TIME health

5 Ways to Relax In No Time At All

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Ever felt like you just can’t unwind after a demanding week? That’s because stress triggers your body’s fight or flight response: your adrenaline starts pumping, your heart beats faster, and your blood pressure rises, explains Ash Nadkarni, MD, an associate psychiatrist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital. “Long-term overexposure to stress hormones can cause increased risk of health problems such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and memory and concentration problems,” Dr. Nadkarni adds.

That’s not exactly a relaxing thought. So what should you do when calming classics like downward-facing dog and chamomile tea don’t work? Check out these alternative ways to de-stress recommended by experts and recent studies.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

Wake up early

It may feel counterintuitive to deprive yourself of sleep, but giving yourself an extra 15 to 20 minutes before you head out the door will leave you feeling more refreshed—and less frazzled. “Take time in the morning to center yourself,” says San Francisco-based psychologist Leslie Carr, PsyD. “A lot of people shoot out into their days like a rocket ship and it never gets better from there,”

Consider that caffeine takes 20 minutes to be metabolized for you to feel its effect. During that time, think about your goals for the day or read something inspirational. You might find that your normally crazy day goes a little smoother.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

Create a soothing space

Research suggests that warm colors like red excite you and cooler, muted colors like blue, green, or grey relax you, says Molly Roberts, MD, president of the American Holistic Medical Association—but surrounding yourself in any color you find soothing can help bring on calm. “The theory behind the use of color therapy is that colors enter the eyes, which then send messages along the nerve pathways to the area of the brain that regulates emotion,” Roberts says. “There are a lot of ways to surround yourself with colors that can ease stress throughout the day.” Her suggestions: at home, paint an accent wall; and at the office, drape a soothing-colored scarf over the back of your chair and change your computer screensaver.

Clean out your junk drawers

When you’re feeling emotionally drained, chances are whipping out your Swiffer is the last thing you want to do. But the truth is, tidying up your home can also tidy up your mind. “Having a mindset of de-cluttering helps to manage stress,” says Lauren Napolitano, PsyD, a psychologist at Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania. “Purging unused items gives a sense of order to your physical environment, which helps you feel calmer about your stressors.” She suggests starting with a small project, like your kitchen junk drawer. “Tangible or visible organization leads to emotional organization,” Napolitano says. If you’re ready to take it up a notch, schedule monthly donation pickups with Goodwill to keep yourself in the de-cluttering habit.

Visualize your stressful thoughts

Your coworker just threw you under the bus. Your husband forgot to walk the dog. When it’s that kind of day, try thought diffusion, “a sort of visual mindfulness meditation, a way to sweep out whatever is buzzing around unhelpfully in your head,” says Erin Olivo, PhD, an assistant professor of medical psychology at Columbia University and author of Wise Mind Living: Master Your Emotions, Transform Your Life.
Health.com: The Worst Ways to Deal With Stress
Here’s how it works: Imagine your thoughts are like clouds in the sky, and let them drift by above you. “When you begin to observe your thoughts as mental objects that simply come and go, they become less unpleasant, less threatening and less emotionally powerful,” Olivo says.

Watch cat videos

There’s a reason Buzzfeed links are popping up all over your newsfeed. There’s nothing that will relieve some tension like watching a baby masterfully dancing to Beyonce or a cat riding a Roomba in a shark costume.

“After a stressful day, looking at these funny things actually activates the part of the brain that delivers tranquility and a calm physiological response,” says Rose Hanna, a relationship counselor and professor of psychology and women’s studies at California State University Long Beach. “This decreases anxiety and helps tremendously with reducing stress.”

Health.com: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

5 Weird Ways Stress Can Actually Be Good for You

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We hear over and over again that stress is unhealthy. And all that talk makes us, well, stressed. But getting worked up isn’t always a bad thing, says Richard Shelton, MD, vice chair for research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama Birmingham; after all, the body’s fight-or-flight response is meant to be protective, not harmful.

It’s only when stress becomes chronic, or when we feel we’re no longer in control of a situation, that it negatively affects our health and wellbeing.

Here, then, are five reasons you should rest easier when it comes to everyday stress—and how a little short-term anxiety can actually benefit your brain and body.

