Most of us would like to live better for longer. Happily each year life expectancy is going up and we are learning more and more about how to stay healthy well into one’s seventies and beyond. Below are some tips based on expert studies in longevity from around the world. Put as many as you can into practice and start reaping the benefits today.
A key factor that determines the rate of aging is the length of the ends of chromosomes called telomeres. These telomeres can be compared to plastic tips on shoelaces – they stop the ends of the chromosome from fraying or sticking together which can scramble your genetic information.
“Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell can no longer divide; it becomes inactive or “senescent” or it dies. This shortening process is associated with aging, cancer, and a higher risk of death. So telomeres also have been compared with a bomb fuse.”
Although we don’t yet know how to stop or reverse this process, following a healthy diet, losing weight, stopping smoking and exercising will dramatically slow aging on the cellular level allowing you to literally stay physiologically younger for longer.
This tip is a result of a scientific study that followed the progress of a group of people over an 80 year period. The study found that the most reliable predictor of longevity was something they termed conscientiousness. The researchers found that people who paid attention to the details of their life, thinking thinks through carefully and making the right choices not only lived longer but had better health, stronger relationships and more successful careers.
“The findings clearly revealed that the best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness,” they write, “the qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organized person, like a scientist-professor — somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree.”
Of course we all value our friends – but here’s another reason to be grateful for them. Australian researchers have found that having friends will actually help you live longer. They found that elderly people with lots of friends were less likely to die over a ten year period compared to those with few or no friends. They also looked at results from 148 similar studies – and all supported the finding that having friends is good for your health.
Of course everyone knows these days that smoking is very bad for your health – what some smokers might not realise is that they are knocking many years off their life expectancy and might even be affecting the health of their children.
“Researchers at ‘Action on Smoking and Health’ have reported that a 30-year-old smoker can expect to live about 35 more years, whereas a 30-year-old non-smoker can expect to live 53 more years. In addition, the children of a parent or parents who smoke may be at risk from the genetic damage done to the parent before conception (because of their previous smoking), the direct effects to them in the womb, and the passive smoke they are exposed to after they are born.”
Taking a nap at lunchtime is standard practice in many parts of the world. There is now scientific evidence that this simple practice may add years to your life. The study involved 24 000 people and found that people who have a regular afternoon snooze are 37% less likely to die from a heart attack than those who don’t nap in the afternoon. The researchers believe that the positive effects are because having a siesta helps keep stress levels and levels of stress hormones low.
A so called ‘’Mediterranean diet’’ is a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olives and fish. Researchers did a meta-analysis of 50 different studies that involved over half a million people and found that following this type of diet significantly lowers the occurrence of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of obesity, high blood pressure, high sugar levels and other factors that lead to life shortening diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
Studies have shown that married people regularly outlive their single friends. The researchers believe that this is a result of the social and economic support that being married provides. Even people who are divorced or widowed have been found to have a longer life expectancy compared to people who have never been married. So even though you are probably marrying for love you will get the added benefit of living longer.
Being overweight is a major cause of diabetes, heart disease and other health complications that take years of your life. Particularly bad is the presence of belly fat so it’s a good time to start deflating that spare tire. A 5 year study involving Hispanics and African Americans found that eating more fiber and getting more exercise are the best and quickest ways to lose weight.
Drinking too much is a major contributor to obesity and the unhealthy belly fat mentioned above. It also leads to high blood pressure and a host of other problems. If you don’t want to avoid drinking alcohol completely you should limit your consumption to one drink a day for woman and not more than two for men. And if you are not a drinker – don’t start!
A 12 year long study of people over the age of 65 found that people attending religious services more than once a week had far stronger immune systems than their peers who did not attend any religious services. The researchers also found that the strong social network that exists among people who worship together also contributes significantly to happiness, longevity and good health.
The ability to forgive is not just good for your mental health – it is good for your physical health as well. Studies have found that being chronically angry leads to reduced lung function and increased occurrences of heart disease and strokes. Forgiveness on the other hand reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure and helps you breathe more easily. These benefits increase as you get older.
Getting enough sleep has been found to lower the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. It also boosts your immune system and helps you recover from illness quicker. Doctors recommend that adults should get at least 8 hours sleep a night and children should get 10. So be kind to your body and stop burning the midnight oil.
The list of negative effects of stress on your health is very long. It includes; musculoskeletal problems such as back aches, neck and shoulder pain and also reduced ability to heal from injuries, respiratory problems such as asthma or hyperventilation, cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and even heart attacks, stomach problems such as cramps and irritable bowel syndrome, reduced sexual function and lower sperm count. Apart from these specific results of chronic stress, stress has been found to increase the overall wear and tear of the body and dramatically reduces your life expectancy.
Although it’s impossible to completely avoid all stress there are many excellent ways to manage stress. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises are all very popular and effective ways of managing stress. Also important is sensible time management and avoiding taking on excess responsibilities that are not sustainable and will literally make you sick.
Last but not least, people who find meaning in their lives live longer. Researchers in Japan conducted a study over 13 years. They found that men with a strong sense of purpose were far less likely to die from stroke, heart disease and other health complications. You do not need to set about saving the world, even participating in sports and hobbies will help you live longer.
I hope that you’ve found this article interesting and have found some tips that you can start putting into practice today in order to live longer, healthier and happier lives.