With the news that the world’s oldest man, Sakari Momoi, has died at the ripe old age of 112, it’s got us all thinking about what small changes we could make to extend the longevity of our own lives. Born in 1903, Momoi was a former high school principal, father to five children and had been officially named the oldest man by the Guinness Book of World Records in August last year. Upon receiving his certificate from Guinness, he told reporters, “I want to live for about two more years”, but then sadly died of kidney failure in a care facility in Tokyo on Sunday. He put his long life down to his love of reading Chinese poetry and travelling around Japan with his late wife.
The average human life expectancy has gradually been increasing over the years as advancements in medicine, technology, sanitation, safety, work conditions and a general desire to live longer have all improved. Today, the average life expectancy for males is 68.5% and for females is 73.5%, however more and more people are living way beyond these ages and it is expected that these averages will continue to rise.
I’m sure we’d all love to live as long as we possibly can, but ultimately what is more important is that the quality of our life and how we are able to lead it does not deteriorate with age. Read on and discover what you can do to improve your chances of living a longer, healthier life and perhaps you too could reach the grand old age of 112!
Eat only what you need
In a study by author Dan Buettner, it was revealed that people tend to live longer if they learn to stop eating when they are about 80% full. As further proof of this, researchers from St. Louis University have confirmed that limiting the amount of calories you consume helps lower the production of T3, a thyroid hormone that slows metabolism and therefore slows down the aging process. Our recent article on portion control helps explain the different food types you should be including in your diet and how much of each of them is a healthy amount to be eating. The key to a long, healthy life is ensuring you eat the right kinds of food and because we are constantly bombarded with reports about which superfoods are best for us this week and which foods are bad for us the next, it makes it incredibly difficult to know what exactly we should be filling our bodies with. The current guidelines for the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables is 5 a day, although there are calls to increase this to 7. Research has continued to show that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meat and heart-healthy oily fish could add years to your life and help protect against such conditions as heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
You only have to look at the statistics to see how beneficial just a small amount of regular exercise can be to your health. Exercise can reduce the symptoms of knee arthritis by 47 %, dementia and Alzheimer’s by 50%, diabetes by 58% and anxiety by 48%. And, although more intense exercise has been proven to most beneficial, even a regular amount of mild to moderate exercise, such as walking or gardening, can add years to your life. Physical exercise has not only a positive effect on the external and internal parts of the body, but is also a great mood booster and mental workout too. Check out our article on exercise trends for 2016 to find a new activity and start adding exercise to your routine today!
Which brings us nicely on to the next thing you can do to extend your life…
Keep your brain active
People who keep their brains active with simple day to day tasks like doing the crossword, changing routine, reading, travelling somewhere new or even learning a new language or starting an evening class are much more likely to live longer than those who don’t. The brain, like the body, needs to be exercised in order to stay in peak condition. The positivity of having a purpose in your life will also help reduce stress levels, which can also fight the ageing process. In a recent JAMA Internal Medicine study undertaken by University College London it was discovered that people who thought of themselves as young and had a younger outlook on life in general had a lower dearth rate than those who felt their age or older. Remember the saying – ‘you are only as old as you feel’!
Turn off the TV
We all love to chill out in front of our favourite programs on the TV, but the sedantry lifestyle that goes hand in hand with this will knock years off of your life. According to a 2010 study, people who watch four or more hours of TV a day have a 46% chance of dying sooner than those people who only watch two hours a day. In fact for each additional hour of TV you watch, your overall risk of dying increases by 11%. So, grab that remote, switch off the TV and try something new out in the fresh air.
Don’t smoke or take drugs (other than your medication!)
Smoking is the main cause of lung cancer and can also lead to heart disease, skin problems, teeth impairment and accelerated ageing. In a study published in the American Journal of Public Health it was found that if women quit smoking by the age of 35 they could add a further 6 to 8 years to their lives. It also goes without saying that taking hard drugs, such as cocaine and heroin, is not going to do you any favours. If you need any help to quit smoking or to quit any kind of drug there are plenty of support groups out there who can give you the help you need. It is never too late to kick the habit and, even in smokers who have already caused significant damage to their lungs, by quitting now you can slow disease and increase your life expectancy.
But…you can drink in moderation
Drinking too much is definitely not beneficial to your health, however a small quantity of alcohol each day, for example a small glass of wine with a meal, can actually be good for you. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, drinking sensibly each day can significantly lower the risk of heart problems. The current guidelines for alcohol consumption are:
- MEN – Should drink not more than 3-4 units a day, which is the equivalent of one and a half pints of beer (4% ABV). This means a man should not be consuming more than 21 units of alcohol per week and ideally have 2 of those days as alcohol free.
- WOMEN – Should drink not more than 2-3 units a day, which is the equivalent of one pint of beer (4% ABV) or a standard 175ml glass of wine (ABV 13%). Women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol in a week and should also have 2 alcohol free days.
Keeping a strong network of family and friends is incredibly important for various reasons. Loneliness in old age is one of the top reasons for decline in health and increases the risk of depression, particularly in those who are prone to it. In fact, because loneliness can cause stress, which leads to inflammation, it can be just as dangerous to the body as having high cholesterol. Keeping your social calendar busy also helps keep the mind active as it encourages you to try new things, go to new places and talk about things that have happened to you.
Be Sun Safe
Being exposed to too much sun, particularly if you haven’t applied suncream, can, at worst, potentially lead to skin cancer. But, it will also age you a lot sooner than if you had used a strong SPF of at least 30 of ideally higher. Establishing good sun habits can keep you looking young and prevent wrinkles, fine lines, saggy skin and sun damage spots. You may think you look healthier with a tan, but it will catch up with you in the end and your skin may end up looking like the latest designer leather handbag!
Stress can come in many forms, but one thing it does guarantee is that it will be detrimental to the health of your body and mind. Chronic stress has been proven to contribute to heart problems, diabetes, obesity, cancer, asthma, depression and Alzheimer’s. The science behind it is that stress shortens the protective caps, known as telomeres, at the end of our chromosomes. These are associated with health and longevity so when the telomeres are cut short so too is our life expectancy. The author, Dr Eli Puterman, who has conducted various studies on stress says, “Stressful events can accelerate immune cell aging in adults, even in the short period of one year. Exciting, though, is that these results further suggest that keeping active, and eating and sleeping well during periods of high stress are particularly important to attenuate the accelerated aging of our immune cells”. Learning to cope with stressful events is the absolute key keeping in good health. It could be in the form of meditation, mindfulness, exercise such as yoga, going out for a walk in the fresh air or talking to friends and family. Find your own stress reliever to feel better in yourself not only today but for the rest of your long, healthy and happy lives!