It helps boost brainpower

Low-level stressors stimulate the production of brain chemicals called neurotrophins, and strengthen the connections between neurons in the brain. In fact, this may be the primary mechanism by which exercise (a physical stressor) helps boost productivity and concentration, Dr. Shelton says. Short-term psychological stressors, he adds, can have a similar effect, as well. Plus, animal studies have suggested that the body’s response to stress can temporarily boost memory and learning scores.

Health.com: Best and Worst Ways to Cope With Stress

It can increase immunity—in the short term

“When the body responds to stress, it prepares itself for the possibility of injury or infection,” says Dr. Shelton. “One way it does this is by producing extra interleukins—chemicals that help regulate the immune system—providing at least a temporary defensive boost.” Research in animals support this idea, as well: A 2012 Stanford study found that subjecting lab rats to mild stress produced a “massive mobilization” of several types of immune cells in their bloodstreams.

It can make you more resilient

Learning to deal with stressful situations can make future ones easier to manage, according to a large body of research on the science of resilience. It’s the idea behind Navy SEAL training, Dr. Shelton says—although you can certainly benefit from less extreme experiences, as well. “Repeated exposure to stressful events gives [SEALs] the chance to develop both a physical and psychological sense of control, so when they’re in actually combat they don’t just shut down,” he says.

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

This idea may even hold true at a cellular level: A 2013 University of California San Francisco study found that while chronic stress promotes oxidative damage to our DNA and RNA, moderate levels of perceived daily stress actually seem to protect against it and enhance “psychobiological resilience.”

It motivates you to succeed

Good stress, also known in the scientific community as eustress, may be just the thing you need to get job done at work. “Think about a deadline: It’s staring you in the face, and it’s going to stimulate your behavior to really manage the situation effectively, rapidly, and more productively,” says Dr. Shelton. The key, he says, is viewing stressful situations as a challenge that you can meet, rather than an overwhelming, unpassable roadblock.

Eustress can also help you enter a state of “flow,” a heightened sense of awareness and complete absorption into an activity, according to research from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow can be achieved in the workplace, in sports, or in a creative endeavor (such as playing a musical instrument), and Csikszentmihalyi argues that it’s driven largely by pressure to succeed.

Health.com: 13 Ways to Beat Stress in 15 Minutes or Less

It can enhance child development

Moms-to-be often worry that their own anxiety will negatively affect their unborn babies—and it can, when it’s unrelenting. But a 2006 Johns Hopkins study found that most children of women who reported mild to moderate stress levels during pregnancy actually showed greater motor and developmental skills by age 2 than those of unstressed mothers. The one exception: the children of women who viewed their pregnancy as more negative than positive had slightly lower attention capacity.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME career

5 Ways to Stay Cool Under Pressure

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Real Simple asked five professionals with (unusually) stressful jobs to share their best secrets for keeping a level head.

1. Before a Stressful Event, Stage a Mental Dress Rehearsal

In surgery, you don’t have the luxury of wondering, What if this doesn’t work? It has to work. That’s why, the night before a big procedure, I run through the entire thing like a movie in my head. I also visualize what I’ll do in the event of major complications—which can make a huge difference. During a recent operation, my team encountered a problem when a hole opened in the vena cava, the largest vein in the body, during the removal of an attached tumor. It’s a terrifying situation: The person could bleed to death in minutes. But I had considered this possibility beforehand. So when the vein ruptured, I knew exactly what to do and quickly restored control. And I’m happy to report, the patient is doing fine.

Thomas Heffernan is a cancer surgeon in Dallas.

(MORE FROM REAL SIMPLE: 5 Types of Friends Everyone Should Have)

2. Address the Most Urgent Need First

During my 21 years as an air-traffic controller, I’ve had a number of unexpected things happen, from a bomb threat to a helicopter pilot telling me that he had lost his engine and needed to land right away. I always remember what a veteran controller once told me: “It’s always going to get crazy—just don’t get flustered by it. Prioritize as you go, and that way you’ll get through the decision-making process.” It’s crucial to discern between a real emergency and something that can wait. For example, a departing flight that cannot get its gear to retract is less critical than an aircraft with smoke in the cockpit. For me, safety trumps efficiency every time.

Cherie Hitt is a supervisory air-traffic controller at the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International.

