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Increase Your Longevity & Lifespan with Lifestyle & Diet

Written by Joe Cohen, BS | Reviewed by Genius Labs Science Team | Last updated:

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The goal of living forever is a common theme found in mythical tales everywhere from Greek mythology to modern action films and sci-fi novels. While living forever might still be impossible, by developing a better understanding of what factors contribute to aging, scientists have made remarkable progress in extending human life by almost three decades in the last century. This article will take a dive into the research and summarize the lifestyle and diet hacks that you can use to live the longest, healthiest life possible.


1) Exercise

Individuals engaging in regular exercise have a decreased risk of heart disease and reduce their risk of heart failure by 50% [1].

Regular exercise has beneficial effects on SIRT1, a gene that regulates cellular processes such as anti-cell death, brain protection, cellular aging, and longevity. Exercise training enhances the SIRT longevity pathway [2].

In flies, endurance training increased autophagy (cell recycling) in fat tissue while affecting the gene, mthl-3, in a way that “targeted longevity assurance pathways” [3].

Regular exercise is known to increase muscle mass.  Increased muscle mass has been shown to lower frailty index (measured by of slow walking speed, weakness, weight loss, energy expenditure, and exhaustion) – a key factor in determining life expectancy [4].

The majority of these longevity benefits are from moderate exercise. Most endurance athletes perform far beyond the recommended levels of physical activity. Studies have shown that this sort of exercise is not healthy and can actually lead to a 10-20% increase in heart size and increase the risk of a sudden heart attack [1].

In fact, the longevity benefits associated with exercise might be achievable with non-exercise physical activity (NEPA) like gardening, walking or just being on one’s feet all day. Like exercise, “NEPA is associated with more preferable waist circumference, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides, fasting insulin, fasting glucose, and better metabolic and heart health in men” [5].

Exercise also increases klotho, which is a protein and gene associated with longevity.

I personally encourage a combination of NEPA (e.g. standing desk, taking walks, treadmill desks, bike desk, etc.) and high-intensity interval training.

2) Heat Stress and Sauna

A recent, exciting study of 2,315 Finnish men aged 42-60 found that regular sauna use led to considerably decreased risks of heart disease and a lower chance of dying from all causes [6].

Those who enjoy a sauna 4-7 times per week have a 48% lower risk of fatal heart disease or heart attack over those that used the sauna once per week [6].

Worms exposed to heat stress for no more than 2 hours showed increased longevity. The heat stress appeared to protect the worms against age-related frailty [7].

Heat shock proteins produced during heat stress are important for basic cellular maintenance e.g. preventing harmful accumulations of unhealthy proteins. Flies repeatedly exposed to heat stress had a significant increase in lifespan, correlating with higher levels of heat shock proteins (Hsp70) [8].

Yeast exposed to mild heat stressors lived longer (possibly due to RAS genes) [9].

Heat stress acts as a hormetic response that reduces protein damage and buildup by boosting antioxidant activity, as well as repair and degradation processes (autophagy) [10].

Saunas are the best way to experience thermal stress.

3) Sleep

One study reviewed all previous population studies (total of 1,382,999 participants) and found that both too short and excessively long sleep durations were linked to a greater risk of death.

Individuals that slept less than 6 hours per night had a greater risk of dying than those sleeping 7 to 8.

Individuals that slept more than 9 hours per night had a 30% greater risk of dying than those sleeping 7 to 8.

The negative effects of not enough sleep were the same for all ages, regardless of location or social and economic status.

It’s probably the case that people who need to sleep longer are unhealthier, but sleeping more is not worse for your health (I think people should sleep as long as there body desires).

Shorter sleep duration has been linked to increased risk of heart attack [1112, 13].

Short sleep duration has also been associated with high blood pressure [14, 15].

Too little sleep is tied to obesity [16, 17, 18].

Lack of sleep can cause type 2 diabetes.

If you want to achieve optimal health you should avoid sleep deprivation. Be cautious of anyone selling you the idea that you can sleep for less than 6 hours and still be healthy.

You can optimize your sleep by improving your circadian rhythm.

