January 2nd, 2009
09:52 AM ET

How to add years to your life

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent

“No one wants to live forever, but no one wants to die tomorrow either.”

That's what a longevity researcher told me when I was writing a book about the subject. Of course, that phrase presents a certain problem. How long do you want to live and why?

Most people will naturally couch their answer to that question with “well, it depends…what kind of shape my mind and body is in as I get older?” Fair enough. Most of us want to live long and functional lives. And, short of going to stem cell clinics in Moscow (which I visited) or studying suspended animation in Seattle, there are some simple things we can do that can pretty reliably add years to our lives. Up to 10 years. Watch more on how to live longer.

Flossing can add a year to your life – a whole year – just by adding a few minutes to your daily routine. Turns out there's a pretty clear link between gum disease and heart disease. Flossing is your best bet at stopping that.

Here are a few more: a low dose aspirin a day could add two years, and limiting your coffee intake to two cups a day could add another year. Simply checking blood pressure regularly could add one and a half years, and exercising three times a week could add three years. Cutting work hours down to a manageable 40-50 hours a week and you add another one and a half years. Add it all up – and you have added a decade of functional life.

I will be the first to admit, it isn't always easy to practice what I preach, especially when it comes to the work hour issue. But, we do know stress affects just about every part of our bodies – from our jaws tightening to our hearts racing and GI system malfunctioning. Our bodies simply start to shut down and become unable to tolerate the assault being placed on them every day. Meditating, which I have started, for 20 minutes every day and taking time for yourself every day can help.

And all of this brings us back to the original question: how long do you want to live and do you have a plan to get there?

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.