You’re going to live longer

On turning 70 comedian Bob Hope said, “You still chase women, but only downhill.”

At 80 he announced that, “That’s the time of your life when even your birthday suit needs ironing.”

A decade later he observed, “You know you’re getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.”

And then when he made a century he quipped, “I don’t feel old… In fact I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.”

Here’s something else that may make you laugh: half of the children born in the UK today will live to be over 100, that’s the news announced by researchers.

This isn’t just about your children, everyone is living longer and what you do now will effect your health in later years. But it’s not all drudgery from here on, there should be less disability too. Florrie, Britain’s oldest woman at 113, still advises a daily fried egg sandwich – in other words, make sure you get to enjoy life along the way.

Living longer will nonetheless have an impact on your quality of life. Here’s some things you may not have considered for taking control…

A good sleep routine means the body gets the time it needs to repair itself, which will pay off in the long run. A proper sleep can help with everything from wrinkles and arthritis to Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. (Tell your boss that next time she catches you having 40-winks.) The good news is that diet, relaxation, exercise, teas and tablets can all help with sleep. Find what works for you.

Plain popcorn, or any low fat carbohydrate can help induce sleep. Bananas are helpfully high in melatonin which regulates sleep, but watch out for those weird dreams. Lettuce comes with small amounts of laudanum (a chemical that will more than put you to sleep if you have too much). Or you could try yoghurt and nuts (eat a few hours before bedtime), they have the active chemicals, lysine and arginine, which reduce stress. Sesame seeds have loads of tryptophan which the body loves for better sleep. Others advise a nightcap of a glass of wine (but just one, having two will reverse the calming effect) and unsweetened cherry juice helps induce serotonin.

Believe it or not exercise keeps your DNA younger, which keeps you younger. Researchers found this by testing twins. The longterm benefit is that there is less stress on your body’s organs. Exercise for longevity should focus on endurance rather than weight loss or peak performance but, whatever you do, find something you will enjoy over the years rather than an exercise program you’ll give up after a few months.

Your mind

Simple puzzles like crosswords will help you stay mentally active all your life. And reducing stress and the built in comfort of good friendships goes a long way to helping your mind stay young too.

Omega 3, found in fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies and mackerel, not only helps your heart but keeps your brain young and flexible. You can also source it from flax seed, walnuts and  purslane too.

Anything with antioxidants in is going to help, because they free up other nutrients to work in your mind (and body) the way they’re supposed to. Invest in colourful fruit and veg like grapes, plums, blueberries and aubergine, green tea is good too. Avoid bad fats and high sugar foods.

Skin and hair care
The greatest damage to the skin comes from the sun, and not just because you’ve been sleeping on the beach too long. Sun damage is behind almost all wrinkles and age spots so make sure you protect your skin using lotions. Drinking water is fundamental to keeping skin and hair cells looking young, and your intake of antioxidants will also help protect the cells.

A modern irony is that to look good you really do need to eat well. A good all round diet ensuring you get the vitamins, minerals and proteins you need is best. Eating wholefoods like fibre rich brown rice will go a long way to keeping your hair healthy and vitamin C is important for the maintainance of collagen.

Hearing and vision
Once you reach 40 visit your optician every five years. Use eye drops to keep them clean. Dark coloured fruit and veg tend to be high in lutein and zeaxanthin which act like antioxidants for the eyes, but don’t overcook the vegetables. Vitamins A C and E and zinc benefit your eyes too. Also, give up smoking, your eyes will thank you for it.

Ears are a bit more difficult to look after, yet few seem to follow the common wisdom not to expose them to loud noises. The simple rule when it comes to earphones is: if your friend can hear what you’re listening to – it’s too loud.

Other illnesses and diet
Food is the medicine you put into your body everyday. In order to prevent heart disease you can lower your cholesterol with oats, pulses, nuts and omega 3 rich fish oil. Cancer studies have also found that vegetarians fare far better when it comes to reducing cancer risk, so what you eat really will help. It is famously reported by scientists that eating a typically mediterranean diet is likely to reduce your risk in both these areas, and help with things like diabetes, dementia and lung disease.

Foods like turmeric, spirulina, goji berries, acai berries, and pomegranates are getting plenty of hype at the moment, but there are other foods like melons, mushrooms and seaweed – very nutritious fare which deserve attention too. For joint problems using products with glucosamine can help repair the damage. If we still made soups from animal bones then we would have a plentiful source of glucosamine from food too (it’s in the marrow), but few people do this now.

Perhaps the most obviously important thing is to stay at a healthy weight. The closer you are to your ideal weight the greater your chances of still being healthy when you are 70. Shockingly, an 18 year old female who is overweight and puts on 21 pounds by middle age has an 82% greater chance of ill health by the time she is 70 when compared to a woman who keeps her weight stable.

My final thoughts? It’s the good little habits which will pay off at the end of the day, that and an ability to laugh at complications along the way.

Satchel Paige, an athlete who never knew his birthday, once asked, “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?” In the end it’s how you live that counts.