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Secrets to Living Longer, from ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We may have all sought the fountain of youth at one point or another. But it may be easier to find than you think. ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser shared with Katie Couric some simple tips on living a long and full life.

It is no secret that taking care of our bodies is an integral part of maintaining our overall health. But exercising our minds can be just as important. Dr. Besser urges us to “use it or lose it” and believes that we need to take on new challenges in order to live longer. Activities like learning to speak a new language, play an instrument or participating in dance lessons can promote active brain function and increase personal fulfillment.

Dr. Besser also encourages people to avoid getting wrapped up in a digital world and invest in their analog relationships. Social connectedness and engagement in the world around us promotes a healthy lifestyle. Research has shown that higher levels of social connectedness are directly related to lower blood pressure, stronger immune systems, and decreased stress. All of these factors contribute to the prevention of chronic disease.

What you may not realize is that you are benefiting your health and longevity the most when you are doing nothing at all: while you sleep. When we are sleeping our bodies and minds are healing themselves and regenerating. By not giving yourself that chance to reboot you can cause long term health issues. Sleep deprivation can lead to memory problems, depression, a weakening of your immune system and weight gain.

Lastly, knowing your family history can be crucial when it comes to preventing health issues. People who have a close family member with a chronic disease may have a higher risk of developing that disease than those without such a family member. If you are aware of health conditions existing in your gene pool you can be conscious of them and take preventing measures.

As Dr. Besser stresses, adding years to your life is very simple. The challenge is in creating healthy behaviors. By keeping an active body and mind, prioritizing experiences and relationships as well as making time for rest, you are sure to enhance your chances to live a long and healthy life.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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