Try these life-lengthening shortcuts to thrive well into your old age
As our population enjoys rising life expectancy it’s easy to take it for granted that we’ll be holding asanas and tending our houseplants well past our 70s. But how can we add a little insurance into daily life, and make sure our actions today are leading to a healthy and happy old age? There are a few simple secrets.
Struggle to relate those that love running? You’re not alone, but it’s worth taking a little time to learn how the lycra-clad joggers in your life became hooked. Research published in November’s British Journal of Sports Medicine found running correlates to a significantly reduced risk of death from any cause, and it’s not just committed street pounders who benefit. Studying 14 pieces of research involving a total of 232,000 people, analysts found that any amount of running brings benefits for longevity, even with those running less than 50 minutes once weekly or less experiencing significant health benefits.
The NHS’s Couch to 5K plan (find it at nhs.uk/livewell) is an easy way for complete beginners to start, with narrated podcasts available to keep you on track over the nineweek programme. Who knows where your feet will take you? New research from the University at London found that running marathons can reverse the ageing of our body’s largest artery, the aorta, by four years.
Research from the US suggests workplace stress can have a serious impact on life expectancy, with those from ethnic minorities or lower socio-economic groups living up to 33 years less than others thanks to long hours and job insecurities. But you don’t have to be stuck with workplace stress. “Recognise your feelings,” says Jill Mead, MD of mental health at work consultancy TalkOut (talkout.org.uk) “Take the first step of talking about it. If you have anxiety symptoms think about approaching your manager with some idea of the support you might want, as they may well not know how to help. Something as simple as access to a window where it’s lighter can help, rather than feeling forced to take time off which can exacerbate feelings of isolation.”
If you follow contemporary thinking on health you’ll know the Mediterranean diet – rich in fruit and veg, wholegrains, pulses and healthy fats – is considered gold standard when it comes to longevity. But even with the best intentions, it’s all too easy to fall back on ‘something on toast’ or a ready-meal served with a little token bagged salad when the pressures of life bear down. We all know what makes a healthy balanced diet, but how do we actually improve our nutrition day-to-day? The British Nutrition Foundation suggests convenience is the way forward, especially since research shows that time constraints are cited as a big barrier by those whose intentions to eat healthier fall by the wayside. “Canned foods can be a great solution when you need to throw together a quick, healthy meal,” says Sara Stanner, science director at the British Nutrition Foundation.
“Canned pulses, such as chickpeas, beans and lentils, are an excellent addition to a pasta sauce or curry, and provide fibre and nutrients like folate and iron. Canned fish is another useful ingredient – tuna makes a quick and healthy accompaniment to pasta or baked potatoes, and canned oily fish, like salmon or mackerel, provides longchain omega 3s. Frozen fruit and vegetables tend to be cheaper than fresh, and may even be more nutritious as the freezing process can preserve nutrients.” Pre-cut veg may not be aspirational, but it could make a real difference to your diet.
In 2014 researchers carried out in-depth analysis of existing research into the link between body weight and longevity, concluding that increased adiposity (better known as excess body fat) is undoubtedly associated with a whole plethora of lifeshortening conditions. From cancer and coronary heart disease to diabetes and other chronic diseases most associated with early death. The report’s authors concluded that although BMI is an imperfect measure of fat levels, lowest mortality in non-smokers is associated with a BMI of under 25. Those closer to 18.5 – the low end of the ‘normal’ spectrum – were assessed to have optimum protection against life-shortening conditions.
Of course, over-eating can be imbedded in complex and deep-rooted emotional issues, but nutritionist Dr Kelly Johnson (lighterlife.com) suggests instant hacks can help, such as using a smaller plate and having a sip of water before eating to check you’re not mistaking thirst for hunger. She’s also a fan of mindful eating. “Use the STOP method,” she suggests. “Step back: count to 10 and breathe. Think: reflect and assess if you really need that food treat in that moment. Options: what other choices do you have that will bring you closer to your weight-loss goal? Proceed with your refocused action plan and notice how helpful it was.”
Living well to an old age is a neat trick, and a 34-year study published last month in the British Medical Journal identifies five important factors that could extend disease-free life by up to 10 years. Alongside never smoking, maintaining a healthy BMI, exercising and eating well, the research makes plain recommendations about the importance of alcohol intake. Moderate intake, defined as between 5g and 15 g of alcohol per day (that allows one 175ml glass of wine per day as the maximum). With the combined factors accounting for an estimated maximum 18 years difference in life expectancy, they’re worth taking seriously.
Yoga moves to reverse facial ageing
Used to crunching your brows? Widening your eyes and raise your brows, holding an exaggerated ‘surprise’ expression for as long as feels comfortable. Good for: smoothing your brow
Twisting your shoulders to the left, slowly turn your chin to the right and use it to point up and away from your body. Tightly pucker your mouth for an extra squeeze. Repeat on the other side. Good for: toning the jawline
Pull your mouth into an exaggerated smile as you might when applying blusher. Using both hands place fingertips into the crease that appears above each side of your mouth. Holding your finger tips still, gently flex the muscles to create gentle resistance.
Good for: sculpting cheeks
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