If you have trouble falling asleep try these methods.

4) Stress Reduction

Mothers caring for chronically ill children experienced changes to their chromosomes equivalent to several years of extra aging.

A study found that chronic stress experienced by carers for people with Alzheimer’s disease shortened the caregivers’ lives by 4-8 years.

Both groups of carers had lowered immune function (fewer lymphocytes), more inflammation (more cytokines) and shorter telomeres.

I recommend avoiding stressful triggers as much as possible.

You can also change what your body perceives as stress by deep breathing exercises and meditation.

5) Social

A Chinese study showed that the enhanced social status associated with becoming an academic led to an average increase in lifespan of 1.2 years [19].

A very recent analysis found that greater social integration is associated with a lower risk of bad health at any age. In adolescence, social isolation caused levels of inflammation equivalent to physical inactivity. In later life, such isolation led to higher blood pressure than diabetes [20].


6) Caloric Restriction

Caloric restriction is a dietary plan that reduces total calories (usually by 20-40%) without causing malnutrition.

Studies on species such as yeast, worms, flies and small mammals have demonstrated that long term caloric restriction can, assuming adequate nutrients are present, significantly increase lifespan and reduce the risk of developing a host of diseases.

CR promotes life extension by normalizing blood sugar levels in humans. It does this by improving pancreatic cell function and increasing liver insulin sensitivity [21].

CR reduces the incidence of heart disease by normalizing high blood pressure and preventing the growth of the heart [22].

CR can improve longevity by reducing the rate of cancer. One study on monkeys showed a 50% drop in cancer rates after CR [23].

This could be because CR consistently reduces levels of growth factors, hormones (such as Growth Hormone, IGF-1, Testosterone), inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress markers associated with cancer growth [23].

CR improves the survival rates of mice that have cancer (lymphoma) by reducing cancer cell proliferation and making tumors sensitive to certain proteins (e.g Bcl-2) that regulate the death of unhealthy cells [24].

A study on CR in mice found a correlation between body weight and longevity, suggesting that increased metabolic efficiency from CR is related to longevity [25].

CR slows the aging process by acting as a low-grade stressor and thereby creating a hormetic response (beneficial response to the low-grade stressor) [26].

One example of this is mitochondrial hormesis where CR encourages the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS serve as molecular signals that turn on defense mechanisms that encourage adaptive stress resistance [27].

CR might increase longevity by increasing SIRT1 [28].

CR might exert its longevity effects by lowering insulin-like growth factor [29].

Longevity researchers agree that caloric restriction is a consistently effective way to increase lifespan in laboratory animals. As a result, a lot of research has gone into finding compounds that can mimic this effect. Many of which are mentioned below.

In monkeys, one study published in 2014 showed increase lifespan from CR [30], while another study published in 2012 did not show a difference [31].

The negative result from the 2012 study may be because they fed a healthier diet to the control group or because the monkeys were genetically different [31].

This means that if you’re eating a junk food diet or if you have a certain set of genes, CR may provide significant longevity benefits.

7) Ketosis

Ketone supplementation (beta-hydroxybutyrate) extended the lifespan of worms by around 20%. Worms on a restricted diet did not see as dramatic increases in life expectancy, indicating that supplemental ketones act on the same longevity pathways as calorie restriction [32].

As already mentioned, sirtuins help control the balance between cell death, cell survival, and cell reproduction, and play a role in the regulation of metabolism and stress, important factors that affect the process of aging [33].

Ketones produced during ketosis can increase Sirtuin activity in neurons (particularly sirt1) by increasing cellular levels of Sirt1’s cofactor NAD(+) [34].

See here for the best way I have found to get into ketosis.

8) Fasting

Religious & traditional cultures have long recognized that fasting has spiritual and bodily benefits.

In 1956, a Spanish study, which looked at 60 elderly men and women who fasted every other day for three years, found that there were less than half as many deaths and trips to the hospital in the fasted group than the non-fasted group [35].

Fasting for 2-4 days can “reboot” the immune system, lower Insulin-like growth factor, help clear out damaged cells (autophagy) and regenerate new, healthy ones [36, 37].

