December 3rd, 2009
10:11 AM ET

Can I increase my lifespan?

As a feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers' questions. Here's a question for Dr. Gupta.

CNN blogger, Beata, asks:

"Of those who have lived long lives, what is the common thread? What's the one thing I can do today that can make me live longer?"


For well over a decade I've been investigating the answer to this question. The good news is there are actually a lot of small lifestyle changes you can make today that will add years to your life. For instance, flossing can add a year to your life – a whole year – just by adding 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. Cut 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. Our bodies simply start to shut down and become unable to tolerate the assault being placed on them every day.

Earlier this week I sat down with anti-aging expert Dan Buettner. He explores the world searching for longevity hotspots, known as blue zones, and looks for the lessons we can learn from them. One thing Buettner points out is that the people who live long lives in blue zones around the world are stressed out too. Yet they are still living disease free and often to 100 years old. The difference is they don't internalize their stress as most of us do. They all practice simple techniques to de-stress including praying, napping, even happy hour. Also meditating, which I have started, for 20 minutes every day and taking time for yourself every day can help.

In case you missed it, click here to hear more of my conversation with the world's leading anti-aging experts and get more tips to live a longer, healthier life.

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About this blog

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.