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Ten Rules for Living Longer

Your lifestyle has a profound impact on how healthy you are and how long you live. Adopting healthy habits can increase your life expectancy and your quality of life. It’s never too early — or too late — to start! These 10 rules can put you on the right track to a ripe old age:

Eat a healthy diet based on the guidelines of the food pyramid. Build your meals around whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Include moderate amounts of low-fat dairy and lean protein. Start thinking about fatty foods and sweets as an occasional indulgence, rather than a daily habit.

Maintain a normal body weight through proper diet and exercise. If you are overweight or obese, you’re at risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

Exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes most days of the week. Lots of activities count as moderate exercise — even household chores. Take a brisk walk, wash the car, scrub the floor, or run around with your kids. Twice a week, incorporate some strength training into your exercise routine.

Get plenty of sleep every night. Adults typically need seven to nine hours. If you don’t get your ZZZs, not only will you find it harder to pay attention, remember information, and react quickly. You also increase your risk for chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression.

Brush your teeth gently at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste (paying special attention to your gum line) and floss at least once a day to avoid tooth decay and gum disease. Researchers are investigating how advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, is linked to heart disease and stroke. Practice good oral hygiene to keep your mouth happy and contribute to your overall health.

Wear a seat belt every time you get in a car. Buckle up and make sure that your passengers are buckled in, too.

Drink alcoholic beverages only in moderation. This means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. (One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.) While moderate drinking may benefit your heart health, more than that can be risky. Heavy drinking is associated with liver disease, cancer, and pancreatitis. Pregnant women should not drink alcohol at all.

Quit smoking. If you smoke, now’s the time to kick the habit. Nearly every organ of your body is harmed by smoking. On average, nonsmokers live 14 years longer than smokers do.

Keep your immunizations up to date. Vaccines aren’t just for kids. Vaccination recommendations for adults are based on your age, health status, medical history, and other factors. Talk with your doctor to see if you might need any shots.

To relieve stress and enrich your life, make time for activities you enjoy. Take up a sport, attend social events in your community, or find a new hobby. By managing stress, you’ll gain peace of mind and your body will thank you.

“Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Fact Sheet.”U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. October 26, 2006. http://www.hhs.gov/news/factsheet/diseaseprevention.html. Accessed 2013.

“Overweight and Obesity: Causes and Consequences.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 27, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes/index.html. Accessed 2013.

“How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 30, 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/index.html. Accessed 2013.

“How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” National Sleep Foundation. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need. Accessed 2013.

“Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body.” Journal of the American Dental Association. April 2006, vol. 137, no. 4, http://www.ada.org/sections/scienceAndResearch/pdfs/patient_61.pdf. Accessed 2013.

"Alcohol.” Medline Plus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, September 5, 2012. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/alcohol.html. Accessed 2013.

“Fact Sheet: Tobacco-Related Mortality.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 1, 2013. http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/tobacco_related_mortality/index.htm. Accessed 2013.

“Adult Immunization Schedule.” Immunization Recommendations, United States - 2013, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/adult.html. Accessed 2013.

“Stress: How to Cope Better with Life’s Challenges” American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/mentalhealth/stress/167.printerview.html. Accessed 2013.

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