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Living Healthier For longer

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We seek out the magical elixir that will help us extend our life on earth. Of course, that together with the secret to staying healthier for longer too. We have pulled together some ideas that we have come across that might help you beat the clock and live longer!

There have been many research papers into longevity. They tend to show that there isn’t a secret at all. Here are our tips that you can use to live longer and feel better.

Only a generation or two ago, the idea of living past 90 was unrealistic and virtually unheard of. With the advances that have been made in modern medicine that is now not the case. We are now able to survive common ailments and diseases that were once fatal. Of course, the truth is that it’s our lifestyle that makes the difference.

There are those that believe that they don’t have longevity on their side because of grandparents or parents dying young. It has been found, in fact, that 20% of life expectancy is determined by genetics. The other 80% comes down to environment and lifestyle and therefore the things you can influence!

Want the Key to Longer Life? Find it in the World’s Oldest Populations…

Did you know that the Japanese have the longest life expectancy of any country in the world? In Japan, the average life expectancy for women is 87.1 years. While for men it is and 81.1 years. Japan has held the top spot since 1980. Back in 1960 their ranking was 35 then 10 in 1970. So why do the Japanese live longer than the rest of us? Their longevity is attributed to their diet resulting in an extremely low Body Mass Index (BMI). As a nation, they consume only small amounts of alcohol.

It is good news for us too. Australia is ranked sixth with women’s life expectancy at 84.8 and men at 81.0 years. Between the ages of 40 and 65, Australian men hold the first world ranking while women rank sixth. The main cause of death in Australians is coronary heart disease.

There are communities around the world known as Blue Zones. These are areas where the highest proportion of residents reach 100 years of age. Five regions in Sardinia, Greece, Costa Rica, California and Japan were studied. The research found nine common denominators that may hold the key to living longer. The studies showed that longer life expectancy is based on common lifestyle factors. These include:

  • diet,
  • exercise,
  • body weight,
  • social life
  • the avoidance of risk factors like smoking and alcohol.

Our Tips for Living As Long as Possible

It is true to say that if you are going to live longer you would want to have a great quality of life too, right? Extending life expectancy may not be a worthwhile goal unless you do so. No one wants to simply extend their life without maintaining a great quality of life. Research shows that these five healthy lifestyle habits can help to improve the quantity and quality of life.

#1 Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Living a healthier life can be influenced by body weight and Body Mass Index (BMI). Pressure on the body’s organs increases with every kilo of excess weight.

The World Health Organisation states BMI should be between 18.5–24.9 kg m−2 for optimal health. The standard BMI categories are 18.5–24.9 for normal weight, 25–29.9 for overweight, and >30 for obesity. WHO reported the mean BMI has risen in men and women between 1975 and 2016. In Australia in 2016, 29% of adults were obese with a BMI that is greater than 30.

A BMI in the overweight and obese categories has a strong link to developing type 2 diabetes. It can also be responsible for cardiovascular disease and hypertension. Cholelithiasis and other chronic diseases in men and women are also traced back to a high BMI.

People who are active and lean have the lowest risk of chronic disease and mortality. Being lean isn’t enough though. The addition of physical activity is the thing that provides longevity.

There are some people for whom BMI isn’t an accurate measure. A muscular bodybuilder, for example, can have a BMI of 30 but very little body fat. Someone who has lost muscle mass may be in the normal range but have a high proportion of body fat. BMI also doesn’t consider the distribution of fat and excess fat in some parts of the body is more dangerous than others.  So be aware that it may not be the be-all and end-all.

Abdominal fat is recognised as the most harmful kind of fat.

Your hip to weight ratio should be kept in check. You can calculate this.

Stand and measure your abdomen at the navel relaxed

then measure your hips at the widest point

divide your waist size by your hip size

A ratio higher than 0.8 indicates you are at an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

#2 Enjoy Regular Physical Exercise Every Day

Even if it is difficult, you should try to engage in physical activity every day. Speak to your doctor about what would be reasonable for you. Swimming is a great activity that won’t put too much stress on even a tired body. DO seek professional guidance though.

Do you live longer if you work out? Yes! Exercise is a proven way to keep your BMI in the healthy range. Of course, staying healthy is a great way to improve your chances of making it to 90 years and beyond.

