Tips for a longer, healthier, happier life

Happy Woman Resized

Two UK women in their 50s who’d seen family members succumb to diseases such as cancer and dementia resolved to do what they could to avoid the same fate. For five years they studied the latest research and applied it to their lives. Now they’ve published a book based on their findings.

Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders wrote The Age Well Project: easy ways to a longer, healthier, happier life as a compilation of almost 100 ideas for staying healthy through the second half of life. As they say, the diseases of older age often take root decades before they show up.

I’ve summarised 10 of their tips here.

Enjoy coffee
It gets a tick of approval from researchers, though Annabel and Susan advise having it without sugar or syrups and not making it too milky because the antioxidant value seems to drop when milk is added.

Walk faster
Brisk walking has been linked to better memory, better health and a longer life. Aim for 30 minutes a day, ideally outdoors to get the benefit of vitamin D.

Build muscle
They refer to research which found that older people who did strength training twice a week lived longer and with less illness than those who did none. But what I really liked was that they apparently keep pairs of weights near their kettle and their TV and squeeze in some lifting when they have a few minutes to spare.

Keep learning

Old brains can build new neurons and synapses just as well as young ones. The brain loves novelty: crafts, games or making a new recipe all trigger new pathways. They suggest choosing something that involves social interaction and movement, such as singing or dancing.

Use olive oil
Ideally as part of a Mediterranean diet. Olive oil contributes to better heart health, but it’s also been shown to slow the progression of breast cancer, reduce bone loss and improve blood glucose control.

Support immunity

With 70% of the immune system located in the gut, gut health is key. Support your immune system with a diet high in dark leafy greens, brassicas (e.g. broccoli and cauliflower), alliums (the onion family) and mushrooms.
When you have a cold, they recommend miso soup with mushrooms, ginger and greens. Sounds like a good choice for a light winter meal any time.

Change how you eat, particularly in the evening
Their meals are based on vegetables, whole grains, pulses and lean protein, and they eat early so there’s plenty of time to digest their meal before bed. But their main point is about eating slowly, allowing satiety hormones to kick in. Then they stop. Constantly grazing and snacking means the digestive system is always working, so it’s always producing insulin, which can ultimately lead to diabetes (and chronic disease in general).

Cultivate friendships
Loneliness is as big a mortality risk as diabetes. Good friendships keep us alive.

Walk a dog
Yes there’s the benefit of walking, plus patting your dog reduces your stress level. But what made me include this one is that they say dog ownership increases the quantity of 56 classes of bacteria in your home, which is good for your gut. So don’t lose sleep over your grubby floor.

Cultivate optimism
Negativity, unsurprisingly, is stressful for the body.

It’s a good read for anyone over 50 looking for healthy lifestyle reminders.

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