While the search for the proverbial ‘Fountain of Youth’ is ongoing, its location has indeed proven elusive! Yet, people will naturally continue to try and discover how to live longer.
Research indicates a number of alternative ways to literally add years to your life span. For me, quality of life is something much more important than the number of years I get to live in this life. So, for me it’s ‘how to live longer and feel better!
Most of us don’t want to end up decrepit and totally incapable of looking after ourselves, do we?
But, the beauty of living a healthy lifestyle when you’re younger, is the increased likelihood of an improved quality of life to go with those extra years later on.
Well, this is what researchers are telling us anyhow!
Some of you in fact may already be blessed with ‘good genes.’ A 2005 study, published in Aging and Development, found that longevity and healthy aging is an inherited phenotype across three generations.
So, if you have parents and grandparents who lived well into their later years, there’s a good chance you will too!
But, for those of us who aren’t so blessed here are 10 ways to live longer and feel better.
How To Live Longer
#1 Eat Healthy
A 2002 study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, showed that eating a diet high in variety leads to longer life, and lower mortality rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
In contrast, a diet with a frequent intake of red meat, refined carbohydrates, sugars, and foods rich in saturated fats was associated with increased mortality rates from cancer.
While this isn’t exactly ‘news,’ it does emphasise the importance of a balanced, healthy diet to help your body fight disease.
Basically a healthy diet includes:
- Large part made up of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Smaller amounts of lean meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
- Carbohydrates mostly in the form of wholegrains
- Plenty of legumes
- Small amounts of dairy and soy products
- Low in saturated fats, and moderate in poly or mono unsaturated fats
- Low in sugar
- Plenty of water
Another study published in the journal Rejuvenation Research, found that eating less as you age could add years to your life.
We already know that reducing calorie intake can help lower the risk of developing common diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
But, this the research adds weight to the argument by saying we may also live to be substantially older by eating 15 percent less from age 25. Researchers have even suggested that by doing this we could add 4.5 years to our life.
As a general rule of thumb at each meal fill half your plate with plain veggies or salad, one quarter with lean meat, poultry, or fish, and one quarter with rice, pasta, or potatoes. This will help to make sure you’re aren’t overeating.
Free radicals are responsible for accelerating the effect of aging on our cells, and for an array of degenerative diseases, including hardening of the arteries, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
However, a diet rich in antioxidants has the ability to scavenge these free radicals.
The best sources of antioxidants are brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, and a variety of other healthy foods, including:
- Russet potatoes
- Green tea
But, do be aware that your cooking method can have a significant effect on the antioxidant content.
For example, cooked Russet potatoes have a much lower antioxidant level than that found in raw potatoes. However, cooking tomatoes actually increased their antioxidant content.
Bottom line: try to eat a variety of foods each day, including a wide range of different coloured fruits and vegetables. When cooking, make sure your are using light methods, such as steaming or boiling in a small amount of water, for a short period of time.
#2 Exercise Regularly
We know that exercise is good for us, but a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, has showed that regular running slows the aging process.
Researchers found that runners are less likely to have disabilities, they reach the onset of disability later in life, and they are 50 percent less likely to die prematurely compared to non-runners.
The study indicated that regular running reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, and neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Whether you’re a runner or not, the study is further evidence that being more active in good for your health.
#3 Give Up Smoking
A 2003 study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, found that middle-aged men who were long-term, heavy smokers faced twice the risk of developing more aggressive forms of prostate cancer than men who had never smoked.
Other studies have also confirmed that smoking causes cancer of the lung, mouth, larynx (voice box), oesophagus (food pipe), liver, pancreas, stomach, kidney, bladder and cervix, as well as some types of leukaemia.
If you have difficulty giving up, chat to your doctor about smoking cessation medication. Check out this post on giving up smoking and weight gain, and take a look at these smoking cessation websites:
#4 Don’t Oversleep
A 2002 study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, found that people who sleep more than eight hours per night had a significantly higher death rate.
They also point that sleeping less than four hours each night increases your chance of premature death.
Try to get roughly 6-8 hours per night. If you struggle to get a good nights sleep, check out my previous article on how to improve your sleep quality.
#5 Make Good Friends
Australian researchers have found that having good friends in our lives can actually help us live longer. In fact, they can do more for life expectancy than having family members around.
There are many benefits to having good friendships, including an increased feeling of worth. Friends are also helpful in difficult times, reducing feelings of depression or anxiety, and they may also encourage you to look after your health.
Obviously, as we age there is the chance that we lose our friends, and therefore it really is important that you constantly seek to build and maintain new relationships with those around you.
#6 Improve Your Attitude
A 2002 study, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, reported that pessimistic people who expect misfortune, and only see the negative side of life, don’t live as long as those who hold a more optimistic view (50 percent lower risk of premature death).
They also noticed other health benefits connected with a positive attitude, such as:
- Fewer problems with work or other daily activities because of physical or emotional health
- Less pain and fewer limitations due to pain
- Less interference from physical or emotional problems when engaging in social activities
- Increased energy
- More peaceful, happier and calmer feelings
While researchers cannot be sure of the exact reason that pessimism decreased longevity, there are a number of lessons we can learn from this study:
- Try to see bad events as temporary and controllable
- Don’t expect the worst possible results
- Don’t blame yourself for bad things
- Remember you have the power to control your attitude
#7 Laugh Often
If you have difficulties seeing the funny side to life’s problems it could be affecting your health.
While it isn’t always easy, a good sense of humour can help you accept the inevitable, and handle the unexpected with ease. It is also a huge help in combating the physical effects of stress, anxiety, anger, grief, and depression, being similar to crying as a way of releasing pent-up emotions.
A study published in the American College of Cardiology found that laughing increased blood flow by more than 20%. This has a similar beneficial effect to that of an aerobic workout.
Further research suggests that the level of natural killer cells (attack virus’ and tumour cells) are increased through laughter. These cells are suppressed if the body suffers consistent long-term stress.
Interestingly the body cannot distinguish between real and fake laughter. So, even if you don’t feel like laughing, “faking it” will have the same beneficial effect!
#8 Manage Anger Levels
A 2002 study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that young men who were classified as having the highest level of anger in response to stress were more likely to develop heart disease prematurely in comparison to those men who reported lower anger responses.
In fact, those who had higher stress levels were over six times more likely to have a heart attack by 55 years of age.
#9 Attend Church Regularly
Research published in the journal Demography, has found that regular churchgoers live longer than people who rarely, or never, attend worship services.
Generally speaking those who go to church once, or more, each week add around seven years to their life span.
Possible reasons are that churchgoers are generally less likely to engage in higher risk health behaviours, such as smoking, drinking and taking recreational drugs.
The church environment also provides a very strong outlet for social activities, support, and friendships, which are particularly important in times of stress, or personal difficulty.
However, despite controlling for these external factors, the researcher of this study still found a strong association between infrequent, or no religious attendance, and a higher mortality risk.
#10 Get A Pet
There are numerous studies to show that owning a pet can help you live longer, and feel healthier.
The benefits of owning a pet range from lower use of GP services, reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, better physical and psychological wellbeing, reduced stress levels, and lower blood pressure levels.
In fact, survival rates for pet owners who have suffered a heart attack was 12 percent longer compared to those who did not own a pet.
Regardless of whether you’d like to break the world record as the oldest living individual, I’m sure you’ll agree that looking after your health now, is well worth the effort.
Find out how to live longer and feel better the Okinawan way.
What are your secrets for a long and healthy life?