One of the nine common traits of Blue Zones’ residents is that they ‘move naturally’ every day. Moving naturally means they don’t do excessive exercise. They don’t run marathons, but they move without thinking throughout the day. They look after their garden and work in their houses. It’s thought this incidental exercise is better for you than engaging in strenuous gym sessions or long-distance running.

Excessive exercise is harmful and counter-productive regarding preserving your body. Over-exercise will lead to you potentially damaging your knees, hips, or joints. The Blue Zones recommend working all parts of the body to the point that you breathe heavily. You should also sweat for five to ten hours per week.

Regular exercise is not only good for the body, but it also stimulates the brain. Exercise is known to improve our mood and help to decrease feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.

Exercise also keeps our muscles and bones in good working order. As we age, we will lose muscle mass and function. That can lead to an injury or possible disability. If you exercise regularly, you will reduce muscle loss, build bone density, and maintain your strength. Physical activity can also improve insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular fitness. It is also shown to decrease blood pressure and fat levels.

#3 Eat A Healthy, Balanced Diet

We wondered can eating healthy make you live longer. We did lots of research and overwhelmingly, yes it can!

Eating well ensures you keep your weight and body fat down. It provides your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs for a long, healthy life.

The ideal diet should be rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and calcium. The current recommended minimum intake is two fruit and five vegetables every day. Choosing a range of colours in your fruit and vegetables will ensure you are getting the full range of vitamins and minerals. Limit your intake of red meat in favour of trimmed chicken and try to eat fish twice a week. Don’t char or overcook any meats as this increases carcinogen and can be dangerous

Try to eat plenty of plant sources of protein. Foods like nuts and beans are especially good for us. Plants are the best foods to eat if you want to live longer. Whole grains are a better option rather than refined grains like white bread and limit white potatoes.  

Blue Zones’ residents have a diet that includes black, fava, soya beans and lentils. Their diet is mainly plant based so their intake of meat is low. It is suggested that the people in these zones eat meat just five times per month. They eat mainly lean pork with a serving size of no bigger than a pack of cards.

It is advised that you should only eat until your stomach feels 80% full. It’s the 20% you don’t eat that keeps your weight in the healthy range. Another great tip is to eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or early evening and don’t eat again that day.

#4 Keep Making Social Connections

Maintaining strong social connections and relationships is important for anyone who wants to live longer. As people become older, it can become more difficult to get out and see existing friends and meeting new ones can seem impossible. There are transport issues as well as mobility challenges. When older people give up driving their social network can shrink to those more accessible. Family members may not visit often due to distance and busy schedules, and this can have a huge impact.

Many of the ‘Blue Zone’ communities have a strong connection to their faith. They visit their church regularly where they connect with familiar faces and maintain a healthy social life.

Research has also shown there are physical benefits to staying connected. Lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system can all be attributed to these connections. It has also been suggested that reduced inflammation can be the result of being happy around other people.

Housing choice can be influenced by the need to stay connected. For some, rather than staying in the family home on their own, they prefer the idea of moving to a retirement village or care facility. This allows them daily contact with carers and other residents.

#5 Drink Less Alcohol

One of the most important tips for living a long life without disease is to limit your alcohol consumption. In Australia, we have a culture of heavy social drinking. While this might be fun, our alcohol consumption is sending some of our communities to an earlier grave.

Older Japanese women (over the age of 50) consume very little alcohol, one of the main reasons for Japan’s number one longevity ranking. Females over the age of 70 in one of the blue zones – Okinawa Japan – are the longest-lived population in the world.

Alcohol can cause a range of diseases, poor health outcomes and a shorter life span. Cirrhosis of the liver and car accidents are the leading health risks caused by excessive drinking. Researchers have linked it to 60 diseases.

The main health problems caused by chronic heavy drinking include:

  • Anaemia
  • Cancer   
  • Cardiovascular disease

Cirrhosis means scarring of the liver to the point it can’t function. It is also a fact that female drinkers are more vulnerable than men.

The secrets to a long life aren’t so secret. Eat well, exercise regularly, work on building a strong social life you could find yourself enjoying your 90th birthday and beyond! Speak to your Health advisor for guidance specific to your circumstances. Be aware there are mobility aids that can help you stay more active. If you would like more information on these please get in touch by emailing us here.

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