Smile! You May Live Longer

While there may not be an actual “Fountain of Youth” to help you live longer, there are a number of lifestyle choices you can make to help elongate your life. Eat a well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, manage stress and DO NOT smoke are all choices that you can make to help you live longer. We all know that. But did you know that smiling can help you live longer too? It’s true. There are several small habits that can actually make a big difference. Here’s a look at four surprisingly simple ways to lengthen your life, according to a recent U.S. News article.

  1. Smile big and wide. According to research published in the journal Psychological Science, smiling big and wide is related to living longer. Researchers looked at professional baseball players’ photos and compared lifespan of players with big smiles, no smiles and partial smiles. After considering other factors, such as education level and marital status, bigger smiles were still related to longer life. Scientists have found that smiling builds your immune system and improves your mood and stress levels. As an added bonus, smiling makes you more attractive too. 🙂
  2. Floss daily. There has been some debate recently about the effectiveness of flossing, but it appears that daily flossing decreases low-grade inflammation, which increases the risk of early heart attack and stroke. Flossing has also been shown to reduce gingivitis, or gum disease, when compared to brushing alone. The American Dental Association recommends flossing at least once a day to remove plaque in areas between teeth. Only about 3 out of every 10 Americans floss regularly, and a staggering 32% never floss.
  3. Improve posture. Turns out that sitting up straight actually is important. Your heart and lungs actually work better when you have good posture because it reduces the excessive force that muscles and joints need to absorb. A longitudinal study from the University of London followed about 4,000 men and found that those who lost height as they aged (AKA their posture worsened over time) were more likely to die prematurely from cardiovascular or respiratory conditions. Slouchier postures also cause neck and back pain, and makes you look less confident and feel less competent. In order to have good posture when sitting down, keep your chin parallel to the floor, your shoulders, hips and knees at even heights, and your knees and feet pointing straight ahead.
  4. Wash your hands. Hygiene is a major factor in why our life expectancy has almost doubled in the last 150 years. Improper hand-washing is responsible for nearly half of all foodborne illness in the U.S. In one study, nearly half of the participants had bacteria on their hands of potential fecal origin. Researchers found that rinsing with water cut that number in half, and adding soap left just 8% of people’s hands dirty. While ⅔ of adults usually wash in a public restroom with soap and water, few actually scrub for the recommended 20 seconds. The proper technique involves wetting your hands under clean, running water before applying soap. Lather hands, including backs of hands, between fingers and under nails, for at least 20 seconds. Then rinse with water and dry using a towel, or allow them to air dry.

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