3. Listen

You can’t succeed in improv if you go onstage and just start telling jokes. You have to be flexible and pay attention to what people are saying so a scene doesn’t go astray. When you watch talented performers, you can see that they’re committed to the reality that’s being created onstage. In moments when they might not know what to say, they lean on their fellow cast members for more information. Often the group mind is more intelligent than any one given perspective. Yes, even yours.

Matt Walsh is a cofounder of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv sketch-comedy troupe. He lives in Los Angeles.

(MORE FROM REAL SIMPLE: How to Improve Memory)

4. Know When to Take a Breather

Sometimes during a performance, a tiger will do something potentially dangerous that’s not in the routine. When that happens, I offer verbal reassurance (“OK, calm down”), almost like you would to a pet or a toddler. If that doesn’t work, I try offering red meat (really). But if a cat becomes threatening, I leave the ring so she can relax, even if that leads to an awkward pause in the show. The idea of “the show must go on” is important in the circus community, but I’ve learned not to let that mantra dictate my behavior.

Tabayara Maluenda is an exotic-animal trainer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

5. Block Out Anything Unnecessary

Most of my pressure-filled moments come when big news breaks. On these days, there is so much information to consider that you can’t process it all fast enough to react at the speed of the market. Knowing that I have other people as a backup—to give me a market opinion or help out when I get stuck—helps me make confident, truly informed decisions. When the market starts moving really quickly, I’ll call out, “What’s going on?” My trusted team shouts information at me while I continue to trade and make decisions. Sometimes I close my eyes and breathe—just to clear my head of outside distractions. I know how to decipher my colleagues’ tone of voice and the specific words they use in order to make a lightning-quick decision. This is important, because in my line of work, there are no do-overs.

Doreen Mogavero is the founder and the CEO of—as well as a floor broker for—Mogavero Lee & Co., a boutique brokerage firm in New York City.

This post originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 5

1. The grinding stress of life in poverty – not the scarcity of healthy options – leads the poor to unhealthy eating.

By James McWilliams in Pacific Standard

2. Cutting out the middlemen: Loan servicers aggravate the college debt crisis.

By Chris Hicks in the Reuters Great Debate

3. We must treat addiction as a learning disorder.

By Maia Szalavitz in Substance

4. Stop trying to be the “next Silicon Valley.”

By Ross Baird and Rob Lalka in Forbes

5. A first step: The Ugandan Constitutional Court strikes down that country’s vicious anti-gay law, but more fight remains.

By James K. Arinaitwe and Adebisi Alimi from the Aspen New Voices Fellowship

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Aging

3 Simple Lifestyle Habits That May Slow Aging

There's more evidence for eating well, sleeping, and exercising

Stress makes our bodies age faster, but thankfully we can combat that with healthy eating and exercise, a new study says.

When cells age, telomeres—tips at the end of chromosomes—shorten. Telomeres help regulate the aging of cells, and their length has been used to determine the body’s current state of health. Things like stress and lifestyle behaviors can influence their length, as compelling earlier research has shown. In the new study, University of California, San Francisco, researchers looked at 239 post-menopausal women for a year and found that for every major life stressor they experienced during the year, there was a significant shortening in their telomere length.

That’s not great news, but the researchers also discovered that the women who ate a healthy diet, exercised and slept well had less shortening of their telomeres. It could be that the women’s healthy habits actually protect them from cellular aging, even in the face of life’s stresses.

The study, which is published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, is observational, which means the researchers cannot say with certainty that it was these healthy lifestyles alone that offered them protective benefits. But at the very least, it shows once again that doing our best to eat well, sleep, and exercise can give us an edge.

TIME Stress

Watching TV to Relieve Stress Can Make You Feel Like a Failure

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Losing yourself to the small screen may seem like a good way to relieve stress, but it may only make things worse

It’s almost a reflex — after a tough day, you turn on the TV, or binge-watch your favorite show on Netflix. Getting lost in other people’s troubles, or laughing your way through a sitcom, is a good way to forgot your own worries, right? Turns out that people who rely on TV or video games to relax actually end up feeling like failures afterwards.

Some research has shown that using media can make you more relaxed, since it provides a momentary escape from whatever stresses are eating away at us, but researchers found that particularly busy and fatigued people actually felt guilty about spending so much time in front of the TV. In their study, published in the Journal of Communication, the scientists surveyed 471 people about their previous day, how they felt after work, and what media they turned to at the end of the day.