Long-lived animals and people usually have low insulin. Intermittent fasting improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity [38].

Intermittent fasting increases the lifespan of worms by altering gene transcription (by changing transcription factors KGB-1/AP-1 and DAF-16) [39].

Fasting causes mild stress within the body as it produces free radicals, molecules often linked with aging. This causes the SIRT3 gene to up the production of sirtuins, proteins associated with longevity [40].

Free radicals can actually increase lifespan by acting as low-grade stressors and making the body adapt accordingly (hormetic response). So taking “healthy” antioxidants like Vitamin C and E might not be such a good idea for longevity [40].

In rats, periodic fasting protects brain neurons against damaging stress. Alternate-day fasting made the rats’ brains resistant to toxins that cause cellular damage.

Fasting mice have higher levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Low levels of BDNF are associated with everything from depression to Alzheimer’s.

9) Methionine Restriction

Methionine is an essential amino acid.

A high amount of methionine is very toxic to both young and adult mammals, and this toxicity far exceeds that produced by the excess intake of any other amino acid [41].

In flies, methionine restriction (by 67%) extended maximum and mean lifespan by 2.4% and 10.5%, respectively [42].

In rats, methionine restriction (by 80%) increased median and maximum lifespan by 30% and 40%, respectively [43].

Methionine restriction delayed the onset of age-dependent disease and extended lifespan by decreasing body fat and insulin resistance in rats and mice – independently of Calorie Restriction [44, 45].

Although the mechanisms of methionine restriction-induced lifespan extension were not fully understood, a few studies suggested that it was different to Calorie Restriction at the molecular level in mammals [46].

10) Glucose Restriction

In worms, glucose restriction increases lifespan [47].

Reduced glucose availability promotes the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), induces catalase activity, and increases oxidative stress resistance and survival rates. These effects lead to “mitochondrial hormesis” [47].


11) Fiber/Butyrate

Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid produced during fermentation by the gut microbiota.

Feeding a form of butyrate to flies increased their maximum lifespan by 30-50% [48].

Similar life extension properties of butyrate have been observed in worms.

One of the primary mechanisms by which Butyrate extends lifespan is by altering the copying of genes that code for longevity (e.g glutathione S-transferase & superoxide dismutase) [48].

Internal Butyrate levels can be increased via supplementation, or by eating more resistant starch and non-digestible fibers that encourage colonic fermentation.

I recommend:

  • Butyrate
  • Hi-Maize resistant starch at 50g/day to start
  • I also use HMB

12) Seafood

Mice fed a diet rich in DHA lived longer and had better brain function than those fed a diet high in saturated fats [49].

Researchers looked at 16 years worth of data on 2,700 healthy adults over the age of 65. They found that individuals with higher levels of all three fatty acids found in fish (DHA, EPA, DPA) had a lower risk of death [49]:

  • DHA was linked to a 40% reduction in risk of death by heart disease.
  • EPA was associated with a lower risk of heart attacks.
  • DPA was associated with a lower risk of death from stroke.

Those with high levels of all of these fatty acids were 27% less likely to die during the study. They also lived 2 years longer, on average [49].

Another study found that fish oil consumption might increase lifespan by activating cell turnover (autophagy) [50].

I recommend:

  • Eating seafood
  • Taking a DHA supplement if you don’t eat seafood daily

13) Olive Oil

A number of researchers have linked olive oil to the healthy lifespans of those eating a Mediterranean diet [51].

A study split rats up into two groups: one was fed sunflower oil and the other consumed olive oil. Over 40% of the sunflower oil group died of cancer. There were very few cancerous deaths in the rats that were fed olive oil. A number of similar studies have found that animals live longer also have a reduced risk of cancer when fed olive oil [52].

Consumption of 25ml of olive oil daily was shown to reduce the oxidization of DNA [53, 54].

Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants (phenols, secoiridoids, and lignans). These antioxidants might increase lifespan by scavenging inflammatory free radicals [52].

Olive oil can oxidize and go rancid. It is always best to buy olive oil in dark bottles. Try not to expose the olive oil to unnecessary exposure to air or heat. Try to buy single source olive oils.

