November 14, 2018

The Government’s goal for all of us under a new plan that seeks to prevent rather than simply treat illness.

“It’s about people choosing to look after themselves better,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock last week. But what should we be doing? A Harvard University study in August identified key habits that could potentially add a decade to life expectancy.

Don’t act your age - The secret of longevity owes more to a zest for life than to lucky genes, say researchers. A study of 660 volunteers aged 50 or over found those who had more positive perceptions of their own ageing lived an average of seven and a half years longer, even taking into account their income, age and health. Ageing is, in fact, only 10 percent genetics and 90 percent lifestyle, according to research focusing on longevity hotspots around the world.

Avoid early retirement - Delaying retirement might sound counter-intuitive but it can add years to your life, according to a 2016 study. Researchers at Oregon State University followed 2,956 people and found that healthy adults who retired aged 66, rather than at 65, had an 11 percent lower risk of death from all causes than those of the same age who had retired earlier.

Become a parent - People with children live at least two years longer than those who are childless, according to a study last year. Researchers in Sweden tracked 704,481 men and 725,290 women born between 1911 and 1925 and found that the risk of death was greater among those who did not have children. They say that childless people may not have the same support networks in place, leaving them more vulnerable.

Go for a walk - Fitness needn’t be exhausting: American and Swedish researchers found people over 40 who take regular brisk walks live longer than those who are inactive. People following the World Health Organization weekly minimum of 150 minutes of brisk walking could look forward to up to four and a half years of extra life compared to couch potatoes. Walking briskly for just half the recommended time resulted in an increased life expectancy of nearly two years.

Have an active love life - A study of 918 men in the Welsh town of Caerphilly between 1979 and 1993 found those who made love twice a week had a 50 percent reduced risk of death compared to those who had sex less than once a month.

Drink Greek coffee - Drinking strong coffee could hold the secret to why the population of the Greek island of Ikaria has the highest rate of longevity in the world – one percent live to 90 compared to the European average of just 0.1 per cent. Researchers looked at the coffee-drinking habits of 673 inhabitants over the age of 65. They found that 87 percent consumed Greek coffee – finely ground, and boiled in a tall, narrow pot. And those who did so daily had better cardiovascular health than those who didn’t drink the morning brew. Greek coffee is rich in chemicals called polyphenols and antioxidants which help mop up damaging free radicals in the blood. It is also relatively low in caffeine compared to instant coffee.

Get enough sleep - Several studies show both people who don’t get enough sleep and those who get too much reduce their life expectancy. A 2010 study, looking at a million people in eight countries, found sleeping fewer than six hours a night made people 12 percent more likely to die prematurely. Meanwhile, sleeping more than nine hours made them 30 percent more likely to die early.

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