH , is also a factor contributing to heart disease, other liver damage, pancreatitis, and cancer. There are also short-term issues that put ME in danger due to mental impairment and loss of physical dexterity, especially of someone behind the wheel. If you want to drink yourself to death, at least walk so the rest of us are safer. We should also consider WHY someone wants to drink heavily. It is often an indicator of an underlying psychological problem. Why not get help to find out what the problem is in order to live a more joyful life?
Drug Use - Drug use is endemic in the United States and in much of the rest of the world. According to the NIH, between 2001 and 2014 there was a 2.8 times greater number of deaths due to prescription drugs; 3.4 time for opioid pain-killers; 5 times for benzodiazepines; a 42% increase for cocaine; and six times for heroin . In 2014, 47,055 people died of drug overdoses according to a CNN report . Drug deaths are not just due to overdoses. Among other problems are cardiac issues for cocaine use  as well as brain cell damage and death explained in an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry . Other drugs, such as methamphetamines also cause brain damage . Without the many problems associated with drug usage, just living one’s life being controlled by a drug doesn’t seem to me to be a free and happy existence.
Lack of Sleep - Our bodies must rest in order to repair itself after exercise and to heal itself in other ways. There is a certain amount of sleep our bodies need for us to be refreshed and to avoid increased risk of various diseases. The general guideline is 7 1/2 to 8 hours of sleep is desirable. A lack of proper sleep is associated with cardiovascular disease , diabetes, and high blood pressure which, by extension, decreases life expectancy. But don’t think you can sleep-in every day. Risks also increase with sleep periods of nine hours or more . To quantify it, Dr. Roizen, in his book RealAge [op. cit.] says that getting the proper sleep can decrease your “real age” by three years. That’s pretty good for just sleeping your way to a younger you.
Stress - Everyone says it themselves or knows someone who often says “I’m stressed,” and then goes on to blame the stress for many of their problems. Guess what? They are usually right. Decreasing stress in your life is one of the easiest ways to feel better and increase your life expectancy (decreasing your real age) while at the same time it is one of the most difficult. It’s easy because all you have to do is to flip a mental switch. It is difficult because it is sometimes very hard to find that switch. Stress can cause many problems. For example, chronic stress can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, especially in men . One of the most interesting studies examined telomeres, the equivalent of the plastic at the end of a shoestring that keeps it from unraveling. Telomeres are at the end of our DNA to keep it from unraveling. Shortening of telomeres is related to aging. When we lose the telomeres, it’s all over. So this particular study stated that stress shortened the telomeres . I’ll bet when the telomere issue is all figured out, the secret to keeping and even lengthening them will be the changing the habits listed on this page! So one way to reduce stress is mediation, which we will cover later .
Lack of Mental Exercise - We have all heard about staying mentally active as we age in order to avoid some debilitating neurological problems. I’m not going to cite any references but I’m going to give you a few ideas to keep your brain active. You will always see that learning another language is something we should do as we age. There is a free website, https://www.duolingo.com, where you can learn other languages absolutely free. It’s an amazing site. I have been using it for years. I recently was introduced to the Great Courses series, https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/viewplans. This one costs but as of this writing, there is a one-month free trial. There are many other free college courses that can be taken online if you look for them. Just search for “Free college courses.” I think that Yale and MIT as well as other top-notch universities offer them.