10 ways to live a longer and healthier 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.

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.

Streets, 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 of the same name that’s just been published. 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.

 

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What a year it’s been! We said goodbye to our previous incarnation, Kale & Cocoa, and launched The Age-Well Project. We spent the year writing ✍️ our book of the same name. It was tough! But we’re so proud of it and can’t wait to share it with you in 2019. We had lots of fun ageing well in 2018 – hiking 🥾 , skiing ⛷(for the first time in 25 years) and – of course – sharing lots of 😋 recipes! And we stepped out of our comfort zone when we got through to the next round of @ukblogawards and spoke @hbloggerscom #bestnine2018 #bestnine #best9 #best9of2018 #healthyageing #iinhealthcoach #lifestylemedicine #wellness #plantbased #plantforward #healthblogger #wellnessblogger #makesmewhole #over50 #over50blogger #hiking #skiing #fitover50 #over50fitness #health #healthyrecipes

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Here, the authors share 10 of their healthy ageing shortcuts…

1. Enjoy coffee
Coffee is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols and a recently identified 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

 

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Here’s how to fit exercise 🏃‍♀️ into your day! Annabel doing a few squats while waiting for a tube – yes, we feel a bit silly, yes, our children are embarrassed 😳 But squeezing movement into our lives whenever we can had allowed us to become stronger 💪 and fitter by stealth. Where can you fit in a workout today? #theagewellproject #agewell #healthyageing #healthyaging #discoverunder2k #fitness #fitover50 #fitover40 #fitover60 #fitoverfifty #over50 #over50andfabulous #over50andfit #over50andfeelinggreat #strong #livestrong #squats #squatschallenge #weights #workout #workouteveryday #workouteverywhere #weightraining #resistancetraining #bodytransformation #strengthtraining #strength #strengthtrainingforwomen #london #londontube

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Walking is good, but it’s the fast walking that really counts, say Streets and Saunders. 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 every 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 Streets. “Research suggests a 15-minute walk is all it takes to reap the benefits of phytoncides and forest microbes.”

4. Fast daily

 

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Shocking research shows that one-in-five lives are cut short by an unhealthy diet. Improving our diet is the simplest and most effective way to age well. These are the killers: 1️⃣ Too much salt 2️⃣ Too few whole grains 3️⃣ Too little fruit 4️⃣ Not enough nuts and seeds 5️⃣ Too few vegetables 6️⃣ Not enough omega 3 fatty acids 7️⃣ Low levels of fibre 8️⃣ Not enough polyunsaturated fatty acids 9️⃣ Low levels of legumes 🔟 Over-consumption of trans fats There are loads of great, healthy recipes that avoid these nasties over on the blog. Including the recipe for these fabulous roasted chickpeas. Follow link in bio. #health #healthyageing #healthyaging #wellness #wellnessblogger #discoverunder2k #over50 #over50blogger #over50andfabulous #transformationtuesday #diet #healthydiet #plantbased #iinhealthcoach #iin #wholegrains #longevity #makesmewhole #plantbasedprotein #chickpeas #roastchickpeas #spices

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

5. Build muscle

 

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Exercise is so important as we age, but it’s got to be safe. The older we get, the easier it is to get injured and the harder it is to recover from that injury. Follow these tips to help you exercise without strain: 1️⃣ Don’t work out through pain. If you think you’re injured, rest and consult a doctor/physio 2️⃣ Have a least one rest day to allow muscles to rest and repair. We usually take two a week (sometimes three!) 3️⃣ Stretch before and after exercise – increasingly important as we get older 4️⃣ Don’t just do one type of exercise – complement cardio or high-impact workouts with more gentle stretch-based movement like yoga or pilates 5️⃣ Look after your bones – green veg, dairy products and tinned sardines deliver bone-building nutrients. Our sardine and watercress pate contains all three. Follow the link in bio for the recipe #wellnesswednesday #iinhealthcoach #iin #fitoverfifty #fitness #exercise #fitnessmotivation #health #injuryrecovery #injuryprevention #injurypreventiontraining #bonehealth #restday #restdays #stretch #stretching #yoga #cardio #hiit #hiitworkout #hiitworkouts #pilates #pilatesbody #vegetables #pescetarian 📷Ned Horton

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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 – Streets 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. Saunders, 52, says doing around 10 minutes of daily meditation has made more difference to her stress levels than anything else she’s tried for the project.

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. Available now.