14) Nuts

A study at Harvard found that people who consumed nuts daily were less likely to die of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease and were, overall, 20% less likely to die during the study than nut avoiders [55].

People should not consume nuts if on a lectin avoidance diet.

15) Chocolate

In one study researchers found that Cacao extended lifespan and improve cognitive performance in rats when fed at daily doses of 24 mg/kg of body weight [56].

Another study split 470 men into two categories: those that eat a lot of chocolate and those that don’t eat much chocolate. The study found that men were twice as likely to die from a heart attack in the chocolate-phobic group [57].

The high cocoa group had lower blood pressure and improved insulin sensitivity. In general, men who ate the most chocolate were less likely to die from any cause [57].

An 18-year study of just under 8,000 Harvard graduates revealed that men, but not women, who ate chocolate lived almost a year longer than those who did not.

A recent British study found that middle-aged and older adults who consume up to 3.5 ounces of chocolate a day have lower rates of heart disease. 12% of chocolate eaters died of heart disease during the study, compared to 17.4% of non-chocolate eaters [58].

16) Black Rice

A study on flies found that Black Rice extract could increase average lifespan by 14% by modulating certain genes important for the antioxidant system (SOD1, SOD2, CAT, Mth, and Rpn11) [59].

People should not consume rice if on a lectin avoidance diet unless it’s pressure cooked.

17) Blueberries

Blueberry extracts given to fruit flies resulted in a 10% increase in lifespan [60].

Another study found that blueberry polyphenols given to worms increased lifespan in a way that was not explainable solely by the high antioxidant content of blueberries [61]

Blueberry extract might increase lifespan by up-regulating certain genes (e.g. that code for SOD, CAT, and RPn11) and down-regulating other genes (e.g. MTH) [60].

18) Apples

Fruit flies lived 10% longer when fed a diet rich in apple polyphenols [62].

As with blueberries, this increase in lifespan was correlated with the polyphenols ability to up-regulate or down-regulate certain genes (SOD, CAT, MTH, and Rpn11) [62].

19) Nectarine

Nectarine can enhance lifespan and healthspan by positively affecting glucose metabolism and limiting oxidative damage [63].

20) Coffee

Coffee is the top sources of caffeine and antioxidant polyphenols in the American diet [64].

People who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had a 15% lower risk of early death than those who didn’t [65].

Habitual coffee consumption is associated with reduced mortality [66]

Coffee drinkers have lower risks of heart failure, stroke, diabetes and cancers [64].

A Swedish study found that moderate coffee consumption increased the chances of live to 100 years old [67].

Coffee can leach the body of calcium so coffee drinkers should eat or supplement with adequate calcium [64].

People should not consume coffee if on a lectin avoidance diet.

21) Pomegranate

Pomegranate juice increases lifespan in worms [68].

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About the Author

Joe Cohen, BS

Joe Cohen won the genetic lottery of bad genes. As a kid, he suffered from inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, and other issues that were poorly understood in both conventional and alternative medicine.Frustrated by the lack of good information and tools, Joe decided to embark on a journey of self-experimentation and self-learning to improve his health--something that has since become known as “biohacking”. With thousands of experiments and pubmed articles under his belt, Joe founded SelfHacked, the resource that was missing when he needed it. SelfHacked now gets millions of monthly readers.Joe is a thriving entrepreneur, author and speaker. He is the CEO of SelfHacked, SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer.His mission is to help people gain access to the most up-to-date, unbiased, and science-based ways to optimize their health.
Joe has been studying health sciences for 17 years and has read over 30,000 PubMed articles. He's given consultations to over 1000 people who have sought his health advice. After completing the pre-med requirements at university, he founded SelfHacked because he wanted to make a big impact in improving global health. He's written hundreds of science posts, multiple books on improving health, and speaks at various health conferences. He's keen on building a brain-trust of top scientists who will improve the level of accuracy of health content on the web. He's also founded SelfDecode and LabTestAnalyzer, popular genetic and lab software tools to improve health.

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