Secrets of a long life: 25 simple and surprising tips to help you live to 100
There are now 12,000 centenarians in the uk, but how can you make sure you receive a telegram from the Queen?
Here are some simple and often surprising tricks that research shows can extend your life..
1 Switch your latte for a cuppa
Tea is packed with antioxidants called polyphenols that can help your body fight heart disease, cancer and premature ageing.
One Israeli study found that moderate tea drinkers lived substantially longer than those who don’t have a regular cuppa.
But remember to give it a good stir before removing the tea bag, as research shows this releases 15% more of the age-resisting ingredients.
2 Balance on one leg every morning
It may sound strange, but standing on alternative legs while you dress in the morning forces your body to balance, strengthening your ‘core’ (back, pelvic and stomach) muscles which support your spine.
According to physiotherapist Tom Salzman: “This simple daily act will offer significant long-term benefits when it comes to staying active for longer and protecting against falls and broken bones as you get older.”
3 Have regular sex at least twice a week
A large Welsh study on longevity found that those who had sex less than once a month had double the risk of dying prematurely than those who had sex twice a week.
Aside from the health benefits, couples with a healthy sex life can also look up to seven years younger, according to a study by the Royal Edinburgh Hospital – possibly because sex reduces stress, leading to greater contentment and better sleep.
4 Eat three walnuts a day
Walnuts are the healthiest nut of all because they contain the most disease-fighting and anti-ageing antioxidants, according to recent search from the University of Scranton, US.
Eating just three walnuts a day is enough to reap the full benefits.
5 Use less sunscreen but don’t burn
Figures show that 50% of people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D, the nutrient made by the action of sunlight on our skin, increasing our risk of a host of potentially fatal conditions including heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.
To boost your vitamin D levels without raising your risk of skin cancer, Cancer Research UK now recommends getting a few minutes (in practice around 15 to 20) of sun around the middle of the day without sunscreen.
But make sure you don’t burn, or you’ll wipe out any health benefits.
6 Make six good mates you can always rely on
Developing close friendships and family ties is the secret of living to 100, according to a recent Australian study of centenarians.
Friends provide emotional support, which helps us deal with stress, and feeling loved boosts production of feel-good chemicals dopamine and oxytocin, which promote brain growth, combating ageing.
Other research has pinpointed six as the optimum number of friends we each need.
7 Stop eating when you’re 80% full
The Okinawans, who inhabit remote Japanese islands, have one of the world’s lowest rates of obesity, as well as the highest percentage of people living beyond 100.
Their secret? At every meal, they stop eating when they feel about 80% satisfied, happily leaving any excess food on their plate.
American researchers have also found animals can live up to twice as long when their food intake is reduced by up to a third.
As well as helping them to maintain a healthier weight, it’s thought eating less means the metabolism has less work to do, putting less long-term stress on the body.
8 Go to bed one hour earlier if you can
Lack of sleep can put you at greater risk of health conditions such as depression and heart disease, according to a raft of recent research.
And yet a small change makes a big difference – a study from Harvard Business School in the US found that for people who normally slept for seven hours or less a night, going to bed just one hour earlier led to a significant drop in blood pressure – therefore lowering their risk of heart attacks and strokes.
9 Make sure you floss every night
“Gum disease is the most widespread condition on the planet,” says dentist Dr James Russell.
“So I say sarcastically – floss the teeth you want to keep!”
And it’s not just your teeth that will thank you – in the past 10 years, studies have linked gum disease to an increased risk of other conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
10 Be a details person
Research by US psychologist Dr Howard Friedman has found that the best predictor of longevity is how conscientious a person is.
That’s right – people who are careful with money, thoughtful, detail-focused and like to put everything back in its rightful place tend to live longer!
It’s thought that conscientious people may produce more of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, which stops them comfort-eating and improves their sleep.
They also appear to be drawn towards healthier choices and can live less risky lifestyles.
11 Buy yourself a pet, and preferably a dog
People who own a pet are less stressed, less depressed and can live longer than those who don’t, according to research.
