The “BIG” 5

Five Simple Things You Can Do to Live a Longer Healthier Life

The following five suggestions outlined in this week’s blog have been proven by a number of studies to increase health, quality of life and longevity (and they don’t involve expensive supplements or the latest diet fad):

  1. Drink coffee
  2.  Exercise regularly

  3. Add nuts and seeds to your diet

  4. Get enough vitamin D

  5. Meditate regularly, even if only for short intervals



Drink Coffee

Coffee naturally contains a variety of compounds including caffeine, antioxidants and diterpenes. These contribute not only to the flavour but also to the well-researched effects of coffee on health.


A typical cup of coffee provides approximately 80 – 100 mg caffeine. Extensive research has shown beneficial effects of caffeine, including improved attention, alertness  and physical performance. In some individuals, however, there can be adverse effects, such as disturbed sleep.


Coffee naturally contains a variety of compounds that display antioxidant properties.  These include chlorogenic acids and melanoidins.

The potential health benefits associated with drinking coffee include: protecting against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, liver cancer and promoting a healthy heart.  


Freedman, N. D., Park, Y., Abnet, C. C., Hollenbeck, A. R., & Sinha, R. (2012). Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality.N Engl J Med, 2012(366), 1891-1904.

Lopez-Garcia, E., van Dam, R. M., Li, T. Y., Rodriguez-Artalejo, F., & Hu, F. B. (2008). The relationship of coffee consumption with mortality. Annals of internal medicine, 148(12), 904-914.


Exercise Regularly

Aging is a multifactorial physiological process that can be modifiable to some extent though healthy lifestyle choices, such as a healthy diet and psychosocial well-being. In addition, the benefits of regular exercise on mortality, quality of life and the prevention and control of chronic diseases is well established.

Exercise can partially reverse the effects of the aging process on physiological functions and preserve functional reserve in the elderly.

Numerous studies have shown that maintaining a minimum quantity and quality of exercise decreases the risk of death, prevents the development of certain cancers, lowers the risk of osteoporosis and increases longevity.

Training programs should include exercises aimed at improving cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle function, as well as flexibility and balance. In addition, volume and intensity should be manipulated based on an assessment of health status and ability.

Gremeaux, V., Gayda, M., Lepers, R., Sosner, P., Juneau, M., & Nigam, A. (2012). Exercise and longevity. Maturitas, 73(4), 312-317.


Add Nuts and seeds to Your Diet

Nuts are nutrient dense. They are a good source of healthy fats, fiber and a number of micro and phytonutrients (antioxidants/polyphenols) that have benefits for cardiovascular health, immune function and inflammation. In addition, they can lower the risk of some cancers and have been shown to help with weight loss.

My favorite choices include:

  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds

Choose nuts that are organic and raw to avoid pesticides and unhealthy oils that are often added along with salt and sometimes other chemicals.

Ros, E. (2010). Health benefits of nut consumption. Nutrients, 2(7), 652-682.


Supplement With Vitamin D (or expose yourself)

Vitamin D insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide (An estimated 1 billion people).This pandemic can mainly be attributed to lifestyle factors such as reduced outdoor activities and environmental factors, like air pollution, which can reduce exposure to sunlight, thereby interfering with  ultraviolet-B induced vitamin D production in the skin.

Vitamin D insufficiency is a particularly important public health issue because hypovitaminosis D is an independent risk factor for total mortality.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to the treatment and pathogenesis and/or progression of several chronic disease associated with aging, including cancer, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. In addition,  there is an optimal concentration of vitamin D found to delay the aging phenomena

Because of its widespread deficiency, Vitamin D merits consideration in global policies including increasing awareness among the public and healthcare professionals.

Nair, R., & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The” sunshine” vitamin. Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics, 3(2), 118.

Tuohimaa, P. (2009). Vitamin D and aging. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology, 114(1), 78-84.

Zhang, R., & Naughton, D. P. (2010). Vitamin D in health and disease: current perspectives. Nutrition journal, 9(1), 1.


Meditate Regularly

There are a number of factors which contribute to aging and can affect longevity and our propensity towards developing certain diseases. One factor that you may have not heard of has to do with your DNA, specifically a part of your chromosomes called the telomere. Telomeres are stretches of DNA at the ends of the chromosomes, which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide, and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.

The Telomere length has been linked to chronic stress.  Whereas stress can shorten your telomeres, meditation and mindfulness, which can reduce stress, have  favorable  effects on telomere length.

Regular daily meditation has been shown to promote optimal  telomere maintenance, thereby promoting longevity.

Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J. T., Folkman, S., & Blackburn, E. (2009). Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,1172(1), 34-53.


How Many Of The “BIG 5” Do You Do?


About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin