Worried about getting old? Anna Magee discovers the small, easy changes science has found can give you a healthier future
1. Go on a health kick
Sticking to a mostly vegetarian diet and doing daily gentle yoga was recently associated with longer telomeres. These are the protective caps around our chromosomes that get shorter as we get older. In the research, from the University of California those on a health kick including eating less meat and daily stress releasing activities increased their telomere length by 10 per cent in five years, associated with slower ageing but those not on it saw their telomeres get three per cent shorter, associated with faster ageing.
2.Get sweaty, three times a week
One of the best things you can do to help control ageing is get sweaty through sport or exercise three times a week, says Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and author of Identically Different: why you can change your genes (Phoenix £8.99 from Amazon.co.uk). It’s essential for physical but also mental anti-ageing. ‘Much better than doing crosswords for your brain health as you age is going out and getting out of breath three times a week,’ he explains. Plus, research from the American Journal of Physiology found treadmill running for half an hour three times a week could help slow down the skeletal and muscular effects of aging too.
3. Eat tomato ketchup and salsa
Ooh we like this one. In 2012 molecular biologist Professor Mark Birch Machin and his team at Newcastle University in the UK found that eating five tablespoons of processed tomato products could increase the skin’s natural collagen production and it’s own inbuilt protection against sunburn by 33 per cent in just five weeks. This of course does not mean you can skimp on sunscreen! Interestingly, he says the effect was only seen when people ate processed tomato foods such as ketchup, tomato paste or puree. ‘Processing made the lycopene, the active antioxidant ingredient in the tomato, more bioavailable to the body,’ he explains. As for the sausage roll? Maybe skip that.
4. Know your family health history
If you have immediate family members (grandparents, parents and siblings) who have had a heart attack or stroke or history of heart disease this can increase your own risk of following a similar fate. Ask your brothers, sisters, parents or grandparents if they’ve had heart disease or stroke and if so, how old they were when they developed these diseases and talk to your GP about the results. You can’t change your family but you can help reduce your risk by controlling other lifestyle risk factors such as not smoking, having a healthy diet, keeping your weight under control and being physically active.
5. If you’re over 45, see your GP for a heart health check
Prior to menopause oestrogen is believed to have a protective effect against heart disease in women. But oestrogen decline isn’t the only reason women face a higher heart disease risk after menopause. Blood pressure may rise and LDL cholesterol, or ‘bad’ cholesterol, tends to increase while HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol declines or remains the same. Triglycerides, certain types of high-risk fats in the blood, also increase. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are termed ‘silent killers’ because they have no symptoms. So have that check – you don’t want a heart attack to be your first warning sign that’s something wrong.
6. Get fat-smart
Not all fat is bad. Fats are an essential part of healthy eating and it’s good for you to eat a certain amount of the healthier fats. Just know which is which!
- Healthy fats include monounsaturated fat such as avocados, almonds, cashews, peanuts and cooking oils made from plants or seeds such as sunflower, canola, soybean, olive, sesame and peanut oils. They may also be omega-6 polyunsaturated fats found in foods such as fish, tahini (sesame seed spread), margarine, linseed (flaxseed), sunflower and safflower oil, pine nuts and brazil nuts or omega-3 polyunsaturated fats found in oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines and blue mackerel as well as walnuts and linseeds. Have two or three serves (150 grams per serving) of oily fish every week and other good fats daily.
- Unhealthy fats include saturated fats and trans fats. Main sources are hard and full fat soft cheeses and dairy products, cream, chicken skin, pastries, processed meats and meat fat and packaged cakes and biscuits.
TIP: Just one small morning cappuccino with full fat milk could provide almost a third of your daily maximum of saturated fat. Over a year this amounts to more than 1 kilo of saturated fat. By switching to a skinny cappuccino you wipe out almost all of that saturated fat from your diet.
