Want to reach your 100th birthday? Then follow our easy tips to ensure you get that telegram from the Queen, says Charmaine Yabsley.
1. Eat less
Food may give you energy to live, but when it comes to reaching triple digits, less is more. According to research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in the US, kilojoule restriction in non-obese people means less oxidative damage in muscle cells. As oxidative damage has been linked to ageing, it may be that limiting your kilojoules by 20 per cent a day could help you live longer. “It’s not about drastically cutting your calories to lose weight, but living on healthier, more nutritious, yet less fattening foods,” says Robert Cavanaugh, of the Calorie Restriction Society. “Eat less of the bad foods and more of the good foods that make up your regular diet. This usually results in fewer calories and a better nutrient profile. This is not a lifestyle where you try to see how long you can go with hunger cravings. The net result will be that you are eating foods you have always eaten and are used to, but you will be eating in better ratios and proportions.”
2. Up your fruit and veg
To cut kilojoules, pile your plate high with fruit and vegetables. “Twelve per cent of preventable illnesses and death is caused by not eating the recommended servings of five vegies and two fruits each day; so eat up and live longer,” says Dr Ronald McCoy, spokesperson for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. And variety is the key. “Eat your colours: your greens, reds, purples, yellows, oranges and whites for a great variety of nutrients and antioxidants.”
3. Enjoy more grapes
“Red grape skins contain an ingredient called resveratrol, one of the most powerful antioxidants, which helps your body fight free radicals that cause ageing and ill health,” says Sebely Pal, associate professor at the School of Public Health, Curtin University.
The antioxidant qualities of resveratrol – found in grapes, grape juice, red wine, blueberries, cranberries and peanuts – have been shown to reduce inflammation, which reduces the risk of heart attack, stroke, arthritis, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease. A University of Florida review of research on resveratrol found that it “has considerable potential to improve health and prevent chronic disease”.
4. Think yourself younger
In a US study, it was found the mind really can turn back the clock. On a weekend retreat, elderly men were encouraged to live during their ‘prime’, namely 1959. After a weekend of caring for themselves (many had live-in carers) and reliving old movies and music, the subjects were more sprightly and flexible, had a healthier posture, had stronger grips, better hearing and scored higher in intelligence tests. “We have far more control over our health and wellbeing than most people realise,” says study author Professor Ellen Langer.
5. Volunteer and make a difference
Women who volunteer for about 40 to 100 hours a year, or one hour or so a week, live longer than those who are less altruistic. One study from the University of Michigan, and a more recent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in the US, concluded that volunteering not only helps you feel happier about yourself, as well as more purposeful, but your social network will widen (see point 7), helping you feel less stressed. “Stress hormones increase the risk of cardiovascular problems or stroke, so those who reduce these hormones, through whatever means, will live longer,” says Melbourne-based clinical psychologist Sally-Anne McCormack.
For more healthy heart tips pick up the July issue of Good Health magazine or subscribe at magshop.co.nz.