9 things to avoid if you want to live a long life

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Most of us want to live long, healthy lives.

But figuring out how to get there is confusing – there’s so much mixed information out there about what a person should do to increase their health and longevity.

So we’ve collected here nine behaviors that scientists agree measurably shorten people’s lives. None of the items on this list is controversial in the field, even if there’s lots researchers do disagree with.

You’ll notice many of these are foods. That’s because most of the best science on longevity out there, recently reviewed in the sweeping paper “Metabolic Control of Longevity” in the journal Cell, has focused on the relationship between your metabolism and the lifetimes of your cells.

Without further ado, here are nine things to avoid – as much as possible, at least – if you want to live a long and healthy life.

1. Eating sugar

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Source: “Metabolic Control of Longevity”, Cell

2. Skipping sleep

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Source: “Is sleep essential?”, PLOS Biology

3. Eating red meat

Meat and Potatoes

Source: “Metabolic Control of Longevity”, Cell

4. Spending time, pale and unprotected, in bright sunlight

National Library of Australia/Flickr

Source: “Epidemiology of Melanoma and Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer-The Role of Sunlight”, Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology; “Meta-analysis of risk factors for cutaneous melanoma: II. Sun exposure,” European Journal of Cancer

5. Not exercising


Source: “Associations of Light, Moderate, and Vigorous Intensity Physical Activity with Longevity”, American Journal of Epidemiology

6. Smoking cigarettes

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Source: “Cigarette Smoke Induces Cellular Senescence”, American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology

7. Drinking alcohol

Rob Ludacer

Sources: “Alcohol Consumption Over Time and Risk of Death: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis”, American Journal of Epidemiology; “Alcohol consumption and mortality: modelling risks for men and women at different ages”, BMJ; “Light alcohol drinking and cancer: a meta-analysis”, Annals of Oncology

8. Getting stressed out


Source: “Strain, stress, neurodegeneration and longevity”, Mechanisms of Ageing and Development

9. Overeating

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Source: “Metabolic Control of Longevity”, Cell