It’s predicted there will be 3.7 milllion centenarians across the globe in 2050. If you’re doing most of the 15 items listed below, there’s every chance you’ll be one of them.
Swear you feel like 35, not 55? That’s good for longevity, according to a recent British study. The subjects who felt three or more years younger than their real age – this group was 65-plus – were less likely to die over an eight-year period than were people who felt their age or older. The findings were so powerful – feeling older was linked to a 41 percent increased risk of dying – that the study authors recommended that doctors ask patients how old they feel as part of their annual physicals.
Women who consumed the most veggies and fruit had a 46 percent lower chance of dying over a five-year period compared with those who ate them infrequently, according to a University of Michigan study of 700 participants in their 70s. (Intake was measured by assessing blood levels of certain plant compounds.) Residents of Okinawa, Japan, which boasts one of the world’s highest centenarian ratios (about 50 per 100,000 people, compared with only ten to 20 in the United States), are living proof you should eat your veggies. Older Okinawans have eaten a plant-based diet most of their lives, and almost all grow or once grew a garden.
Near-centenarians share a number of personality traits, including optimism and joyfulness, according to a 2012 study of 243 volunteers in the journal Aging. “Being adaptable and flexible helps people avoid stress and anxiety, which can increase longevity,” says Rosanne Leipzig, MD, PhD, a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Older adults with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids lived two more years on average than did those with lower levels, a Harvard study found. Participants did not take fish oil supplements; they simply ate a lot of fish, which is packed with omega-3s.
We’ve known that eating a Mediterranean-style diet (one with an emphasis on olive oil, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, as well as fruits, veggies, and fish) has been linked with long life. But new Harvard research of more than 4,600 women reveals the trickle-down effect of good nutrition. Researchers scored volunteers based on how closely they followed this style of eating; those with the highest scores had the least cellular ageing.
Residents of Ikaria, Greece, a small island in the Mediterranean with a high population of centenarians, are fond of an afternoon nap, and it turns out it’s good for their tickers. Harvard researchers studied more than 23,000 people for six years and found that those who regularly took a 30-minute siesta had a 37 percent lower chance of dying from heart disease than did those who stayed awake all day.
A 2012 study in Archives of Internal Medicine confirmed that physical fitness in midlife can predict how healthy you’ll be later. After following 19,000 middle-aged adults, it found that the most fit were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, certain cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes in their 70s and beyond. The most in-shape men had fitness levels the equivalent of running an eight-minute mile; the women had levels equal to logging a mile in ten minutes. “People who remain active throughout their life span, whether that’s running, walking, or riding bikes, live longer,” says Jeremy Walston, MD, a professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
A study in Psychological Science found that people who feel they have a sense of purpose in life are less likely to die over a 14-year period. “Make a new friend, pick up a new hobby or volunteer,” says Dr. Leipzig. “My great-uncle, who is in his mid-90s, still works in his wood shop almost every day,” adds Dr. Walston.
Women with a waist of 94 centimetres or more had a life expectancy that was five years lower after age 40 than did women with a waist of 68 centimetres or less, found one study. For men, a waist of 109 centimetres or more was linked to a three-year decrease in life expectancy compared with those with a waist of 89 centimetres or less. Trimming even a few inches from your pants size may have a powerful health impact. “I tell my patients that whenever possible, walk, don’t drive,” says Dr. Leipzig.
Feeling connected to family and friends keeps people engaged and facilitates healthy ageing, says Dr. Walston. “Being isolated works in the other direction and can lead to chronic illnesses.” In Sardinia, Italy, another tiny Mediterranean island with a large centenarian population, friendship is key, according to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow who has travelled the world to study its longest-living people. “Life is very social. People meet on the street daily and savour each other’s company. They count on each other. If someone gets sick, a neighbour is right there,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal.
Connections of any kind are important, but if the people you associate with are healthy and motivated, this can be a huge boost to your own longevity. The New England Journal of Medicine claims that if your friends gain weight, your own chances of doing so increase by a whopping 57%. This doesn’t mean you should shun your less healthy friends, of course; look into some fitness activities you can do together. It’s a win-win.
Drinking one or two cups of tea a day is great for your heart. Both green and black tea contain catechins, which relax blood vessels. However, you should be making the tea yourself; in ready-to-drink teas, most of the catechins have probably dissolved already, so they don’t have quite the same heart-healthy power. Prevention.com also warns that putting milk in your tea could also negate its health value. Honey it is.
This other popular caffeine-filled beverage is pretty much on the opposite end of the health spectrum as tea. Drinking soft drink even once a day doubles your risk of metabolic syndrome, which can cause heart disease, diabetes and weight gain. Even scarier, the sweeteners used in soda – both natural and artificial – can train your taste buds to crave more sweet food and drink. And don’t fall for the “diet soda” trap, either; its effects on your health are virtually the same.
Keep your house clean and your body healthy all at once. Spending an hour doing an active chore, such as vacuuming or washing the windows, can burn almost 1255 kilojoules! According to a study of adults between ages 70 and 90, making this a habit can lower your risk of death by 30 percent. That’s worth the slight hassle of doing chores, we think.
It seems random, sure, but apparently eating purplish-coloured foods can give you a major health boost. And no, we’re not talking about grape-flavoured lollies or ice cream. We’re talking about the grapes themselves, blueberries, or – surprise! – red wine. All of these are loaded with polyphenols, which can reduce the risk of both heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Eating both blueberries and purple grapes can also improve your brain function and memory, so eat up.
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