People who felt especially wiped out saw their media time as a form of procrastination, and felt they were avoiding other important things on their to-do lists. These participants were likely to describe “giving in” to media use, and that feeling prevented them from benefiting from the down time and relaxing. “We are starting to look at media use as a cause of depletion. In times of smartphones and mobile Internet, the ubiquitous availability of content and communication often seems to be a burden and a stressor rather than a recovery resource,” study author Leonard Reinecke of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany said in a statement.

It seems, however, that the content of what people watch on TV can alleviate some of this guilty pleasure perception. Other studies have shown that intellectually stimulating media content (like a History Channel segment or a documentary) can positively impact people’s emotional states, so the study authors believe that watching “low-brow” forms of entertainment (we’re guessing reality TV qualifies here) are more likely to make people feel guilty about using it as a stress-reliever.

The researchers acknowledge that their test set-up can’t prove that watching TV will make you feel worse about yourself; there are certainly other variables that could impact how people feel about their media consumption. If people weren’t satisfied with what they watched, for example, they might have been more likely to feel it was a waste of their time and not as stress-relieving as it could have been. If TV seems too hit-or-miss, there’s always exercise and meditation to help you forget your day.

TIME Stress

Burnout in the Hospital: Why Doctors Are Set Up for Stress

Every job can lead to burnout, but what happens when it strikes doctors, who make decisions that can affect their patients' lives?

Some experts call physician burn out “inevitable,” given the high-pressure environment in which they must make potentially life-saving, and almost always life-altering, choices on a constant basis. Research shows that up to 40% of U.S. doctors experience emotional, physical, and psychological burnout from their jobs, and the consequences are no different for them than they are for people in other occupations — substance abuse and cutting corners.

In the premiere issue of the journal Burnout Research, which is dedicated to research on the topic, Anthony Montgomery, an associate professor in the Psychology of Work and Organizations in the University of Macedonia in Greece, focused on physician burnout, and argues that the way doctors are trained may set them up for a career of frustrations and high-stress situations. And the consequences may be hurting the care they provide patients.

He says that while doctors interact with people on a daily basis, their training and their worth as physicians are focused almost entirely on their technical capabilities, leaving them with few tools for understanding and navigating social interactions and for collaborating as part of a larger team or organization.

Montgomery argues that most medical students are chosen because of their high test scores, so medical school becomes like an extension of school. They then become residents, thrown into a more social environment in which they are expected to interact with patients, hospital staff and colleagues in ways they may not have expected to or been prepared to do. It’s assumed they have the leadership skills and the proper emotional capacity to guide patients through extremely stressful and often traumatic experiences, but not having the tools to manage these situations can be stressful on the doctors themselves. While burnout among physicians is widespread, some studies have shown surgeons and OBGYNs can be at a particularly high risk.

“The irony is that doctors are the one group of people we don’t want to be stressed, yet we are increasing the possibility for them to make mistakes,” says Montgomery. “Doctors understand that their job is to be the best doctor they can, but [they do] not necessarily [understand] their part in helping the hospital as a whole better serve the community.” In his practice, for example, Montgomery says that his colleagues admitted to learning skills like communication and teamwork on the job, after they left medical school.

And that’s not just a problem for the medical community. The more doctors feel stressed about their jobs, the more they feel burned out and defeated by the health care system, leading to less motivation to improve conditions, both for themselves and for patients. A 2012 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine reported that nearly 1 in 2 U.S. physicians report at least one symptom of burnout, like losing enthusiasm for their work, or growing cynical. Forty percent of doctors reported being unsatisfied with their work-life balance and that they did not have time to devote to their families or their personal lives. And in a 2013 study published in JAMA, the consequences of that burnout started to emerge — only 36% of 2,556 surveyed physicians believed doctors had a major responsibility in reducing health care costs, despite the fact that they prescribe the drugs, tests and procedures that can escalate costs. Other studies also link burnout to poorer quality care and increased rates of medical errors.

What can be done to alleviate some of the pressure on physicians? Montgomery cites revisiting the way doctors are educated in order to arm them with stronger social and leadership skills, as well as some untraditional strategies, including teaching mindfulness. Improving the doctor-patient relationship may also help, so physicians and patients collaborate in their care rather than perpetuate a hierarchical system which neither doctor nor patient finds satisfying. He writes: “The uncomfortable truth is that we may need to reimagine healthcare in a way that views some errors as unavoidable, demystifies the physicians as superheroes, engages real patient participation and steers healthcare professionals away from cultures of self-preservation.” In other words, making health care more satisfying for physicians and patients may be a group effort, and that’s something that doctors aren’t quite used to yet.

