Seven scientifically proven strategies for a longer life…
The Longevity Project, the Stanford University study of lifespan factors that’s been running since 1921, in 2011 announced a surprising discovery about the personality type most likely to live longest. Rather than being the chilled-out dude, it’s actually those who’re organised, hard-working conscientious and persistent. The reasons? They’re less likely to take risks like drinking and smoking, develop better relationships and achieve more at work. “The findings clearly revealed that the best childhood personality predictor of longevity was conscientiousness,” the scientists wrote in their report. “The qualities of a prudent, persistent, well-organised person, like a scientist-professor — somewhat obsessive and not at all carefree.” The Longevity Study has also concluded that working harder leads to longer life. “We found that productive, hardworking people (even in old age) are not stressed and miserable, but tend to be happier, healthier, and more socially connected than their less productive peers,” they reported.
2. Ditch The Vices
Yep, we’ve all see the news story about the 100-year-old fella who credits making the century with never exercising, having three whiskies a day and smoking until the ripe old age of 96. Thing is, like Keith Richards, he’s a freak of nature. The simple truth is that smokers aged 45 and over live an average of 10 years less than those who’ve never smoked. But the good news is that if you quit before 45 you eliminate most of that risk. As for alcohol, a recent meta study of 87 other studies challenged the long-held view that moderate consumption has health benefits. “Meta-analyses adjusting for these factors find that low-volume alcohol consumption has no net mortality benefit compared with lifetime abstention or occasional drinking,” it concluded. So having one or two drinks per day isn’t helping you—but it’s also doing you no more harm than not drinking at all.
3. Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are found in flaxseed oil, salmon, walnuts, mackerel, spinach and other foods. They’ve been credited with numerous health benefits, including reducing inflammation and cholesterol and having anti-depressant, mood-boosting properties. But it appears they also contribute broadly to longevity. In 2013 the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Washington released the results of a longevity study involving participants 65 years over 16 years. They found that those with high levels of the three fatty acids in Omega-3 lived an average two years longer and were 35 per cent less likely to develop heart disease than those with low levels of the fats. You can achieve these results simply by eating at least two serves of oily fish a week or by taking fish-oil supplements daily. As for Omega-3 causing increased risk of prostate cancer, recent research indicates there’s no clear evidence of a link.
4. Get Educated
A 2012 Center For Disease Control study found that people with bachelor’s degree or higher live an average nine years longer than those who didn’t finish high school. It makes sense simply because those who’re educated are more likely to land better jobs with higher incomes and to make smarter health and lifestyle choices.
5. Don’t Sit Around Too Much
As hunter-gatherers, our bodies aren’t built to sit for extended periods. But between commuting, working in offices and binge-watching our favourite shows, sitting is our main activity, with most of us averaging 9.3 hours on our arses a day, compared with 7.3 hours spent sleeping. The bad news is that sitting for six-plus hours a day makes you 40 per cent more likely to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than three hours a day. Sadly, that’s true even if you exercise. The reasons are that sitting changes the way your body functions—calorie burning drops hugely, you produce less of the enzyme that breaks down fat and your good cholesterol plummets. The only way to diminish the risk is to interrupt sitting as often as you can, whether that means standing at your desk, setting reminders to get up and walk around every 30 minutes or watch the new season of your favourite Netflix show while doing jumping jacks.
6. Exercise & Lift Weights
A recent study of people 65 years and older found that those who strength-trained twice a week or more were 46 per cent less likely to die during the research period. The bad news was that only 9 per cent of people that age were lifting weights. The take away? Start lifting now and don’t stop. As for exercise, a 2015 meta study of Americans’ exercise habits over 14 years revealed that the “Cinderella” spot for increased longevity was 450 minutes per week—that is, three times the presently prescribed 150 minutes of exercise per week. “The sweet spot for exercise benefits, however, came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day,” the New York Times reported. “Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised.”
7. Be Positive But Realistic
While a billion memes and motivational posters sell us the idea that being cheerful is the key to a long and happy life, the truth isn’t quite that simple. The Longevity Project found optimists aren’t more likely to celebrate their 100th birthdays precisely because of their sunny-side up attitudes. “If you’re cheerful, very optimistic, especially in the face of illness and recovery, if you don’t consider the possibility that you might have setbacks, then those setbacks are harder to deal with,” the study reported. “If you’re one of those people who think everything’s fine — ‘no need to back up those computer files’ — the stress of failure, because you haven’t been more careful, is harmful. You almost set yourself up for more problems.”