The calming effect of owning an animal can even drop blood pressure and reduce your risk of a heart attack, according to University of Minnesota researchers in the US.
Another study found owners who walk their dogs daily lived an average of seven years longer than otherwise similar non-dog owners.
12 Don’t put fruit in the fridge
You might think you’re making it last longer, but studies show that chilled fruit contains fewer health-boosting nutrients than fruit, which has been kept at room temperature.
For example, tomatoes and peppers stored in a bowl rather than the fridge can contain double the betacarotene and up to 20 times more lycopene.
Which is good news, as high intakes of both these antioxidants have been linked to better heart health and lower rates of certain cancers.
13 Be helpful and lend a hand to others
Helping others not only feels good – it could reap big health rewards too.
A long-term US study found that people who volunteered regularly over a lifetime lived significantly longer than those who didn’t.
Volunteers also experienced less depression, fewer pains and better general health.
14 Sing a tune in the shower
Singing regularly could be a better health insurance policy than taking vitamins, according to the findings of a joint Harvard and Yale University study from the US.
They found that being a choir member increased life expectancy, and concluded this was because a good old singsong slashed stress, promoted a healthy heart and helped ward off depression.
15 Eat twice as much fruit and veg
A recent report in the European Heart Journal found that people who eat eight or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day have nearly a quarter less chance of dying from heart disease than someone who eats only three – the national average.
This is because every single portion is packed with vital vitamins and antioxidants, which boost the immune system and fight the damage that leads to premature ageing.
16 Try to stop moaning so much!
Optimists live 12 years longer than pessimists, according to American researchers at the US Mayo Clinic. Pessimists are also more prone to viral illnesses and are less likely to carry out essential self-examinations that detect breast or skin cancer.
17 Drink plenty of apple juice
Apple juice could help keep your brain young, according to a recent study in the Journal Of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Researchers found just two glasses a day reduced the formation of the sticky plaques found in the brains of dementia patients.
18 Draw your family tree and learn your history
Finding out your family health history could help predict your own health future, as many conditions have a genetic link.
“We suspect a condition, such as heart disease or cancer, is genetic if it crops up more frequently than we’d expect by chance, especially at a young age,” says Dr Anand Saggar, genetics specialist and Harley Street doctor..
By identifying conditions that run in your family you can be sure to look out for symptoms so problems are picked up early.
19 Watch an hour less TV a night
After the age of 25, every hour of TV you watch could knock around 20 minutes off your lifespan, say scientists at the US National Cancer Institute.
This is thought to be down to the fact that the more TV you watch, the longer your body is sat around doing nothing, muscles aren’t exercised and calories aren’t burnt off – raising your risk of illness and early death.
20 Make sure you never skip a screening
“The NHS doesn’t offer tests for the fun of it – they can, and do, save lives by catching diseases early when they’re still treatable,” argues Dr Dawn Harper.
“So if you’re offered any test whether it’s a smear, a blood pressure check or a mammogram, making that appointment should be a priority – not something that wallows in the bottom of your in tray.”
21 Measure your waist – not your weight
Scientists have discovered that waist measurement is a better predictor of heart disease than either weight or BMI (body mass index) because it can point to the existence of visceral fat, the dangerous fat that sit around the vital organs.
Your waist should measure below 94cm for a man or below 80cm for a woman.
22 Get hitched – it’s good for your health
Married men are three times less likely to die from heart disease than men who have never tied the knot, while marriage halves the risk of cardiac death for women, according to a 2009 study.
23 Laugh at least 20 times a day
Laughter boosts the immune system, slashes stress hormones and stimulates killer T-cells, which fight cancer.
But as adults we only laugh an average of five to fifteen times a day, while children can easily clock up over a hundred daily giggle bouts.
24 Give up smoking
According to a long-term Finnish study, smoking not only shortens your life by around 10 years, but it also lowers your quality of life in old age, as smokers are more likely to suffer from debilitating illnesses.
25 Try to believe... in something
More than 1,000 studies have found a link between faith and living longer.
It’s thought that having strong beliefs helps people deal with stress and emotional problems, and also seems to offer protection against heart, respiratory and digestive problems.