Ageing is inevitable, but the speed at which you age is not. So it’s fortunate that there are a host of ways to put the brakes on wrinkles, degenerative diseases, impaired thinking and many other negative aspects of getting older. Eating the right food, for instance, powerfully affects not only how you look and the condition of your skin, but also reduces your chances of developing age related diseases, such as diabetes and cancer. For many of us, optimum nutrition can add 10 healthy years to our lives. Genes account for 1/4 of how we manage the ageing process – the rest is down to diet and lifestyle. There is so much you can do to slow the ageing process. And it’s an important issue these days, with a number of scientists predicting that many of us will live to over 100. We need to consider not only how to add years to our life, but how to add life to our years! Our quality of life in later years can be influenced directly by decisions we make from our 40s onwards!
So what really makes a difference?
In a recent study published in an American journal, researchers pinpointed five diet and lifestyle factors that appear to be linked with a significantly longer lifespan, judging by the outcomes of two long-term studies that involved about 123,000 adults. Women in the study with the strongest adherence to all five factors lived an average of 14 years longer than their female peers who adopted none of them; men lived an average of 12.2 years longer.
Here are the 5 factors:
1. At least 30 minutes of daily cardio exercise
Cardio exercise is an all-natural way to lift your mood, improve your memory, and protect your brain against age-related cognitive decline. In other words, it’s the closest thing to a miracle drug that we have. A wealth of research suggests that any type of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period of time has a significant and beneficial effect on the brain as well as your heart.
2. Following a blood sugar balancing lifestyle
It often seems like there can’t be a single best diet for your health. But a growing body of research suggests that a meal plan focusing on vegetables, protein, and healthy fats has key benefits for losing weight, keeping the mind sharp, and protecting the heart and brain as you age. A new study bolsters that research, finding that eating this way is also linked with living longer.
As with drinking, dietary habits were self-reported, but the paper’s general findings are supported by dozens of previous studies. Researchers looked at aspects of previously agreed-upon standards for healthy eating, including high intakes of vegetables, fruit, nuts, whole grains; healthy fats like those from fish and olive oil; and low intakes of processed meats, sugary beverages such as soft drinks and juice, and trans fats and salt.
3. Never smoking
No other habit has been so strongly tied to death. In addition to cancer, smoking causes heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, according to the Centre for Disease Control.
Smokers inhale burned tobacco and tar along with toxic metals like cadmium and beryllium, and elements like nickel and chromium – all of which accumulate naturally in the leaves of the tobacco plant.
So it’s no surprise that the latest study found evidence that abstaining from cigarette smoking for life was linked with living longer. But if you’ve already smoked, the research still has good news: Both quitting and cutting back were also linked with positive outcomes related to life expectancy.
“Smoking is a strong independent risk factor of cancer, diabetes mellitus, CVDs, and mortality,” the researchers wrote, “and smoking cessation has been associated with a reduction of these excess risks.”
4. Sticking to a healthy body weight
When it comes to quickly assessing the health of large groups of people, a measure called body mass index, or BMI, can be helpful. Generally speaking, a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered within the “healthy range” for healthy adults over age 20. Because of this, it makes sense that the latest study used this BMI range to define what they considered an “optimal” body weight. Essentially, they found that people who fell within that BMI range tended to outlive people who fell outside of it and were either overweight or underweight.
From an individual perspective, however, BMI is far from a perfect means of gauging your overall health. It does not take into account a number of key health factors including overall body fat, gender, muscle mass, or the amount of fat you’re carrying around your middle, also known as abdominal or visceral fat. Abdominal fat (as measured by your waist circumference) is emerging as a useful health indicator because of its strong links with heart health and diabetes.
5. Drinking no more than 1 to 2 alcoholic beverages a day
Several studies attempting to pin down the precise relationship between drinking and overall health have come up short, with often conflicting results. These studies can be problematic because they include small research samples or rely on
people to accurately self-report their drinking habits. Another big problem is that what most of us consider “moderate” drinking is really far from it: According to the National Institute of Health (in the US), moderate drinking is one drink a day for a woman and two drinks for a man. That said, some previous research has linked such “moderate” drinking with beneficial outcomes, including a lower risk of certain diseases like diabetes. This study relied on people’s self-reported alcohol habits. Still, the researchers concluded that one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men was linked, on average, with a longer life.
How to turn back the clock
AVOID OR REDUCE STRESS
Avoiding or reducing stress may prove to be an important life extension factor. Prolonged stress causes depletion of the adrenal hormone DHEA. Low DHEA levels are associated with an increased risk of many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s, cancer and heart disease, and of ageing in general.
An important component of a healthy ageing diet are the omega-3 and -6 essential fats. Not only do essential fats keep cell membranes smooth and soft, they also help the membranes to do a better job of controlling what goes in and out of cells. Without enough fats in the cell membranes, they are not able to retain water and lose their plumpness. So include plenty of healthy fatty foods in your diet, such as fish, coconut oil, butter, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Have seeds in salads, as snacks, or ground up and on granola, yoghurt or soup.
EAT WHOLE GRAINS
Given the importance of keeping our digestive tract and liver in good working order, it is important to have a diet that includes unprocessed foods naturally high in fibre, such as whole grains, vegetables, lentils and beans.
EAT MORE RAW FOOD
Cooking destroys enzymes and vitamins, and minerals may be thrown out with the cooking liquid. Overcooking leads to free radical formation and poor absorption of nutrients and any process that turns food brown produces carcinogenic compounds. So cut down on the microwave, cooker, grill oven and toaster, and start eating more salads, fresh juices and blended foods.
The deeper the pigment, the more antioxidants a fruit or vegetable contains. Carrots and tomatoes contain beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A, vitamin C is found in fruit and veg and vitamin E is found in seeds, nuts and fish. Anthocyanidins are high in blue and purple foods, such as berries and red grapes.
Your plan for anti-ageing success
- Stay away from avoidable sources of free radicals – including fried or browned food, exhaust fumes, smoke and strong sunlight.
- Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables.
- Take extra antioxidant nutrients – including vitamins A, C an E, selenium and zinc.
- Eat plenty of greens and beans.
- Eat a low GL diet.
- Keep fit with a moderate (not excessive) amount of aerobic exercise.
- Avoid stress.