7. Have 15 natural nuts a day
‘Having 10-15 natural nuts a day of unsalted walnuts, almonds or macadamias can lead to a 50 per cent reduction in CV disease risk’, says cardiologist Dr Ross Walker. ‘Five studies have shown this including a nurse’s health study and male physicians study both through Harvard University. Eating natural nuts brings enormous benefits to health.’ Don’t have too many though, they still contain plenty of calories. For example, 30 grams of walnuts pack in 130 calories which could mean up to ten pounds gained in a year if you don’t cut back on something else. Have your nuts with breakfast or as a snack to replace crisps or chocolate, suggests Walker
8. Swap Soduku for regular nights out with friends
Mounting evidence suggests playing mental-exercise games hasn’t got the signifcant effect on brain health that manufacturers of such things would like us to believe.. Instead, the more reliable research around dementia prevention is around social interaction, says Dr Walker. ‘Connecting with friends on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your memory and brain health. Indeed, a study published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet followed 1200 people in Sweden for three years and found that those with a limited social network had a 60 per cent higher risk of developing Alzeimher’s or dementia.
9. Sprinkle cinnamon on your cereal
One of the most powerful of all spices, research published in Diabetes Care found as little as a quarter of a teaspoon of cinnamon a day could help control blood sugar in people with Type-2 diabetes and it’s brilliant eaten at breakfast to help control sweet cravings throughout the day. In fact, when it comes to free radical fighting antioxidant rich foods that help fight ageing, herbs and spices could be the next big thing. For example, one teaspoon of ground cinnamon contains the same antioxidant levels as a punnet of blueberries, while one teaspoon of dried oregano contains a similar antioxidant content to a cup of red grapes or serve of broccoli.
10. Bring out your extroverted qualities
‘The best drug on the planet is a positive outlook,’ says Dr Walker. ‘How we manage our minds is important as those who suffer with stress and isolation have a marked increase in disease.’ In fact, studies of the children of centenarians found they are more extroverted and less neurotic than others. Similiarly, a study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that those who feel they have a sense of purpose tend to live both longer and happier. Whether your reason for getting up in the morning is to land a deal at work or watch your children do well, cultivate your purpose for healthier ageing.
11. Sleep about seven hours
More isn’t necessarily better when it comes to sleeping for a healthier future. Researchers at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in California found a U-shaped relationship between the average number of hours slept and death rates in a study of over a million American adults. Turns out those that slept between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night lived the longest. But those that slept for more than eight or less than 6.5 hours didn’t live quite as long.
3 HEALTHY AGEING TIPS FROM THE WORLD’S LONGEVITY HOTSPOTS
The Blue Zones, Second Edition: 9 Power Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest is a fascinating look into the how the happiest and healthiest centenarians live by anti-ageing scientist Dan Buettner. Here are three longevity blue zones and their secrets:
Longevity stats With a low risk of cancer, heart disease and hormone dependent cancers, those that live in Okinawa have a higher chance of reaching 100 than in any other country.
Simple secret? Seaweed. Along with being high in tofu, rice and seafood and virtually devoid of processed food, Okinawans eat iodine and protein rich seaweed at every meal which has a detoxifying and hormone balancing effect on the body. Wrap fruit and vegetables finely cut in nori sheets or soak wakame in water and add to soups as a salt-free flavouring.
Longevity stats virtually no heart disease or obesity and an exceptionally high life expectancy render the inhabitants of Nicoya in Costa Rica among the world’s healthiest people.
Simple secret? Eat small and often. Nicoyans not only keep their meat intakes low, eating mainly rice, beans and a large assortment of different coloured fruit and vegetables, they also eat about 4-5 times a day which included three meals and regular snacks.
Longevity stats About 19 centanarians per 100,000 people – nearly ten times that of the US – make Sardinia among the world’s longest lived people and female centenarians outnumber males at the rate or 2.7:1!
Simple secret? Mediterranean delight. According to Dan Buettner, Sardinians’ diets are high in rich dark red wine, which they always eat with meals (a grape called cannonau which contains the world’s highest levels of the antioxidant resveratrol), fava beans which are high in fibre and folate, hazelnuts and almonds and a delicious cheese called Pecorino Sard made from the milk of grass fed sheep which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
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