Thanks to medical and safety advances, more and more people are living longer.
Indeed, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), if you’re a 30-year-old man, your average life expectancy is 85 years, and there’s a 7.4% chance you’ll live to the age of 100.
If you’re a 30-year-old woman, your average life expectancy is 88, and there’s an 11.5% chance you’ll live to 100.
The ONS also say that the number of centenarians in the UK rose to its highest ever level in 2020, reaching 15,120, an increase of almost a fifth from the previous year.
Angele Storey from the ONS says: “Improvements in living standards and public health over the last century improved the chances of those born at that time surviving to age 100.”
While technological advances and medical breakthroughs have extended the lives of millions of people, there are also steps you can take if you want to live a long life. Here are seven useful rules to follow.
Keep your brain active
Lifelong learning can promote stronger brain function in old age.
Researchers from the University of Zurich examined the brains of hundreds of older adults, and discovered that those with an academic background showed far fewer signs of brain degeneration over the course of seven years, the Telegraph reports.
Additionally, research suggests that brain-training activities can lower your risk of dementia. So, everything from crosswords and sudoku to jigsaws or chess can boost your brain power and help you to keep mentally sharp.
Get out of your seat
One way to boost your chances of a long life is to reduce the amount of time you spend sitting.
Sir Muir Gray, director of the Optimal Ageing Programme, says: “Genetically we were not developed for the environment we live in now. Our genes were designed for us to be running about all the time, and if we managed to catch any food we put on fat as quickly as possible.”
Regular exercise will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient, lower your cholesterol level, and also keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. And, it doesn’t have to be strenuous. Try and take the stairs, get on your feet every hour, and get off the bus one stop early.
If you can incorporate physical activity into your everyday life, and sit for less than 50% of your waking hours, this can help you to stay healthy.
Walking can also stave off brain ageing. A University of California study suggests that regular exercise – of 150 minutes a week or more – could go a long way to arresting brain-function decline. The researchers found that exercise keeps the brain young by producing synaptic proteins, which enhance the connections between brain cells.
Additionally, walking can boost your respiratory system. When you exercise and your muscles work harder, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. To cope with this extra demand, your breathing increases from about 15 times a minute (12 litres of air) when you are resting, up to about 40 to 60 times a minute (100 litres of air) during exercise.
Your circulation also speeds up to take the oxygen to the muscles so that they can keep moving. “It makes your muscles better at extracting oxygen from the blood. Increasing your stamina by any form of exercise that makes you breathe a little quickly will help the whole respiratory system,” says Sir Muir.
Eat a balanced diet
A balanced diet containing the right nutrients is the foundation of a long and healthy life – and this is something scientists have known for decades.
Back in the late 1800s Dr Stephen Smith, “the father of American public health”, had the mantra: “Every man who dies before 100 practically speaking dies by his own knife and fork.”
Harvard Health recommends that you eat a healthy diet rich in whole grains, lean protein, vegetables, and fruits. Reduce or avoid unhealthy saturated fats and trans fats. Instead, use healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Plant-based foods can be a great place to start, and you should limit the consumption of processed and sugary foods.
Maintain an active social life
The well-known Georgia Centenarian Study tracked down a group of centenarians in the US state of Georgia and then tried to work out how they had all reached the age of 100.
Two of the factors that kept reappearing were:
- A full social schedule
- A higher likelihood of engaging in volunteer work.
Studies in other parts of the world have found the same. For example, there is an uncharacteristically high number of centenarians in Sardinia – perhaps because most elderly Sardinians still live with family, and they remain involved with the vibrant social life of their village.
Having close ties to friends and family, and participating in meaningful social activities, has been linked to helping maintain thinking skills better in later life and slowing down cognitive decline.
Make sure you get enough sleep
If you want to live to the age of 100, your body will need plenty of rest to maintain and repair itself. Like food, rest is essential in giving your body the energy it needs.
Studies have consistently shown that sleep deprivation or sleeping less than five hours a night can lead to major health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and cancer. So, try and get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
If you’re struggling with sleep, establishing a “sleep routine” – where you go to bed and wake up the same time every day can help. Turning all the screens off at least an hour before bed can also be beneficial, as can limiting your caffeine intake from mid-afternoon.
Maintain your “ikigai” – your “reason for being”
One trait that many centenarians share is that they’re often active well into their 90s and maintain a sharp focus on what they want to do.
In Japan, this concept even has a name: Ikigai, which roughly translates to “reason for being.”
The famed longevity expert, Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, lived until the age of 105. When he died, in 2017, Hinohara was chairman emeritus of St. Luke’s International University and honorary president of St. Luke’s International Hospital, both in Tokyo.
Until a few months before his death, he continued to treat patients, kept an appointment book with space for five more years, and worked up to 18 hours a day.
Maintaining a “reason for being” and some purpose in your life can help you to stay active.
There are fewer things than can age you more than constant stress – whether that is work, social relationships, or money.
So, learning how to manage your stress levels can help you live longer. Ideas to try include:
- Yoga or pilates
- Breathing exercises
- Reading a book
The key is to find something you enjoy and that works for you. You can then incorporate it into your daily life.
One of the key drivers of poor mental health can be money problems. It’s easy to get into a vicious cycle where worries and stress can make earning and managing money harder, and then worrying about money can make your mental health worse.
Putting the right protection in place gives you the peace of mind that you will receive valuable financial support when you really need it. It can help to reduce stress by giving you the safety net that you and your loved ones will be able to maintain your lifestyle should the unexpected happen.
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