Small steps to big longevity gains

Life expectancy in North America is at an all-time high. For Americans born in 2012, it hit 78.8 years, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Canada, it's even better — about 81 years. Sure, 25 percent of your destiny is genetic, but you have control over how the rest plays out.

First, find your RealAge at www.realage.com, and then take these steps to make yourself younger today (and tomorrow): Good numbers: Keeping your waist size, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol in the healthy zone dramatically reduces your risk for heart disease, some cancers, diabetes (and all of its complications, such as vision loss and kidney problems) and more. The total benefit is enormous. Longevity bonus: Minding all your numbers can make your RealAge as much as 19.8 years younger.

Daily D-3: Vitamin D is vital for your memory, skin, heart, bones and arteries, and it helps fight off colon, breast and prostate cancer. You'll get some D from foods like salmon, but you'll probably need a supplement, too. Increase absorption 50 percent by taking it with your biggest meal of the day. Longevity bonus: Getting enough vitamin D-3 daily (1,000 IU) can make your RealAge 1.3 years younger.

Social connections: Reach out to family and friends through emails, phone calls and face-to-face visits. Some studies conclude that strong connections with others could increase your chances for a longer life by 50 percent. Wow! One reason: Close relationships help reduce stress. Longevity bonus: Staying connected can make your RealAge 2.5 years younger; managing stress can make your RealAge 1.1 years younger for women, 2.4 years younger for men.

Plenty of produce: Eating five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit per day can help you control your weight, lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes, help protect against some cancers and even boost your mood. It helps at any age: In one recent five-year study of women in their 70s, those who ate the most produce were 46 percent more likely to live longer than those who ate the least. Longevity bonus: A diverse diet that includes plenty of produce can make a woman's RealAge as much as 6.1 years younger and a man's RealAge 4.4 years younger.

Move every day: Daily activity helps you stay slim and plays a role in controlling blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Longevity bonus: Walking at least 20 minutes a day can make a woman's RealAge as much as 1.9 years younger and a man's 1.2 years younger.

Strength-train: A short, sweet muscle-building routine helps you add and maintain muscle mass, keeping your metabolism younger so that around the clock you'll burn more calories. Longevity bonus: Strength-training for just 10 minutes three times per week can make your RealAge as much as 2.6 years younger.

Deep, restful sleep: A recent 14-year study found that women who got at least six hours of shut-eye nightly lived longer those who got less than five hours. It's also important to aim for high-quality sleep. Longevity benefit: Getting adequate sleep — at least six hours, but no more than nine — can make your RealAge up to 1.5 years younger if you're a woman and 0.9 years younger if you're a man.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.sharecare.com.

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