Top secret for longevity: expert weighs in

Longevity and mental health are more closely linked than you may realize. “Our bodies and minds are not separate, so it really comes as no surprise that our mental health and our physical health are closely linked, especially when it comes to aging,” says Regina Koepp, a board-certified clinical psychologist and the founder of the Center for Mental Health and Aging, tells Yahoo Life.

Her advice: Focus on improving your mental health and longevity while also working on your physical health. “Maintaining your mental health is actually key to living a long and fulfilled and healthy life,” she says. Working on your mental health is easier than you might think if, as Koepp recommends, you can integrate these simple steps into your life.

1. Practice goal-directed activities.

Here are 5 expert-approved secrets to living a long and healthy life

Participating in a hobby or spiritual practice can promote good mental health. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

Purposeful activities such as volunteering, pursuing a hobby, or doing spiritual practice can help promote good mental health. Why? They lower your stress levels, which reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, heart attacks, and depression, says Koepp. Koepp says this is one of her “favorite tips” for improving mental health because almost anyone can do it.

2. Exercise regularly.

Mental health is the key to a long life, according to this expert. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week can help prevent mental health problems, says Koepp. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

“People who lead a physically active lifestyle have a lower risk of heart disease and cognitive decline,” says Koepp, noting that “stretching isn’t enough.” She suggests doing the recommended daily 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week, along with strength-based activities like lifting weights two days a week. This, Koepp explains, increases production of the feel-good hormones serotonin and endorphins, and reduces the risk of depression. Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen to see if it’s a good fit for you.

3. Fuel up with healthy foods.

Eating well is a big step toward mental health — and longevity, according to an expert.

Eating well is a big step toward mental health — and longevity, according to an expert. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

A diet that focuses primarily on plant foods is key, but Koepp specifically recommends eating high-fiber foods, along with plenty of “key foods,” such as legumes, spinach, blueberries, and nuts.

Eating a healthy diet “may improve blood pressure [and] cholesterol, and reduce the risk of diabetes, stroke, vascular disease and depression,” says Koepp.

4. Sleep well and regularly.

Mental health is the key to a long life, according to this expert. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

You snooze, you WIN when it comes to mental health and longevity. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

Sleeping well is related to good brain health and physical health, especially as we age,” says Koepp. Current recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are that most adults should aim for seven or more hours of sleep per day. night.

Koepp recommends creating a good bedtime routine to optimize your sleep, including avoiding screen time for at least an hour before bed, keeping your room dark and cool. “What’s really important is to go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning,” she says. “That actually gives you the best results with your sleep schedule.”

5. Have a healthy attitude about aging.

Mental health is the key to a long life, according to this expert. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

You control the story when it comes to aging and your mental health, says Koepp. [Photo credit: Liliana Penagos]

There are many negative stereotypes about aging, and Koepp says they can be detrimental to your health. “Studies have shown that people with a more positive view of aging live seven and a half years longer than people with a negative view of aging,” she says. “This means that if you catch yourself with negative stereotypes about aging, you just need to change the story [and] counter the stereotype with something else.”

Her advice: Try to stop making negative statements about yourself and linking it to aging — like saying your left hip hurts “because I’m getting old.” Remind yourself that your right hip doesn’t hurt and is the same age. “Change the story,” she advises.

Focusing on the positive will boost self-esteem while also reducing anxiety and stress, says Koepp.

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