 

TIME

These 5 Yoga Moves Will Save You From Back Pain

Yoga forearm plank
Trista Weibell—Getty Images

The key to preventing back pain is to strengthen your core and release tension and tightness in the muscles around your upper and lower back. Plus, back pain can often be the result of stress. Yoga will help you relax and unwind mentally and these poses will continue to keep your core strong, your back supported, and your muscles lengthened and released.

Health.com: 15 Natural Back Pain Remedies

The first three yoga poses below connect us to our deep core muscles, which act as an inner girdle. When we tighten and tone our core, it helps us hold everything in and prevents us from straining our back. The last two are great for releasing tension in the upper and lower body. Tight shoulders can cause an achy upper back and tight hips pull on the lower back.

Try incorporating these poses regularly to keep your spine healthy, back strong, core engaged, and joints flexible.

Bird Dog

Start on hands and knees and imagine you have a glass of water on your lower back and one between your shoulder blades. Without spilling any water, reach your right arm forward and your left leg straight back behind you. Hold here for 30-60 seconds bracing your core. Come back to all fours before switching sides. Repeat 3 to 5 times on each side.

Health.com: 12 Yoga Poses for Non-Flexible People

Boat

Sit tall your knees bent and your feet on flat on the floor. Hinge back without rounding in the lower back as you lift your legs out in front of you at a 45-degree angle. Keep drawing our lower abdominals in and up and lengthen out of your lower back. Hold here for 5 to 8 breaths. Lower down and repeat 2 more times.

If this is too challenging with your legs straight, you can bend your knees so the shins are parallel to the floor.

Forearm Plank

If you only have time for one pose, this is the ultimate core move. It really works the entire midsection, deep core muscles and the back, waist, hips, legs, buttocks, arms, and shoulders.

Lie on your and place your elbows under your shoulders, tuck under your toes and press firmly through the back of your legs and heels. Engage your lower abs and tighten your core as you lift your body up off the floor coming in to one straight line of energy from head to toe. Don’t let your ribs splay open or your butt sag or lift too high. Hold for 45-60 seconds then lower down. Repeat 2 to 3 more times.

Health.com: 25 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Cow Face Pose

Start on all fours and slide your right leg over your left leg high at the upper thigh. Sit back between your heels and adjust your hips so they are even distance from each foot. Lift your left arm overhead and bend the elbow so the hand comes down between your shoulder blades. Reach your right arm behind your back and up towards the left hand try and touch the fingers or clasp the hands. If you can’t connect your hands, use a towel or strap. Recline forward over your legs and hold for 5 to 8 breaths. Come up move back on to all fours and repeat on the opposite side.

This pose will stretch out tight external rotators, hips, and buttocks as well as shoulders and upper back.

Camel Pose

Tight hip flexors can pull on the lower back and are often the result of sitting for too long of periods. Camel is an excellent counterpose to the slouched forward position we often assume. Camel opens up the entire front body while stretching the shoulders and front of thighs, hip flexors, quads and psoas muscles.

Health.com: Which Type of Yoga is Best for You?

Come in to a kneeling position with your toes tucked under. Place your hands on your lower back and try and slide your tailbone down towards the floor to lengthen your lower back. Lift your chest up and drop your head back as you reach for your heels (if this places any strain on the back keep your hands on your lower back). Hold and breathe for 5 breaths then lift up. If you want to challenge yourself further repeat the pose with the toes flat on the floor. The goal is to open up the chest and stretch the front of the body while lengthening out of the lower back. Use the strong abdominal muscles you found in the first three postures to support the backbend.

Kristin McGee is a leading yoga and Pilates instructor and healthy lifestyle expert based in New York City. She is an ACE certified personal trainer who regularly trains celebrity clients in New York and Los Angeles. She serves as Health’s contributing fitness editor and is frequently seen on national TV.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Aging

14 Ways to Live a Longer, Healthier Life

These tips will reverse your aging

The answer is more complicated than counting the number of candles you blew out on your last birthday cake. Your daily habits can either add or subtract years from your life—like how much you exercise, or how stressed you allow yourself to be. Read on for 14 things you can start doing today to live a longer, healthier life.

