Take a short­cut to a longer life

After years por­ing over stud­ies, two au­thors have sorted the short­cuts to liv­ing long healthy lives. LISA SALMON finds out about the Age-well Project

Gloucestershire Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE -

IF YOU want to live a long, healthy life, don’t wait ‘til you’re old to start tack­ling your health and well­be­ing.

Many dis­eases associated with older age – can­cer, heart dis­ease, de­men­tia – can take root in mid-life, note au­thors Annabel Streets and Su­san Saun­ders, who have spent years re­search­ing the best, and eas­i­est, ways to age more healthily.

The pair be­gan their longevity quest after de­men­tia and can­cer hit their par­ents and grand­par­ents, and they faced the prospect of a sim­i­lar fate as they aged.

Annabel, 54, says: “I looked after my grand­fa­ther as he died from can­cer, and later I watched my mother care for my grand­mother who lived with de­men­tia and crip­pling rheuma­toid arthri­tis. When I de­vel­oped a chronic au­toim­mune dis­ease, I knew things had to change. In my 40s, I joined Su­san to re­search and blog our way to a health­ier, hap­pier old age. So far it’s worked – I’ve never felt bet­ter!”

The friends shared their longevity dis­cov­er­ies on a blog called the Age-well Project (agewell­pro­ject.com/blog), which led to a book. It de­tails nearly 100 short­cuts to health in mid and later life, cen­tring on four cor­ner­stones of healthy age­ing: Reg­u­lar ex­er­cise, healthy diet, con­tin­ued men­tal en­gage­ment, and good sleep.

Here, the au­thors share

10 of their healthy age­ing short­cuts...

1. EN­JOY COF­FEE

COF­FEE is rich in an­tiox­i­dants, polyphe­nols and a com­pound called phenylin­dane, which may help fend off Alzheimer’s and Parkin­son’s dis­ease. The au­thors say the long­est-liv­ing peo­ple drink be­tween two and four cups a day, and it should be con­sumed with­out sugar or pro­cessed syrups, and shouldn’t be too milky. Dark-roasted con­tains more ben­e­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents.

2. WALK FASTER

WALK­ING is good, but it’s the fast walk­ing that re­ally counts, say Annabel and Su­san. Brisk walk­ing has been linked to bet­ter mem­ory, bet­ter health and a longer life.

In­crease your pace un­til you’re slightly out of breath, and aim for 30 min­utes a day, ide­ally out­doors to get the ad­di­tional ben­e­fits of vi­ta­min D and light dur­ing the spring and sum­mer months.

3. SPEND TIME IN GREEN SPACE

TREES pro­duce phy­ton­cides, which stud­ies have found help lower blood pres­sure, re­duce stress, and sup­port im­mu­nity. The mi­crobes in forest soil have been found to re­duce de­pres­sion too. “A week­end in the woods im­proves im­mu­nity for up to a month, while an af­ter­noon walk means bet­ter sleep,” says Annabel. “Re­search sug­gests a 15-minute walk is all it takes to reap the ben­e­fits of phy­ton­cides and forest mi­crobes.”

4. FAST DAILY

IN­TER­MIT­TENT fast­ing is a proven method for in­creas­ing longevity, say Annabel and Su­san, and it also ap­pears to fend off Alzheimer’s, type 2 di­a­betes and weight gain. There are sev­eral forms of fast­ing, such as avoid­ing food for 16 hours overnight and then eat­ing in an eight-hour win­dow – a method Annabel uses – and it’s im­por­tant to find one that suits your life­style.

5. BUILD MUS­CLE

EX­PERTS be­lieve re­sis­tance train­ing is as im­por­tant for age­ing as aer­o­bic ex­er­cise, eat­ing veg­eta­bles and sleep­ing well. After the age of 40, we lose mus­cle at the rate of 1% a year, in­creas­ing the risk of heart at­tacks, strokes and os­teo­poro­sis.

Re­cent re­search found that older adults who did twice-weekly strength train­ing lived longer and with less ill­ness than those who did none.

And you don’t have to go to the gym to do such train­ing – Annabel says she has weights through­out her house which she lifts while wait­ing for the ket­tle to boil or watch­ing TV.

6. MEDITATE

MED­I­TA­TION ap­pears to re­duce stress and strengthen telom­eres, the ‘caps’ which pro­tect DNA. A Har­vard study found it has a pos­i­tive im­pact on blood pres­sure, with 15 min­utes a day mak­ing a dif­fer­ence. And it has a pow­er­ful ef­fect on the brain: Reg­u­lar prac­ti­tion­ers seem not to lose grey mat­ter, or suf­fer re­duced con­cen­tra­tion, as they age. Su­san, 52, says do­ing around 10 min­utes of daily med­i­ta­tion has made more dif­fer­ence to her stress lev­els than any­thing else she’s tried.

7. EAT MORE FI­BRE

AN Aus­tralian study tracked the di­ets of 1,600 peo­ple over 10 years to dis­cover the im­pact of car­bo­hy­drate con­sump­tion on suc­cess­ful age­ing.

The most suc­cess­ful agers (those most free of dis­ease) ate the most fi­bre – usu­ally from fruit, whole­grain bread and oats. The re­searchers sug­gested that ei­ther the fi­bre slows the di­ges­tion of food, thus keeping in­sulin lev­els in check, which in turn re­duces in­flam­ma­tion (a key trig­ger of age­ing); or some types of fi­bre fer­ment in the body, pro­duc­ing short-chain fatty acids which also dampen in­flam­ma­tion.

8. AVOID BLUE LIGHT IN THE EVENING

BLUE light helps wake us in the morn­ing, but at night it sup­presses pro­duc­tion of mela­tonin, the hor­mone which helps con­trol sleep-wake cy­cles.

Screens and LED lights pro­duce blue light, and Is­raeli re­searchers found study par­tic­i­pants who were kept away from all screens for an evening, then given ac­cess to screens the fol­low­ing night, didn’t sleep nearly as well on the night they used screens. So for bet­ter sleep, which helps pro­mote health­ier age­ing, avoid screens in the evening.

9. LOOK AFTER YOUR EYES

AGE-RE­LATED mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion is the most com­mon cause of blind­ness in the de­vel­oped world. The best ways to help pro­tect eyes from the con­di­tion are to avoid smok­ing, keep ac­tive and eat healthily – in­clud­ing foods rich in mac­u­lar pig­ments, found in bright green, yel­low and or­ange fruit and veg­eta­bles, such as corn, or­ange pep­pers, car­rots and kale.

10. GET A DOG

HAV­ING a dog forces you out ev­ery day, what­ever the weather. Re­search shows that walk­ing a dog boosts phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity among older peo­ple, es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter.

A study of more than three mil­lion Swedes aged 40-80 found dog own­ers had a lower risk of death due to all causes. Pet own­ers also have lower blood pres­sure and choles­terol than non-pet own­ers.

The Age-well Project: Easy Ways

To A Longer, Health­ier, Hap­pier

Life by Annabel Streets and Su­san Saun­ders is pub­lished by Pi­atkus, priced £14.99.

The Age-well Project au­thors, Annabel Streets, left, and Su­san Saun­ders

Drink two to four cups of dark cof­fee a day

Spend­ing time around trees can re­duce stress

Pet own­ers have lower blood pres­sure

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