(BPT) – Americans are optimistic about their longevity. A recent survey by MDVIP — a national network of primary care doctors focused on preventive medicine — and Ipsos found that 67% of Americans want to live longer than their parents and 87% want to take steps to live healthier for longer. However, 74% of Americans failed a basic 20-question quiz on the lifestyle factors that influence aging and longevity.
Living longer doesn’t happen by accident or by the grace of genetics alone. “Study after study has shown that our lifetime of decisions about what we eat, whether we exercise or whether we’re managing stress have a considerable impact on how well we age,” said Dr. Andrea Klemes, chief medical officer at MDVIP.
Another thing to consider is that extending your lifespan shouldn’t be the only goal. You want to focus on maximizing the number of healthy years of your life. By increasing your “healthspan” — how many years you live without serious disease — you can enjoy your life well into your 80s and beyond.
Here are three simple but essential habits you can incorporate into your life to help improve your healthspan.
1. Invest in your health like you do your finances
According to the survey, 54% of Americans admit they plan more for their financial future than their health. To invest in your health, you need to learn more about your family’s medical history and how lifestyle changes can improve your healthspan.
“Just like you start saving for retirement in your 20s, you need to start investing as early as possible in your health,” said Dr. Klemes. “Try taking a ‘portfolio’ approach to longevity and make sure you have a primary care doctor who will help you build the right mix of healthy habits based on your history, risk factors and goals.”
Investing in your health doesn’t require overhauling your life in one night. You can talk with your doctor about your current health status and work with them on setting realistic goals and benchmarks you can work toward over time. By creating a plan and making small incremental changes to your lifestyle, you can reap dividends in healthier years now and in the future.
2. Prioritize socializing and happiness
When you think about your health, you likely think about what you, as an individual, can do to improve your wellness and longevity. However, your health can be greatly impacted by the relationships you form and maintain throughout your life. That’s because having healthy, stable and strong relationships positively impacts your happiness.
According to an 85-year-long study by Harvard University, there is a direct correlation between social connections and longevity. People who have strong social ties with their friends, family and community are happier, healthier and live longer than those who are less well-connected.
Other research supports the Harvard finding. A 2022 article published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society found that optimism is associated with healthy aging and longevity across racial and ethnic groups. Make it a point to schedule regular calls, meet-ups and activities with people you care about so you can be happier and help contribute to their happiness and health, too.
3. Find a primary care physician
Establishing a relationship with a primary care physician (PCP) and getting annual check-ups is vital to improving your healthspan. A PCP will get to know you and monitor any changes to your health that could otherwise be missed if you don’t have a regular doctor.
Another advantage of having a PCP is that you can talk about your risk factors and ways to prevent disease instead of reacting only to health problems as they appear. MDVIP-affiliated physicians focus on personalized care, early detection and preventive medicine. These PCPs have smaller practices, so they can spend more time and partner with patients to improve their health.
If you want to lead a healthier, more vibrant life, visit MDVIP.com/LongevityIQ and take the Longevity quiz to understand more about the factors that influence aging. There you can also learn what steps you can take to help extend your healthy years.