Liz Connor quizzes health experts on ageing.
Humans are constantly searching for the secrets to a long and happy life, from going sober and smoke-free, to embracing the latest new-age wellbeing trend.
When it comes to making it to 100, luck and genes aren’t everything. Science has proven there are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to add more hours onto the clock.
So, what does it take to be a ‘superager’? We ask health experts to dish their top tips…
1. Supplement, supplement, supplement
Getting enough exercise and eating a balanced diet is the key to outrunning the reaper, but a few strategic supplements can help too. Supplements provide additional nutrients when your diet is lacking, or when certain health conditions cause you to develop an insufficiency or deficiency.
Taking a daily multivitamin and being sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D is one of the recommendations by Harvard Health for a longer life, but there may be others you want in your arsenal. “I’d recommend taking glucosamine supplements,” says Healthspan medical director Dr Sarah Brewer.
Glucosamine is one of the building blocks of cartilage, ligaments and tendons, and it can help to stave off osteoarthritis and joint pain. “At least two studies show that those who take a daily supplement live longer than those who don’t – possibly due to their anti-inflammatory action,” says Brewer, who recommends trying Healthspan Glucoasmine & Chondroitin (£13.99 for 120 tablets, healthspan.co.uk). It’s always worth speaking to a doctor before adding any supplements to your diet, though.
2. Be young at heart
The concept of ‘the inner child’ suggests that the wide-eyed infant you once were still lives deep within you.”Embrace it,” says Dr Meg Arroll, author of The Shrinkology Solution (£9.99, Quadrille Publishing). “Psychological research shows that people who are more open to new experiences are at less risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure.” Her top tip? “Go outside, run around a sprinkler and set your inner 10-year-old free.’
3. Put plants on your plate
Nutritionist Rob Hobson’s ultimate life-extender is simple: “Get into eating more plant-based foods.”
He believes this is your quickest way to get more nutrients into your diet, including vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients shown to help reduce the risk of disease.
“Plant-based diets have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of premature death in the UK,” Hobson says. “Try meat-free Mondays to start with, or simply up your daily intake of vegetables, beans, pulses and lentils.”
4. Make de-stressing part of your routine
“Chronic inflammation underpins pretty much every single degenerative disease that we have, including heart attacks, strokes and even Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr Rangan Chatterjee, author of The 4 Pillar Plan (£16.99, Penguin).
“Rest and relaxation activates the parasympathetic branch of our nervous system; our cortisol levels fall, digestive enzymes are released, our heart rate drops and our muscles relax, which allows us to digest food appropriately, de-stress and sleep soundly.”
Put aside 15 minutes a day for de-stressing, whether it’s meditation, yoga or simply sitting quietly – just keep it tech-free. Find what works for you and stick to it.
5. Embrace morning light
Suffering from sleepless nights? “Going outside in the morning and exposing yourself to natural light actually helps you sleep better in the evening,” says Dr Chatterjee, “which, in turn, is a key factor in the protection against ageing.”
It does this by helping you set your body’s daily circadian rhythm. “This is a good time to take your me-time”, Chatterjee adds – whether that’s sitting in the garden with a coffee, or skipping the bus and walking from the station to the office.
6. Use it to avoid losing it
“A third of people over 60 fall at least once a year, making it the most common cause of death from injury in this age bracket,” says Chatterjee, who believes that much of our losses in mobility can be attributed to the fact that our feet have become stiff and weak, as a result of years of wearing overly cushioned and restrictive shoes.
So, how do you keep your feet in good nick? He advises you combat lower-body issues by wearing ‘barefoot’ shoes where possible – thin-soled footwear that don’t restrict natural movement, like Vivobarefoot’s Primus Lux sneakers (£135, vivobarefoot.com).
And to be extra safe? Try spending a few minutes every day doing exercises like toe curls, raises and points.