March 18

11 Healthy Habits for a Long Life

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Reading time 6 min.

Fifteen years ago I was being driven around Cardiff by a Welsh taxi driver who was intelligent, fit and healthy. He was around 80 years old and I asked him to share some tips with me to having a long and happy life. To that, he only said: “Don’t eat an English breakfast.”

A supercentenarian from France, Jeanne Calment, died in 1997 when she was 122. When people asked her to share longevity secrets, she confessed with a smile to having a habit of drinking a glass of Port every day, eating two pounds of chocolate every week, massaging olive oil into her skin, taking up fencing at the age of 85, riding her bike until the age of a hundred, and smoking until she was 117. For some, it’s just luck that they live a long and healthy life despite their bad habits. For most people though it’s not the case. Fortunately, there is the “New England Centenarian Study”, which began in 1995 and goes on to be carried out at the Boston University School of Medicine. The research shows that around 30% of our longevity success is based on our DNA and 70% depends on our way of living and surroundings. So, even if we aren’t born with good genes, what we eat, how often we exercise, what we do and where we live still influences how long we live. Below are some healthy habits to boost your chances of becoming a supercentenarian.

1. Food: Prevalence Vegetables & Fish

Vegetables are rich in vitamins and nutrients, but low in carbohydrates. They provide you with most of the nutrition your body needs, but without too much carbohydrates that cause excessive weight. Vegetables are high in fibre and this can help prevent constipation and haemorrhoids, while also lowering your chance of developing bowel cancer. Fish and seafood are filled with protein that is great for building up muscles, and healthy fats that decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.

2. Eat Until You Are 80% Full

As a child, I was always made to finish whatever there was on my plate. In fact, studies demonstrate it’s unhealthy to force yourself to eat. The population of Okinawa - an island in Japan, have the longest living population in the world - 15% of the world’s supercentenarians live in Okinawa. “Hara hachi bu” is a traditional Okinawan proverb that translates into “eat until you are 80% full”. This is good for you because of a time delay between your stomach filling up and your brain receiving that signal. This time delay is approximately 20 minutes so you are actually full 20 minutes prior to finishing. If you eat quickly, you’ll use that 20 minute delay between gut and brain communication to overeat. Eat food slowly, assess your appetite as your meal progresses, and finish eating prior to that full feeling arriving.

3. Exercise

Being the best at keeping normal weight, physical exercise also decreases the risk of getting a heart stroke and many other various diseases. It helps strengthen muscles and bones that is vital for when you are a hundred years old.

4. Sleep Comes First

Sleep is what we easily shorten when attempting to squeeze more tasks into the day, but it’s essential to give your body a rest and recharge the whole system every night. Adults need around eight hours of sleep to perform at their best potential. Good sleep boosts focus, memory, productivity, energy level and mood.

5. See Your Goals

Take some time to set long-term goals. Take control of your life, profession and surroundings. Write down lists, think of long-term goals, be brave, and when you make your mind up to do something — do it!

6. Stress Management

Notice when you are stressed and take a break. Invest your energy to concentrate on important things in life. Managing stress is easier for some people, but can be almost impossible for others. If you get stressed out, learn stress management skills, practise mindfulness, and see a psychologist to guide you through life’s ups and downs.

7. Stay Social

Make time with family and friends your priority. At a gathering, make sure it’s quality time together. Seek out people who think like you. Nurture relationships with others and if you need help, ask for it.

8. Don’t Neglect Sunscreen

To live a long life without getting major damage to your skin or developing skin cancer, stay out of the sun during the hottest hours of the day (11am to 3pm), wear sunscreen, and never use sun beds.

9. Quit Smoking

Whether you roll your cigarette, smoke a natural one, use a filter, or bubble it through a bong — breathing any kind of smoke into your lungs increases your risk of having a heart attack, stroke, blood clots, gangrene, and needing limb amputations. Avoid smoking cigarettes, cigars, cannabis, hookah or shisha pipes. If you already smoke, quit right now. If it’s difficult, keep trying. See your doctor and ask for advice on how to quit. There is plenty of help, counselling, patches, gum, e-cigarettes, and tablets that decrease your cravings. Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your body and there’s no time like the present to get started.

10. Limit Your Alcohol

I think it’s useless to explain the large amount of diseases alcohol brings so I’ll just say this: try to limit the amount you take or eliminate alcohol completely.

11. Have Sex Twice a Week

Sex is proved to boost happiness and decrease stress levels. It is also great for preventing different diseases such as prostate cancer.

Scientists say that because of our modern trends in longevity, the first person to live to 150 has already been born — it might even be you.

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