I intend to live forever, or die trying. Groucho Marx
On Monday, 7 April 2013 we celebrated the 65th World Health Day and in celebration of that event, we have decided to write a blog about what you can do to live a longer life. Each year WHO selects a theme for World Health Day that highlights a priority area for public health concern in the world – this year it was about High Blood Pressure. For more information about World Health Day, please click here.
It seems obvious: don’t smoke, don’t drink excessively, get regular health checks, get regular dental checks, eat fruit and vegetables and exercise often… but there’s more you can do to living longer than you think! So much so that Happiness Weekly has broken this blog into two parts, with the second part to be released later in the year.
The fact is, on average, women live to 79.9 years of age and men live to 75 years of age. Despite the rise of incurable diseases such as the current diabetes epidemic, life expectancies are also on the rise. Scientists believe that only 30% of ageing is due our genes which means 70% is due to our habits! This week Happiness Weekly looks at what you can do to expand your lifetime.
Have regular health checks Get to know how your breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to your GP such as a lump, dimple, unusual pain or discharge. The best time to do a check is a week after your period and remember – nine out of ten lumps are benign and many breast cancers are curable if caught early enough. Also remember that pap smears are important. According to the Institute of Public Health, Cervical screenings prevent 2,500 deaths each year in the UK.
Watch your diet Eat fresh foods, shop regularly at local markets and rely less on convenience food. Overeating causes ageing and increases the risk of heart disease and cancers of the colon, womb, gall bladder, ovaries and breast. Coronary heart disease causes 270,000 heart attacks each year, of these 28,000 are linked to obesity. Take control! Did you know 40% of cancers are diet-related? Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day to reduce your risk of the following cancers: lung, digestive tract, bowel, bladder and breast. If you experience any dramatic change in your bowel habits – such as constipation, increased looseness or passing blood – you should see your doctor.
Cutting your daily calorie intake to 1,400-2,000 each day can help you stay young at heart. It’s about getting the most nutrition out of each calorie you consume. Research shows rats, mice, flies and monkeys live up to twice as long when their food intake is reduced by a third – possibly because eating less means the metabolism has less work and therefore slows down.
Consume the following:
– Drink milk! The vitamin D contained in milk makes it an effective anti-inflammatory and reduces osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
– Eat onion. One 80g onion per person (in bolognese, say) is a sneaky way to add to your five portions of fruit and vegetables. Onions lower the risk of colorectal cancer, laryngeal cancer and ovarian cancer. They are rich in quercetin (an antioxidant that prevents harmful enzymes from triggering inflammation and containing sulphur compounds that boost the immune system.
– Eat fruit that’s room temperature. Bright coloured fruits such as tomatoes, watermelon and red/pink grapefruit stored at room temperature contain double the beta carotene as chilled fruit – which the body then metabolises into vitamin A. Room temperature fruits also contain 20 times more lycopene because the warmth enables them to keep ripening. Full ripe melons kept at room temperature overnight (and uncut) increase their levels of carotenoids (disease-fighting substances) from 11% to 40%.
– Eat red foods. Red capsicum (or a red pepper) contains more vitamin C than an orange; beetroot contains nitrates that relax the blood vessels; tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene that may protect against cancer and heart disease (particularly when cooked); and red grapes contain resveratrol thought to include anti-inflammatory, cancer-preventing, cholesterol-lowering properties.
– Eat chocolate. Research shows that people who eat a moderate amount of chocolate live longer than those who eat sweets three or more times a week and those who never touch sweets. Chocolate contains chemicals such as phenols which protect against heart disease and cancer.
– Eat bananas – they reduce your blood pressure, risk of strokes and heart disease because they are rich in potassium. Fruit juice and dried fruit are also recommended for this reason. Potassium counteracts the damaging effects of excess salts in the diet. One banana contains 4.7g potassium which is enough to lower blood pressure.
