As time goes on, so does the average life expectancy. According to a 2020 U.S. population report, life expectancy has increased in the last four decades.

“Between 1960 and 2015, life expectancy for the total population in the United States increased by almost 10 years from 69.7 years in 1960 to 79.4 years in 2015,” the report found. Emphasizing that longevity is only expected to increase by 2060, the average life expectancy will be 85.6 years compared to 79.7 in 2017.

“We’ve had a significant increase in lifespan over the last century,” Marie Bernard, deputy director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging, told NIH News in Health. “Now, if you make it to age 65, the likelihood that you’ll make it to 85 is very high. And if you make it to 85, the likelihood that you’ll make it to 92 is very high. So people are living longer, and it’s happening across the globe.”

There are many ways a person can boost their chances of making it to their 70s, 80s and even 90s; lifestyle choices and genetics both play important roles, but not equally.

“It is estimated that about 25% of the variation in human life span is determined by genetics, but which genes, and how they contribute to longevity, are not well understood,” per Medicine Plus.

Individuals who have been deemed the world’s oldest share a wide range of advice when it comes to outliving their generation. Dr. Pepper lover Elizabeth Sullivan, who lived to be 106, drank three of the sodas a day, attributing it to her long life.

“Every doctor that sees me says they’ll kill you, but they die and I don’t. So there must be a mistake somewhere,” Sullivan said, according to Time magazine.

Perhaps not the most promising advice, but there are proven ways to increase longevity with simple lifestyle changes. Aging is unavoidable, but here are three things that could make aging an easier, and perhaps longer, process.

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1. Prioritize healthy eating

Eating a healthy diet is easier said than done when the price, convenience and taste of fast food can seem so appealing, but it can be detrimental to your health.

Research conducted by the Network Science Institute at Northeastern University revealed that a significant 73% of the U.S. food supply is categorized as “ultra-processed.”

“These foods are cheaper, full of additives and are linked to diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and sleep apnea,” the Deseret News previously reported.

Health experts’ advice for avoiding these processed foods is to center your daily diet around whole foods. Frank B. Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told CNBC that diets like the Mediterranean diet, which encourages eating whole grains, vegetables and fruits, among other ingredients, are best for longevity.

“(These) dietary patterns have been shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and also the risk of dementia,” Hu said. “And because those are the major causes of death. That’s why those healthy dietary patterns have been shown to reduce the risk of premature death and lead to longer life expectancies.”

2. Be active

Physical activity can help the body to age with fewer complications. “Natural changes to the body as we age can lead to a gradual loss of muscle, reduced energy, and achy joints,” per NIH News in Health. “These changes may make it tempting to move less and sit more. But doing that can raise your risk for disease, disability, and even death.”

A study published in The Lancet found that engaging in just 15 minutes of daily exercise can provide significant benefits, potentially extending your life span by up to three years. Researchers also found that for every extra 15 minutes of physical activity each day, you can reduce the risk of early mortality by 4%.

“Regular physical activity can extend your life span. Exercising more than 150 minutes per week is best, but even small amounts can help,” Healthline advised.

3. Establish good sleep hygiene

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When you sleep, your body is at its busiest. Without proper sleep, there is less time for your body to recover and recharge from what it goes through during waking hours.

“The point of sleep is not just to help you feel more refreshed, but to allow the cells in your muscles, organs, and brain to repair and renew each night,” according to VeryWell Health. “Research suggests that regularly sleeping for less than seven hours a night can have negative effects on the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems.”

The American College of Cardiology found through research that the following sleep factors increase longevity:

  1. Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
  2. Avoid having more than two nights of struggling to sleep or to stay asleep each week.
  3. Avoid sleep medication.
  4. Feel fully rested when waking up in the morning.

“If people have all these ideal sleep behaviors, they are more likely to live longer,” Frank Qian, an internal medicine resident physician at Beth Israel Deaconess, told the American College of Cardiology. “So, if we can improve sleep overall, and identifying sleep disorders is especially important, we may be able to prevent some of this premature mortality.”

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