Santé! Prost! Sei gesund! Gesondheid!

Around the world, we toast each other’s health. Our universal goal seems to be living long and healthy lives. But how exactly do we achieve that? With the rise of heart disease, cancer and obesity-related diseases cutting life expectancies shorter, what are the secrets to longevity?

I turned to the most qualified people I know to get the answers:

The Naturopath – It Takes A Village

Dr. Melissa Willms, a naturopathic doctor at Sanas Health Practice, says the keys to health are multifaceted and tied to one’s community. She recommends first creating an expert health and lifestyle team (hers includes a naturopathic doctor, GP, chiropractor, massage therapist, osteopath, counsellor and yoga instructor). This team advises you on daily lifestyle practices, nutrition, mental/emotional health and proactively screens for disease or health risk factors.

Second, it’s all about attitude. Research shows that having a positive outlook improves health outcomes and lengthens life.

Third, being healthy also depends on building meaningful relationships with family and friends. People who surround themselves with a community or village live longer and healthier lives.

The Family Physician – Prevention Is The Best Medicine

Dr. Nathan Roth, a family medicine resident practicing at The Centre for Family Medicine, says that an apple a day really does keep the doctor away. True health comes from good old fashioned diet, exercise and sleep.

Medical studies have long shown the link between diet and longevity. A healthy diet, abundant in vitamin- and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables leads to better health.

Moderate exercise for 150 minutes a week has also been scientifically proven to improve cardiovascular health and overall well-being. That’s 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of walking, running, swimming, etc.

And sleep! You need it. Experts, including scientists at The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, have found that sleep plays a “critical role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions.” You should be getting between seven to nine hours a night.

The Almost-Centenarian – Use It Or Lose It

Lola, a 99-years-young great-grandmother, and the oldest, happiest person I know, shared her secrets with me: First and foremost, don’t stress! She’s focused on being happy with what she has, and making choices that limit the amount of stress she invites into her life. She’s learned that money isn’t everything and problems are never as big as they seem.

Second, keep moving. Every morning before rising, Lola does stretching and exercises in bed. Studies support her experience, saying seniors who stay active and mobile live longer.

Third, keep close. She’s made a point of nurturing her relationships. When her husband died at age 75, she maintained close ties with the community. Instead of living alone, she has always had a companion and stayed close to family.

Many of these “secrets” to good health are common knowledge, and backed by years of scientific research – but knowing and walking the path are two different things. Perhaps the most important factor to consider is how to hold oneself accountable to actually follow through and incorporate these healthy practices in our lives.