Like a fine wine, the healthy lifestyle choices you make have the potential to get better with age. We like to think of this as the snowball effect, causing small choices that you made years ago to become even more powerful with the passage of time.
Let’s look at the negative side of this health law before we explore the positive. Here’s an easy one: we can start with smoking. Most of us readily understand that smoking is not a healthy choice. Starting smoking at a young age and continuing throughout your life can not only increase the risk of cancer and disease, but it can shorten your lifespan. The simple decision to pick up a cigarette and continue smoking over the long-term may increase breast cancer risk by up to 40 percent, among other cancers. Smoking may reduce lifespan by up to 10 years on average, primarily because smoking is one habit that can trigger ageing at the genetic level.
LIVING TO A RIPE OLD AGE
Compare this to the good. Depending on the healthy choices that you make, your lifestyle may help to offset many of the negative effects of a habit like smoking, potentially adding up to six years to your life. l. That is not to say that we encourage using healthy habits to “cancel out” the bad. On the contrary, a Swedish study examining how healthy choices can affect lifespan, published in the British Medical Journal in 2012, shows just how impactful sensible, clean living can be with each passing year.
At the time this study was published, it was the first of its kind to provide clear information about how several modifiable lifestyle factors can influence longevity — like smoking, heavy drinking and being overweight. When the team of Swedish researchers measured the differences in survival rates among 1,800 adults aged 75 and older, over a period that spanned 18 years, factoring in social connections, leisure activities and lifestyle behaviours, they honed in on the pattern of the longest living survivors.
The individuals with the greatest longevity in the study were most likely to be highly educated women with healthy lifestyle habits, a strong social network and regular participation in leisure activities.
Concerning leisure activities, study participants who exercised had the strongest rate of survival, with exercises like swimming, walking and gymnastics adding two years to lifespan. Researchers concluded that healthy lifestyle habits, even at an older age, can increase life expectancy and reduce the risk of death.
And if a habit like smoking can prematurely age the cells and open the door to disease, then what can a healthy diet do? In 2012, researchers in the UK also discovered that molecular changes in our genes can be influenced by what we eat. Genes are likely to show these epigenetic marks, i.e., molecular changes, with age, though nutrients like selenium and vitamin D can reduce this form of genetic ageing. Based on the results of the study, researchers concluded that a healthy diet can have a direct effect on the healthy ageing process. Epigenetic changes caused by a poor diet may trigger premature ageing in the body, as well as invite cancer and other diseases. 2.
Likewise, the latest 2016 research from the European Food Information Council found a healthy diet, particularly the Mediterranean diet, to reduce bone loss and slow down the ageing process by calming inflammation in the body? An antiageing diet like this must be totally free of processed, Western foods that are known to spread inflammation.
A typical anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-style “Really Healthy Foods” diet includes plenty of fresh and frozen vegetables, dark-skinned fruits and avocado, nuts. seeds, beans, moderate meat, healthy oils, healthy carbohydrate alternatives and oily fish.
A healthy diet has also been proven to prevent or delay a decline in mobility in ageing women.’
GOOD HEALTH A MARATHON
You’ve probably heard the saying before, “Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.” This couldn’t apply more than to the healthy choices you make each day that have the potential to shape your life as you age.
Slow and steady wins the race, and if you want to see your golden years in a new light, we suggest putting these healthy antiageing habits into practice today:
1. Change your diet. The anti-inflammatory, Mediterranean-style diet mentioned above is flavourful and delicious, and it also has long-term benefits to reduce ageing and prevent disease. We recommend adding more healthy fats to your plate, like sardines, salmon, hemp oil and olive oil, known to nourish the brain and protect against age-related cognitive decline.
2. Stay active. As we saw in the Swedish study above, adults who were physically active had a higher survival rate. Another study found exercise, coupled with a healthy diet rich in fruits and veggies, to extend life expectancy in women in their 70s.5 Regardless of your fitness level, you can receive these health benefits by building up to walking 3-5 miles per day, using a brisk, long stride.
3. Take daily nutrients. Anyone, at any age, with any health issue will see a difference from supplementing the missing nutrients their body needs each day. Specific, targeted nutrients, like the anti-inflammatory proteolytic enzyme Serrapeptase and the anti-inflammatory spice compound curcumin, can have an even more profound effect on the body with age. Serrapeptase has been proven calm inflammation in the body that may contribute to arthritis and joint stiffness while curcumin has been shown to fight cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. 6,7,8. And as UK researchers noted above, vitamin D and selenium can buffer premature cell ageing, making a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement even more essential as you get older.
It’s certainly possible to start making healthy changes at any age, but the ‘snowball effect” is hard to ignore. Sadly, it’s only a matter of time before unhealthy choices, like smoking and eating processed foods, will begin to catch up with you. Yet research has also proven that fighting the good fight — by eating really healthy foods, taking high-quality supplements, staying active and maintaining personal relationships — can transform and even add to your life. Making these simple, healthy changes as early as possible gives you the chance to rewrite your “third act.”
1. Rizzuto, Orsini, N., Qiu C Wang, H, X, and Fratiglioni, L 2012. Lifestyle socialfactors, and survival after age 75: population based study BMJ, 345 (aug29 2): e5568 DOI; 10.1136/bmj.e5568
2, Tapp, H. S, Commane, D. MO Bradburn D M.. ArasaradnanvR, Mathers J. C, Johnson L T and Belshaw, 2012. Nutritionalfactors and genderinfluence age-related DNA methylation in the human rectal mucosa. Ageing Cell, DOI
3. A Mediterranean style diet decreases levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein 2016 European Food Information Council.
4. Hagan, K A, Chiuve, S. E, Stampfer, M Katz, I N, and Grodstein, F. 2016.Geater adherence to the alternative healthy eating index is associated with lower incidence of physical function impairment, in the nurses health study. Journal of Nutrition, DOI: 10.3945/jn.415.22790m
5, Nicklett E J9 Sembq R, D.. Xue, Q. L, Tian J.cSun, K, Coppola, A Simonsick, E M» Ferrucci, L. and fried L P. 2012. Fruit and Vegetable Intake Physical Activity and Mortality in Older Community- Dwelling Women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 60 (5) p 862 DOI 10.1111/j.1532-5415. 2012.03924.R
6 Yamazaki; j. et al. 1967. Anti-inflammatory activity of TSP, a protease produced by a strain ofSerratia Folia PhamacoL Japon 63, pp 302-314.
7. Abuzeid W. M., Davis, Tang, A. L, Saunders, L, Brenner, J. C Lin. Fuchs 1 R Light E. Bradford C R, Prince, M. E. P, and Carey T. E. 2011. Sensitization of head and neck cancer to cisplatin through the use of a novel curcumin analog. Archives of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery, 137 (5) p 499 DOI: 10.1001/archoto.2011.63.
8 Mjshra S. and Palanivelu, K 2008 The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimers disease. An overview. Ann Indian Acad Nuerol [serial online] [cited 2016 Jul 21]; 11 pp 13-9.