Drop some pounds

Being obese increases the risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease, possibly shaving up to 12 years off your life, per an analysis in the journal Obesity. But being too thin can hike your risk of osteoporosis and poor immune function. So aim to stay at a weight that’s healthy for you.

Cap your drinks

Regularly exceeding one drink a day or three in one sitting can damage organs, weaken the immune system and increase the risk of some cancers.

Ease your stress

Chronic stress makes us feel old—and actually ages us: In a 2012 study, Austrian researchers found that work-related tension harms DNA in our cells, speeding up the shortening of telomeres—which protect the ends of our chromosomes and which may indicate our life expectancy. Of course, it’s impossible to completely obliterate stress. “What’s important is how you manage it,” says Thomas Perls, MD, associate professor at Boston University school of Medicine. Practice yoga, pray, meditate, relax in the shower or do whatever else chills you out.

Health.com:Best and Worst Ways to Cope With Stress

Keep learning

Having more education lengthens your life span, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs, for a number of reasons. Extra schooling may help you become better informed about how to live a healthy life. And educated folks, as a group, have a higher income, which means greater access to good health care and insurance.

Connect

More and more research points to the value of having friends, and not just on Facebook. An Oxford University study found that being married makes you less likely to die of heart disease, which researchers suggest may be due to partners encouraging the other to seek early medical treatment. Same goes for friendships: Australian research showed that people with the most buddies lived 22 percent longer than those with the smallest circle. “Having positive, meaningful, intimate relationships is critical to most people’s well-being,” says Linda Fried, MD, dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Extend a hand

Volunteering is linked to a lower risk of death, a University of Michigan study suggests. But you don’t have to log hours at a soup kitchen: Simply helping friends and family—say, by tutoring your niece or assisting your neighbor with her groceries—lowers blood pressure, according to researchers at the University of Tennessee and Johns Hopkins University.

Health.com: 14 Reasons You’re Always Tired

Work out often

Exercising regularly—ideally at least three days of cardio and two days of strength training a week—may help slow the aging process, Canadian doctors reported. “Being physically active is like keeping the car engine tuned,” Dr. Fried says. “Even if there’s decline with age, it’s less severe.” You were never an athlete? Don’t worry: Starting to work out now can reduce your likelihood of becoming ill going forward, a 2014 study suggests.

Reconsider your protein

A diet rich in processed meat—including hot dogs, sausage, cured bacon and cured deli meats—has been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. Limit your intake as much as possible.

Give up smoking

Lighting up increases your risk of not only lung cancer but also heart disease and cancer of almost every other organ. “Just one cigarette a day can take 15 years off your life,” Dr. Perls says. Though you won’t instantly revert to pre-smoking health, kicking butts will cut your added cardiovascular risk in half after a year and to that of a nonsmoker after 15.

Health.com:15 Ways Smoking Ruins Your Looks

Enjoy your joe

Good news for java lovers: Research indicates that drinking it regularly may protect against diabetes, cirrhosis and liver cancer. And Harvard research suggests that drinking 3 1/2 cups a day may lower risk of heart disease.

Sleep better

For evidence that you can—and should—make slumber a priority, look no further than a 2013 study from the University of Surrey in England, which compared a group who got less than six hours of sleep a night with a group who got 8 1/2 hours. After just one week, snoozing less had altered the expression of 711 genes, including ones involved in metabolism, inflammation and immunity, which may raise the risk of conditions from heart disease to obesity.

Have more sex

The feel-good rush you get from it helps you fight stress and depression, jolt the immune system and lower blood pressure.

Health.com:15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Go Mediterranean

In a 2013 Annals of Internal Medicine study, women who followed a Mediterranean-style diet were 40 percent more likely to live past 70 without major chronic illness than those with less healthy diets. Eat lots of veggies, fruit, fish and whole grains, and avoid simple carbs, such as pasta and sugar (“age accelerators,” Dr. Perls calls them).

Know your history

Have one or more relatives who lived into their 90s? You may be genetically blessed. But that doesn’t mean you should quit the gym and live on doughnuts. “Before you get to extreme ages, healthy lifestyle is more critical than genes,” Dr. Perls says. So thank your ancestors, but stick to vegetables and cardio as life insurance.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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