Live well and prosper
Want to add years to your lifespan? Read on…
With UK life expectancy on the rise and the older section of the population rapidly expanding – by 2025, more than a third of Brits will be over 55 – there’s a big focus on living longer, healthier lives. Those who live to a great age may simply have found the right balance of fitness, nutrition and rest.
However, bad lifestyle habits such as smoking, not exercising, eating fast food, drinking too much and stress can all lead to an early demise. ‘We need to take responsibility for our own bodies and become more aware of the things we can do to stay fitter and live longer,’ says Dr Trisha McNair, author of The Long Life Equation: 100 Factors That Can Add Or Subtract Years From Your Life (£5.99, New Holland).
So if you want to see your 80s and 90s or even live to receive a congratulatory message from the Queen on your 100th birthday, we offer 11 tips to help you get there…
+ 2 years
Get a furry friend
Having a pet improves your chances of a long life. Families who own a dog or cat are less stressed and visit their doctors less often than those who don’t, according to scientists at Cambridge University. Other studies have found that stroking or being near a pet can lower blood pressure levels.
Soak up the sun…
… but only for a short amount of time, to top up your levels of vitamin D. The body uses the sunlight to make vitamin D, which helps protect against some common cancers, hypertension and Type-1 diabetes. Don’t overdo it though, as too much sun can cause melanoma, a deadly skin cancer.
Clean your hands
Even though washing your hands is the best way to prevent illnesses such as the common cold, meningitis or infectious diarrhoea from spreading, only half of us wash them after going to the toilet. So get into a good habit of washing your hands to lower your risk of disease and boost your longevity.
+ 3 years
Learn to unwind
Stretch out your years by taking up a relaxation technique such as meditation, which is popular with celebrities such as comedian Russell Brand and actress Angelina Jolie. Meditating reduces blood pressure and eases stress-related conditions such as depression. It’s also a great mood-lifter.
Boost your sex life
You can reach a ripe old age by having an active sex life. Having sex three or more times a week decreases the risk of heart attack or stroke by half, according to a study by Queen’s University in Belfast. Sex also boosts blood circulation, lowers cholesterol and helps to release your body’s feel-good endorphin hormones.
Regular exercise is the key to prolonging your existence. It helps protect against colon and breast cancer, and guards against diabetes. Working out reduces the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, and a brisk, hour-long walk five days a week nearly halves the risk of stroke.
+ 5 years
Eat like you’re in the Med
When it comes to food, follow the Mediterranean diet. Rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, cereals, olive oil and fish, the Mediterranean diet is linked to a lower death rate from heart disease and it may even helpto reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 40%.
+ 6 years
Keep the gnashers in good nick
Taking care of your teeth and gums can help stave off illness and increase your lifespan. Healthy gums can lower the risk of respiratory problems and diabetes. What’s more, regular teeth brushing and flossing can help prevent heart disease and stroke. Those who slack are 70% more likely to get heart disease, found one study.
+ 7 years
Tie the knot
Getting married reduces the chance of premature death by 15%, according to major studies in seven European countries. John Gallacher, a Cardiff University academic who reviewed the studies, says happily married couples are more likely to eat healthily, have more friends and take better care of each other. ‘Commitment seems to provide networks of supportive and helpful relationships, leading to a healthier lifestyle and better emotional and physical health,’ he explains. A 20-year study by Warwick University also found that married men typically live three years longer than singletons.
Tap into your spiritual side
Going to a place of worship regularly – such as a church or a mosque – is linked to lower mortality rates. Scientists at the University of Iowa, in the USA, found those who attended religious services at least once a week were 35% more likely to live longerthan people who didn’t attend. Being involved in a spiritual community boosts the immune system and keeps high blood pressure at bay.
+ 9 years
Give us a smile
Those who are happiest in life tend to act in healthy ways – as chartered psychologist, Sandy Gaskins, explains: ‘Every thought we have affects a feeling, so if we’re positive about life we’re much more likely to eat healthily, exercise more and invest in relationships.’ A Dutch study found that positive people decrease their risk of early death by 55%.
Dr Chris says… ‘Your mental attitude is definitely a factor when it comes to your health. Those people who aren’t positive thinkers or doers will be more likely to fall ill.’
This article was first published in at home’s ’Ask the Doctor with Dr Chris Steele’ in April 2011.