After more than 100 years of steadily increasing, life expectancy in the UK has plateaued. The Office of National Statistics puts it at 79.4 years for men and 83.1 years for women, ranking us 33rd in the world for longevity.
Advice to maximise the quantity, and quality, of our lives includes eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly, drinking in moderation and not smoking. And the importance of a happy mind as well as body is now well recognised.
So, how are you faring? Here are ten surprising signs that you’re on track for a good innings.
You walk everywhere
Exercise is key, and even walking for just 30 minutes a day is thought to boost longevity. One study in the US showed people who walked 150 minutes a week had a 20 percent lower risk of premature death than those who walked less. If you’re a runner, even better: it is thought people who get this type of aerobic exercise could increase their life expectancy by about three years. Definitely worth dusting off the trainers then.
Burgers are off your menu
Can you resist burgers, sausages and red meat? Do you pack in the fruit and veg instead? Great news if this is you. Plant protein supplies all nine amino acids the body can’t make on its own, helps lower blood pressure and decreases risk of heart disease and cancer. Meanwhile, too much processed meat is associated with higher risk of death from heart-disease-related illnesses, and more than 18 ounces of red meat a week might put you at greater risk of colorectal cancer.
You have good pals
Positive relationships can help you live longer. Spending time with good friends and having a strong support network can relieve chronic stress which weakens the immune system, ages cells faster and ultimately shorten your life by four to eight years. And if you have a belly laugh with pals even better – one Norwegian study of women linked a good sense of humour with a 48 percent lower risk of death from all causes.
You enjoy new challenges
An active mind as well as body can boost longevity; and taking on new challenges focuses your attention and uses more brainpower. Studies have shown people who thought of themselves as self-disciplined, organised achievers lived longer and had 89% less chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Your glass is half full
If you feel confident about your purpose in life and are optimistic, you might be a “flourisher”. A US study showed flourishers (about 17% of the people surveyed), who had a positive outlook on life were healthier than “languishers”, the 10% who admitted to not feeling good about themselves.
You are kind to others
It is nice to be nice, the saying goes. And it turns out, it is good for your health too. One study of older people found those who helped and supported others lived longer lives themselves. Altruism is not only associate with lowered stress levels, but has also been linked with low levels of inflammation.
You have an active sex life
Staying active between the sheets can releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. It also signifies a healthy body and a positive emotional relationship, as well as helping you towards a good night’s sleep, which leads us to No 8…
You get a decent night’s sleep
Love hitting the hay? Getting seven to eight hours of deep sleep every night can increase your lifespan. Fewer that this can harm the immune system and result in a range of health problems including heart disease, obesity, and depression. Plus, a good night’s sleep makes your days more energy-filled and enjoyable. So don’t feel guilty about getting your head down.
You own a pet
As well as warding away burglars and fetching the paper, your pet pooch might be adding time onto your life. It is not just making connections with other humans that makes us happy; engaging with animals decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases oxytocin, as well as reducing blood pressure.
You have children and/or grandchildren
It might not feel like it, but our offspring can add years onto our lives. One survey in Sweden found people with children lived longer past the age of 60. And if you’ve got grandkids, you’re more likely to be around for longer if you babysit them, according to an Australian study. Reasons cited for this were being socially active and forming positive relationships.