You may have read recently that New York City residents are outliving the rest of America. According to researchers at the University of Washington, the life expectancy of the average New York City resident is 80.6 years—three years above the national average. What’s more, a New Yorker’s average life expectancy grew a staggering 13.6 years between 1989 and 2009.
The researchers credit the extra years to the New York Health Department’s commitment to curbing the Big Apple’s worst habits: They’ve banned trans fats, added calorie counts to menus, and encouraged physical activity with more bike lanes and walking paths.
But, trust me, New Yorkers haven’t cornered the market on healthy living. In fact, here are 7 simple ways anyone, in any part of the world, can break their date with death.
Skip the Soup, Order the Salad
Italian researchers found that eating as little as 1 cup of raw vegetables daily can add 2 years to your life. Why raw? Cooking can deplete up to 30 percent of the antioxidants in vegetables. To eat your quota, fill a ziplock sandwich bag with chopped red and green peppers, broccoli, and carrots. Toss the bag into your briefcase, along with a packet of dressing—the fat will boost your body's absorption of certain nutrients. Just remember: Not all restaurant salads are good for you! Beware of the 20 Salads Worse Than a Whopper.
Stop Drinking Sugar
Many see New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed ban on sweetened drinks larger than 16 ounces is an infringement of their rights. Perhaps it is. But make no mistake: Sugar-laden drinks are killing you. New research in Circulation links men’s sugary drink consumption to an increased risk of heart attack
Meanwhile, scientists at Loma Linda University found that men who consume five 8-ounce glasses of water each day are 54 percent less likely to suffer a fatal heart attack than those who drink just two glasses or less every day. Hmm . . .
Drop pounds and live longer with Drink This, Not That!, the essential guide to the most popular beverages in restaurants and on supermarket shelves.
Crack Open Some Nuts
When Loma Linda University researchers tracked the lifestyle habits of 34,000 Seventh-Day Adventists—a population famous for its longevity—they discovered that those who munched nuts 5 days a week earned an extra 2.9 years on the planet.
Try the Planters NUT-rition Heart Healthy Mix, developed in conjunction with Men’s Health nutrition team. It contains all five key nuts, including walnuts, which are usually left out of nut mixes. Aim to eat 2 ounces a day.
Cut Calories the Easy Way
In 2008, New York became the first U.S. city to require calories on menu boards at fast food and chain restaurants. Now the Food and Drug Administration is working to make it a national requirement—and with good reason. A recent Health Psychology study found that when we’re given visual portion indicators, we tend to eat less.
We all know the havoc excess body fat can cause: It raises your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and colon cancer. It also brings the reaper to your door sooner. University of Alabama researchers discovered that maintaining a body-mass index of 25 to 35 can shorten your life by up to 3 years. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.
You’re not doomed if your local menus don’t flaunt calories. Nor do you have to spend hours online every day tracking down nutrition data. Start here: Avoid add-ons like cheese, goopy sauces, and mayonnaise, says Elizabeth Gross Cohn, R.N., D.N.Sc., an associate nursing professor at Columbia University. And wash everything down with water.
Explore Your Environment
A 2011 study in Transportation found that increased availability of bike lanes means more people bike to work. (Shocker!) And while New York isn’t a cyclist’s paradise—that would be Portland, perpetually ranked the top cycling city by Bicycling magazine—Gotham is pushing the hardest to catch up, says Ralph Buehler, one of the study authors and an assistant professor in Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech.
Not every city is known for its bike lanes, but most are building initiatives to keep their communities in shape: hiking programs in the mountains, kayaking on large lakes, or webs of running trails (here's proof: our list of the 20 Coolest Triathlons in America). You can jog anywhere—and doing so for just an hour a week can add 6.2 years to your life, according to a Danish study.
Phone a Friend Regularly
In a study of seventysomethings, Australian researchers found that those with the largest network of friends had the longest lease on life. For the average guy, this could add up to 7 additional years of existence.
Yes, some buddies may encourage risky behavior from time to time, but friendship ultimately provides more protection than peril. So try to learn a few new faces at work, trade lifting tips at the gym, or simply say “hey” to that neighbor you've never met. You’ll have many years together to thank each other.
Above All, Remember That There’s Life After Retirement
In a Yale University study of older adults, people with a positive outlook on the aging process lived more than 7 years longer than those who felt doomed to deteriorating mental and physical health.
Already envisioning decades of decrepitude? Volunteer for a cause you're passionate about: Selfless actions can put a positive spin on life and distract from unhealthy obsessing, reports a study in Psychosomatic Medicine.