1. Let go of the myth of inevitable decay.
Scientists are discovering that the more you buy into the notion that getting older means losing your mental acuity, the more likely you are to succumb to it. Yale University psychologist Becca Levy, Ph.D., explores psychosocial influences on aging, particularly, how older individuals’ perceptions of aging affects cognition and health.
Through her research she has found that older people shown negative words about aging, such as senile, before taking memory tests did significantly worse on the tests than those shown positive words about aging, such as wisdom. In fact, people who saw positive words improved their scores. Levy has also shown that in cultures with a more positive view of aging than the culture in the United States and other western countries, older people perform better on memory tests.
In addition, her research has shown that older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging. Even hearing decline can be predicted by a person’s stereotypes of the elderly.
2. Floss regularly.
Research has shown a distinct connection between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease. Consider this: a study found that men under age fifty with advanced periodontal disease were 2.6 times more likely to die prematurely and 3 times more likely to die of heart disease compared to men with healthy teeth and gums. The most common cause of periodontitis is poor oral hygiene, and daily brushing and flossing and regular professional cleanings can greatly reduce your chances of developing this condition.
In addition, flossing and clogged arteries also may be related. Research has revealed that the same bacteria in tooth plaque are also found in the deadly fat deposits that obstruct arteries. Researchers speculate that bacteria from the mouth may enter the bloodstream and contribute to inflammation and artery clogging.
3. Keep a positive attitude.
Since 1986, University of Kentucky scientist David Snowdon has been studying 678 nuns hoping to discover secrets of the brain. In particular, what happens to the brain as we age. His findings, known as the Nun Study, have shed some light on how to live a mentally active life well into old age. One of his findings is that a positive emotional state at an early age might help ward off disease and even prolong life. In fact, there is a growing body of literature that shows a correlation between a person’s attitude and their physical health, mental health, and longevity.
James M. Rippe, M.D is a best-selling author, world-renowned cardiologist, and founder of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute. He explains that if you look at all the risk factors for dying, the one that is most predictive is fitness level. In addition, an older person with high cardiovascular fitness is healthier than a younger person who is physically inactive. By increasing your fitness level, you can actually roll back your biological clock.
5. Stress management.
Studies have shown thatof all physician visits are for stress-related complaints. Stress has been linked to everything from the common flu to cancer. In addition, cardiac disorders, hypertension, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sexual and fertility problems, and diabetes all are exacerbated by stress. In order to increase your life expectancy you need to decrease the probability that you’ll get sick, which means you need to lower your stress level. These posts will show you how to lower your levels of stress:
Deepak Chopra, M.D., the world’s foremost expert on the mind-body connection, states in his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind that studies have shown that long-term meditators can have a biological age between 5 and 12 years younger than their chronological age. Levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are often found to be lower in long term meditators, and their coping mechanisms tend to be stronger than average.
7. Keep healthy-looking skin.
This tip won’t help you live longer, but as long as you’re working toward lengthening your life span, you might as well look good while doing it. Amy Wechsler, dermatologist, psychiatrist, and author of The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin, explains that retinoids are wrinkle reducers. There are certain beauty creams that contain retinoids, but they can also be found in food, such as carrots. Eating carrots helps balance the pH of the skin’s surface, making it slightly acidic. That’s good news, because slightly acidic skin fends off bacterial invaders. In addition, dark chocolate improves skin’s texture, thickness, hydration, and blood flow.
8. Eat plenty of foods rich in anti-oxidants.
Dr. Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., co-author of the book You: Staying Young: The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty indicates that antioxidants are anti-aging foods, and one of his favorite sources of antioxidants are blueberries. He says the following: “All foods with dark colors in them have some of these really protecting antioxidant chemicals in them.” Other good anti-aging foods include broccoli, tomatoes, and the acai (pronounced “AH-sigh-EE”), a small fruit from South American rainforests that is often found in the United States in juice. He recommends that you eat about five servings of antioxidant-rich foods a day.
9. Eat plenty of fiber.
Dr. Oz also explains that one key to staying young is to keep your intestines healthy and bowels regular. This takes about 25 grams of fiber a day. Fiber works by keeping all the nutrients you eat in your intestines and releasing them as needed. It can be found in fruits, vegetables and foods rich in whole grains. Try the following:
- Wrap sandwiches in whole wheat tortillas instead of white.
- Choose whole-grain cereal for breakfasts and snacks.
- Try brown rice or whole-wheat pasta.
- Have steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast.
10. Get enough sleep.
A study conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Center found that cutting back from the standard eight hours of sleep to four hours each night produced striking changes in glucose tolerance and endocrine function — changes that resembled the effects of advanced age or the early stages of diabetes — after less than one week. Researchers concluded that chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory loss.
11. Keep the mind engaged.
An enormous amount of data uncovered in the last two decades confirms that the brain retains its plasticity–that is, its ability to grow new neurons and the connections between them–throughout life. In addition, brain ailments commonly associated with getting older can also be diminished by keeping the brain stimulated. Dr. Yaakov Stern, Division Leader of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division of the Sergievsky Center at Columbia University indicates that “Individuals who lead mentally stimulating lives, through education, occupation, and leisure activities, have reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest that they have 35 to 40% less risk of manifesting the disease.”
12. Stop smoking.
Dr. Rippe, whom we previously mentioned, also admonishes that if you’re in your 50’s and you smoke, you are cutting off seven years of your life. In addition to accelerating the aging process, smoking wrinkles skin and makes you look old beyond your years.
13. Drink wine, in moderation.
Have you heard that red wine in moderation can be good for your health? Dr. Oz explains that part of the reason is the alcohol and part is resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant that comes from the skins of grapes. Vintners add the grape skins back to make red wine, but they don’t do the same process for white wine—so white wine has no resveratrol benefit. “Resveratrol does one other thing,” Dr. Oz says. “It turns on a system in your body that prevents your cells from aging. . . Eighty percent of the benefit of the wine is actually the alcohol, and 20 percent is the resveratrol,” Dr. Oz says. “So it’s the combination that makes red wine so valuable.” He adds that most people should drink about one glass of red wine a day, though some men can drink slightly more because males metabolize alcohol more effectively than females.
14. Get lots of love and nurturing.
Dr. Marian C. Diamond is one of the world’s foremost neuroanatomists. She was conducting research with young rats to determine whether enriched conditions accelerated the growth of dendrites. An enriched environment is one in which 12 rats are put together in a large cage filled with a variety of play objects. In contrast, an impoverished environment houses one rat with no objects to play with. The enriched rats ran maze tests faster than the impoverished ones, showing a greater ability to solve problems.
Dr. Diamond wanted to conduct the same experiment with older rats, and she chose 600 day-old rats, which is roughly the equivalent of a 60 year-old human. However, several of the rats would die around the 600 day-old mark. She decided to try and improve the rats’ longevity by adding an extra ingredient to the experiment: love. Instead of putting the rats immediately in their control cages after they were cleaned, the scientists involved in the study held them against their lab coats and petted them. The rats that were petted lived considerably longer than those that were not.