What you can do now

The incredible impact of a healthy diet & lifestyle. Simple behavioral changes to help you live healthier, longer.

Do you realize how quickly you can improve your health by simply modifying your lifestyle? It’s true — and you’ve heard it before: Eating healthy, exercising, and avoiding smoking and alcohol have a profound impact on your quality of life, health span, and lifespan. And while these simple changes might seem like common sense, most people don’t realize just how impactful they can be. 

In fact, studies have shown time and time again that simple lifestyle changes can increase the length and quality of your life. One landmark study from Harvard School of Public Health found that middle-aged men who followed five “low-risk” guidelines (never smoking; moderate alcohol intake; regular physical activity, a normal weight; and a healthy diet) could expect to live 12.2 years longer than men who followed none of them, while women could expect to live an extra 14 years. The study also found that people who adopted a healthy lifestyle had an 82% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 65% lower risk of dying from cancer. 

In other words, the biggest threats to your health are largely preventable— but with an overabundance of information out there about diets, exercise, and different ways to handle stress, how do you know which changes to implement? Read on to learn about several easy lifestyle changes suggested by the LIFE FORCE team of experts.

The Power of a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet

Evidence shows that the typical Western diet is not healthy. Many of us consume too much sugar, meat, fat, salt, and far too many calories, causing chronic inflammation and many of the mechanisms that underlie chronic disease. Many studies have also found that diets high in animal protein — especially red and processed meats when not accompanied by fruits and vegetables — are associated with increased risks of illnesses like breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

Dr. Dean Ornish, professor of medicine at UC San Francisco and pioneering researcher in preventing chronic disease, says that the key is in reducing refined carbs (found in rice, pizza, pasta, pastries, juice, and sodas) and replacing them with “good carbs” found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and soy products. 

Most good carbs are low in fat, high in fiber, and “don’t provoke these repeated insulin surges,” says Ornish, which can “lead to metabolic syndrome and, ultimately, type 2 diabetes.” Not to mention, they contain thousands of protective substances that have anti-cancer, anti–heart disease, and anti-aging properties.

The point is, when you eat fewer harmful foods and replace them with protective foods, you gain what Ornish views as a “double benefit.” In dietary terms, it’s the ultimate win-win.

One other visionary in the field of longevity, Dr. Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California, also recommends a plant-based diet to increase longevity. 

In one of his studies, Dr. Longo examined the effects of protein consumption on the mortality of people over the age of 50, finding that those who ate high levels of protein were more than four times as likely to die of cancer than people who ate low levels of protein. The group that ate high levels of protein also had a 74% increase in their risk of dying from any cause. But what really mattered was whether the protein they ate came from plants or animals, concluding that plant-based proteins were healthy, whereas “high levels of animal proteins promote mortality.”

Like Dr. Ornish’s diet, Dr. Longo’s “Longevity Lifestyle and Diet” consists almost entirely of plant-based foods. And while many people buy into the idea that you must eat meat to get enough protein, some of the most healthy and energetic people in the world, including GOAT quarterback Tom Brady and many centenarians, stick to a mostly plant-based diet.

How Intermittent Fasting Can Heal and Protect

According to Dr. Longo, eating a plant-rich diet is fantastic, but it’s only half the story. The other half of his strategy for increasing longevity is intermittent fasting — or letting the body rest from the constant consumption, breakdown, and digestion of food. 

In the U.S., people typically eat over a period of approximately 15 hours, without ever taking a sustained break. But looking back throughout human evolution, you’ll see that humans never had instant access to food in a continuous way, and were not built to be constantly eating.

Since the 1980s, Dr. Longo has researched whether fasting can enhance the lifespan of humans, and has found through a number of studies that it can be a powerful weapon against obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cardiovascular disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s

The key is finding a way of fasting that’s manageable. One approach he suggests is called “time-restricted feeding,” in which you eat an early dinner (ideally finishing three hours before you sleep), and then eat nothing for the next 12 hours. Most people are sleeping for six to eight hours of the fast, so it is relatively simple. 

Oxygen and Water: The Fundamentals to Your Health

While the food you put into your body is crucial to your health, you can’t think of your diet as solely food. Water plays a crucial role in many functions of the body — from transporting proteins and carbohydrates through the bloodstream, to flushing out waste through urine. 

Because the body is made up of so much water, it’s not surprising that your body will start to malfunction when you’re dehydrated. In fact, scientists have shown that even mild dehydration can cause a significant impairment of concentration, memory, alertness, and physical endurance. 

So how much water should you consume? One easy guideline is to divide your weight (in pounds) by two and drink that amount of water (in ounces) per day. So if you weigh 180 pounds, you’d drink 90 ounces of water per day, a little less than three liters. Adding fresh lemon is an easy way to improve digestion, manage appetite, and protect the body from cell damage due to oxidation. 

There’s one other basic lifestyle choice that can change your life, and health, for the better: your breath. Just like water, you can’t live without oxygen, and your breathing greatly affects the quality of your life as it produces different emotional and physical states. 

By becoming more conscious of your breath and doing some simple breathing patterns, you can oxygenate the body, get the carbon dioxide and toxins out of your system, reduce stress, and break your mental pattern when you need a reset. Try rhythmically synchronizing your breath to your steps while walking, or inhaling for a few seconds, holding your breath for a few seconds, and then exhaling over the period of four minutes.
As you’ll discover, these breathing patterns — along with adopting a healthy diet that works for you — can offer an easy and powerful way to upgrade your mood, vitality, and your health.