Sleep less Sleeping more than eight hours a day may reduce your life expectancy. People who only get six to seven hours sleep a night live longer. You may also want to go to bed an hour earlier than usual – this can lower your blood pressure in just six weeks and subsequently reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Women who are physically fit have a 40% less chance of developing coronary heart disease than those who don’t exercise regularly. Up to a third of older hip-fracture patients die within a year because of complications from the trauma. Performing daily squats and lunges is one of the best ways to maintain lower-body strength.
Move to the country
People living in rural areas have a higher life expectancy than those living in cities.
Love your family A Harvard Medical School study found that 91% of people who said they aren’t close to their mothers develop serious disease by midlife such as high blood pressure, alcoholism and heart disease. Women who have children have a greater life expectancy, however this could be because of the increased contact with and support from their children and grandchildren as they get older.
Get a pet Families who own a dog or cat are less stressed and visit their doctors less often than those who don’t. Pets encourage us to have a positive outlook and make us feel relaxed which lowers blood pressure. While dogs give best results, a goldfish in a bowl also works.
Improve your positive thinking
People who are optimistic are more open to taking health advice and live about 12 years longer than pessimists who are more prone to viral illnesses such as colds and flu.
Damage caused by smoking is cumulative, the longer you smoke – the greater the risk of developing a smoking-related disease such as lung cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Each year up to 120,000 deaths are linked to smoking.
The more qualifications you have, the higher your life expectancy. Less educated people are more likely to smoke and work in high-risk jobs.
Have fun US cardiologist, Dr William Fry, says laughing 100-200 times is the equivalent of a ten minute jog. It also lowers stress and increases the body’s natural defensive killer cells and antibodies.
Attending church increases life expectancy because it helps people’s stress and emotional problems and protects against heart disease, and respiratory or digestive problems.
Enjoy a work/life balance Stressed people are 20 times more likely to develop heart disease. Prolonged tension also depletes the immune system and robs the body of its antioxidant store which helps prevent premature ageing. Meanwhile, meditation or yoga are proven to alleviate stress, reduce blood pressure and stress-related conditions such as depression.
Do what you want
As you get older, playing games or shopping can be just as good for you as physical exercise. In fact, women who shop daily have 23% less risk of death than infrequent shoppers, and men 28%. The key to good health is doing what you enjoy and feeling good about yourself. Gardening is another great thing to do as it combines cardiovascular exercise with flexibility, endurance and muscle strength — and an hour’s steady gardening is equivalent to a five-mile walk.
Drink tea Green tea and ordinary black tea have the same amount of antioxidents and equal benefits. Research shows that drinking one cup of black tea a day significantly reduces the risk of heart disease. Drinking tea also boosts the survival rate following a heart attack by 28%.
Outgoing people who enjoy socialising are 50% less likely to develop dementia. Learning to use social media can also help keep brain cells young and healthy. Watch out for having overweight friends – studies show that a fat best friend means you have 171% greater chance of also becoming fat. A great incentive to encourage your bigger friends to workout with you!
People who describe themselves as creative have a significantly reduced mortality rate because it enlarges the neural networks in the brain.
Bacteria that cause tooth decay trigger inflammation which can be a significant precursor to heart disease. It may also protect against diabetes and dementia. Flossing each evening can make a difference to how fast you age – taking as much as 6.4 years off your age.
People that are conscientious have more serotonin (a brain chemical that brings a feeling of satisfaction), which affects how much they eat and how well they sleep. These people are also naturally drawn to healthier situations and relationships.
Enjoy an active sex life
Couples with a healthy sex life look up to seven years younger than those who don’t because sex reduces stress and leads to greater contentment and better sleep. Sex at least three times a week can add two years to your life through the increase of heart rate and blood flow. If you have sex three times a week, you can increase your life expectancy by two years or if you have sex every day, your life expectancy could increase by eight years! In addition to boosting circulation and reducing stress, stress releases a building block of testosterone which helps repair and heal tissue. It’s also a natural anti-depressant – especially for women.