New Ways to Live Longer

Take steps toward a longer, healthier life.

By Patricia Curtis from Reader's Digest | May 2007

The average American’s life expectancy is 77.9 years. That’s a record high, but we may soon double that. And we won’t be frail and senile at age 150. “In addition to eliminating a lot of the diseases of aging, we’ll maintain function, vitality, cognition and all the other things we value in terms of quality of life,” says former National Institute on Aging researcher George S. Roth, PhD, author of The Truth About Aging. Here, a few steps to take toward a longer, healthier life:

     

  • 1.

    Eat a Lot Less

    Slimming down can help prevent disease, and cutting way back on the amount you eat (a strategy called calorie restriction) may even slow the aging process. The results are hard to deny: When rodents eat a very low-calorie diet, few get cancer, and they don’t develop diabetes or obesity. “I think there’s reason to believe this is also the case in humans,” says Eric Ravussin, PhD, a professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In his study, when people cut calories by 25 percent, they had less DNA damage than did those not on the diet. They also had lower fasting insulin levels and body temperature, both of which are linked to longevity.   Calorie restriction isn’t easy. You have to eat 25 to 40 percent less than usual. The more you cut, the better, but 25 percent is a good goal. So if you usually consume 1,800 calories a day, you’d have to drop to at least 1,350. The diet is low-sugar and low-fat, and the foods you eat must be nutritional powerhouses. A typical dinner: two ounces of salmon, one broccoli spear and a cup of whole-wheat spaghetti topped with five sun-dried tomatoes, three shiitake mushrooms and 1?2 cup spaghetti sauce.

  • 2.

    Make Friends, Get Married, Adopt a Dog

    Social support, in the form of friends, family, neighbors and colleagues, can prevent the age-related spike in blood pressure that raises your risk of stroke and heart attack. Tying the knot is another anti-ager: Marriage can add about seven years to a man’s life and three to a woman’s. Prefer four-legged company? Pets can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure, and may even help heart attack survivors live longer.

  • 3.

    Get Moving

    You may live longer, but if you’re sick or disabled, it won’t be much fun. Luckily, exercise can help you attain a better quality of life as you age. And you don’t need to run or jog. Just walking at a brisk pace translates into major health benefits. Aim for 30 minutes a day, either in one session or in ten-minute stints, and include both resistance training and aerobic exercise.

  • 3.

    Reach for Red

    Resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, seems to have powerful anti-aging effects. Research suggests that it offers the same life-lengthening benefits as calorie restriction — without the hunger pangs. A caveat: The doses that have been shown to be effective are many times higher than what would be safe or smart to get in alcohol form. A pill is in development, but until it’s available, sipping a little Merlot with your dinner isn’t a bad idea.