Secrets to Long Life

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Dr Ochi Igboko

Luck and genetics play roles in longevity, of course, but you can’t control that. To hike your odds of hitting 100, focus on what you can do.

Making just a few changes in your lifestyle can help you live longer.

A recent study found that four bad behaviours—smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not exercising, and not eating enough fruits and veggies—can hustle you into an early grave, and, in effect, age you by as many as 12 years.

Fortunately, you can do something to correct these and other unhealthy behaviours. Adopt the following habits to keep your body looking and feeling young.

Don’t overeat

If you want to live to 100, leaving a little bit of food on your plate may be a good idea. Author Dan Buettner, who studies longevity around the world, found that the oldest Japanese people stop eating when they are feeling only about 80% full.

St. Louis University researchers have confirmed that eating less helps you age slower; in a 2008 study they found that limiting calories lowered production of T3, a thyroid hormone that slows metabolism—and speeds up the aging process.

Have Sex Regularly

Having satisfying sex two to three times per week can add as many as three years to your life. Getting busy can burn an impressive amount of calories—sometimes as much as running for 30 minutes. (Which would you rather do?)

Regular sex may also lower your blood pressure, Intercourse helps you live longer by relieving stress and releasing feel-good hormones like oxytocin. You’ll  also improve your sleep, boost your immunity, and protect your heart.

Turn off the TV

Too much time in front of the boob tube can take a serious toll on your health. In fact, a 2010 study found that people who watched four or more hours a day were 46% more likely to die from any cause than people who watched less than two hours a day.

Even cutting back a little can help; each additional hour you watch increases your overall risk of dying by 11% and dying from heart disease by 18%.

Stay out of the sun

Avoiding too much sun can keep you looking young by preventing wrinkles, fine lines, and saggy skin.

It’s never too early—or too late—to add sunscreen to your daily skin-care regimen (look for an SPF of 30 or higher). And don’t focus only on your face. Sun damage spots and splotches on your chest and neck will also make you appear older.

Reach out

Research shows that you’re at greater risk of heart disease without a strong network of friends and family. Loneliness can cause inflammation, and in otherwise healthy people it can be just as dangerous as having high cholesterol or even smoking.
Loneliness seems to pose the greatest risk for elderly people, who are also prone to depression.

Drink in moderation

Women who have two or more drinks a day and men who have three or more may run into detrimental effects ranging from weight gain to relationship problems. But in smaller quantities, alcohol can actually be good for you.
A 2010 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology linked light drinking (defined as one drink a day for women and two for men) to significant heart benefits.

Eat fruits and vegetables

Getting fewer than three servings of fruits and vegetables a day can eat away at your health. Nutritional powerhouses filled with fiber and vitamins, fruits and veggies can lower your risk of heart disease by 76% and may even play a role in decreasing your risk of breast cancer.

As an added bonus, the inflammation-fighting and circulation-boosting powers of the antioxidants in fruits and veggies can banish wrinkles.

Focus on fitness

Daily exercise may be the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth. A 2008 study found that regular high-intensity exercise (such as running) can add up to four years to your life, which isn’t surprising given the positive effects working out has on your heart, mind, and metabolism.

Even moderate exercise—a quick, 30-minute walk each day, for example—can lower your risk of heart problems.

Don’t smoke

Quitting smoking is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for your health—and your life span. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that people who quit smoking by age 35 add roughly six to eight years to their lives.

It’s never too late to kick the habit. Quitting can slow disease and increase survival odds even in smokers who have already caused significant damage to their lungs, like those with early lung cancer or COPD.

Get a hobby
Having a pastime reduces stress and provides a sense of accomplishment.

Take a Vacation
Skimping on leisure time can raise your risk of heart disease eightfold. Go ahead and get away from it all!

Sleep

The average Nigerian is almost always many hour short on sleep, which hinders the repair of many cells in the body. Try to get your 7 to 8 hours a night.

Step back in time

Did you love punk rock music in college? Load some Sex Pistols tracks on your iPod. You might think that being so nostalgic would make you feel ancient, but research shows it can have the opposite effect.

In one study at Harvard University, people who were placed in an environment that resembled their youth—with movies, music, and memorabilia from the past—experienced marked improvements in their memory, vision, happiness level, and overall health.

“It shows that our mind-set is what limits us,” says lead researcher Ellen Langer, PhD, author of Counterclockwise. So do something that really takes you back (like re-reading your James Hardly Chase!).

Play up the positive

It’s natural to be a bit more gloomy than you were at 18, since time often exposes just how cruel (natural disasters, divorces, job losses) the world can be. That’s why the final step to feeling younger is nixing your inner naysayer. “The goal is not to deny the less-than-pleasant stuff that is happening, but rather to focus on what’s going well,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, author of A Happy You.

If the flight for your romantic vacation gets delayed, remind yourself that you’re on your way to a great destination with your mate. “Cultivating a greater sense of optimism will provide you with more positive energy to motivate you to do youthful things,” Lombardo explains.

About author

Dr Ochi Igboko

Consultant Anesthesiologist & Critical Care Physician. Email: drigboko@yahoo.com

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