You never stop getting your age wrong
Claire Benoist for Reader's Digest
Swear you feel like 35, not 55? That’s good for longevity, according to a recent British study. The subjects who felt three or more years younger than their real age—this group was 65-plus—were less likely to die over an eight-year period than were people who felt their age or older. The findings were so powerful—feeling older was linked to a 41 percent increased risk of dying—that the study authors recommended that doctors ask patients how old they feel as part of their annual physicals. Here's a ridiculously easy way to feel younger right now.
You eat more of these two things
Women who consumed the most veggies and fruit had a 46 percent lower chance of dying over a five-year period compared with those who ate them infrequently, according to a University of Michigan study of 700 participants in their 70s. (Intake was measured by assessing blood levels of certain plant compounds.) These are the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Residents of Okinawa, Japan, which boasts one of the world’s highest centenarian ratios (about 50 per 100,000 people, compared with only ten to 20 in the United States), are living proof you should eat your veggies. Older Okinawans have eaten a plant-based diet most of their lives, and almost all grow or once grew a garden.
You have a way about you
Near-centenarians share a number of personality traits, including optimism and joyfulness, according to a 2012 study of 243 volunteers in the journal Aging. “Being adaptable and flexible helps people avoid stress and anxiety, which can increase longevity,” says Rosanne Leipzig, MD, PhD, a professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. These are the 10 things optimistic people do every day.
You savor the catch of the day
Older adults with the highest blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids lived two more years on average than did those with lower levels, a Harvard study found. Participants did not take fish oil supplements; they simply ate a lot of fish, which is packed with omega-3s.
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You eat Greek-ish
We’ve known that eating a Mediterranean-style diet (one with an emphasis on olive oil, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, as well as fruits, veggies, and fish) has been linked with long life. But new Harvard research of more than 4,600 women reveals the trickle-down effect of good nutrition. Researchers scored volunteers based on how closely they followed this style of eating; those with the highest scores had the least cellular aging. Here's how to eat like a Greek (and lose weight, too!).
You snooze and don't lose
iStock/Central IT Alliance
Residents of Ikaria, Greece, a small island in the Mediterranean with a high population of centenarians, are fond of an afternoon nap, and it turns out it’s good for their tickers. Harvard researchers studied more than 23,000 people for six years and found that those who regularly took a 30-minute siesta had a 37 percent lower chance of dying from heart disease than did those who stayed awake all day. This is the secret to taking an energizing power nap.
You can run at a good clip
A 2012 study in Archives of Internal Medicine confirmed that physical fitness in midlife can predict how healthy you’ll be later. After following 19,000 middle-aged adults, it found that the most fit were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, certain cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes in their 70s and beyond. The most in-shape men had fitness levels the equivalent of running an eight- minute mile; the women had levels equal to logging a mile in ten minutes. “People who remain active throughout their life span, whether that’s running, walking, or riding bikes, live longer,” says Jeremy Walston, MD, a professor of geriatric medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
You make sure it means something
A study in Psychological Science found that people who feel they have a sense of purpose in life are less likely to die over a 14-year period. “Make a new friend, pick up a new hobby, or volunteer,” says Dr. Leipzig. “My great-uncle, who is in his mid-90s, still works in his wood shop almost every day,” adds Dr. Walston. Here are the things you should be doing to keep your brain sharp later in life.
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You're trim where it counts
Women with a waist of 37 inches or more had a life expectancy that was five years lower after age 40 than did women with a waist of 27 inches or less, found one study. For men, a waist of 43 inches or more was linked to a three-year decrease in life expectancy compared with those with a waist of 35 inches or less. Trimming even a few inches from your pants size may have a powerful health impact. “I tell my patients that whenever possible, walk, don’t drive,” says Dr. Leipzig. Here are tips to lose belly fat without even exercising.
You've got connections
Feeling connected to family and friends keeps people engaged and facilitates healthy aging, says Dr. Walston. “Being isolated works in the other direction and can lead to chronic illnesses.” In Sardinia, Italy, another tiny Mediterranean island with a large centenarian population, friendship is key, according to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow who has traveled the world to study its longest-living people. “Life is very social. People meet on the street daily and savor each other’s company. They count on each other. If someone gets sick, a neighbor is right there,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal. This is what the healthiest village in the world has to say about how to live longer.
You surround yourself with healthy people
Connections of any kind are important, but if the people you associate with are healthy and motivated, this can be a huge boost to your own longevity. The New England Journal of Medicine claims that if your friends gain weight, your own chances of doing so increase by a whopping 57%. This doesn't mean you should shun your less healthy friends, of course; look into some fitness activities you can do together. It's a win-win. Or, try out some of these painless ways to sneak a workout into your social get-togethers.
You drink tea...
Drinking one or two cups of tea a day is great for your heart. Both green and black tea contain catechins, which relax blood vessels. However, you should be making the tea yourself; in ready-to-drink teas, most of the catechins have probably dissolved already, so they don't have quite the same heart-healthy power. Prevention.com also warns that putting milk in your tea could also negate its health value. Honey it is. Heart protection isn't the only benefit you can get from drinking green tea, either.
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This other popular caffeine-filled beverage is pretty much on the opposite end of the health spectrum as tea. Drinking soda even once a day doubles your risk of metabolic syndrome, which can cause heart disease, diabetes, and weight gain. Even scarier, the sweeteners used in soda—both natural and artificial—can train your taste buds to crave more sweet food and drink. And don't fall for the "diet soda" trap, either; its effects on your health are virtually the same. As if all that weren't enough, here are 10 more reasons you should stay away from soda (yes, even diet).
You do your own chores
Keep your house clean and your body healthy all at once. Spending an hour doing an active chore, such as vacuuming or washing the windows, can burn almost 300 calories! According to a study of adults between ages 70 and 90, making this a habit can lower your risk of death by 30 percent. That's worth the slight hassle of doing chores, we think.
You're a purple-eater
It seems random, sure, but apparently eating purplish-colored foods can give you a major health boost. And no, we're not talking about grape-flavored candy or ice cream (that is, if grape ice cream was even a thing). We're talking about the grapes themselves, blueberries, or—surprise!—red wine. All of these are loaded with polyphenols, which can reduce the risk of both heart disease and Alzheimer's. Eating both blueberries and purple grapes can also improve your brain function and memory, so eat up. Next, check out some other simple habits that could add five years to your life.