Keep healthy habits to lengthen life

By Shayna Brouker • Published: December 26th, 2012
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You’ve made it this far in life and the end is in sight, so why not let loose, let yourself go and enjoy all those vices and favorite victuals you’ve denied yourself all your life in an effort to keep your health and wealth? Because you might just add a few more years to your already-long life … and more time to enjoy those treats in moderation, that’s why.

New research from Stockhholm University in Sweden, which is ranked 10th in the world for longevity, found that regular exercise, keeping an engaged network of friends and family and not smoking all contributed to a longer life. The study was the first of its kind to follow people in their mid-70s for almost two decades. These healthy habits helped add five years to women’s lives and six years to men’s lives.

Half of the study’s participants lived to the ripe old age of 90 or older. Living well even helped those with chronic health problems live an average of four years longer. Of all these healthy habits, physical exercise was the single biggest predictor of living long.

One factor the study didn’t address was diet, but past research offers clues to fountain-of-youth foods. Eating colorful fare rich in antioxidants, like berries, beets and peppers, can fight cancer-causing free radicals. Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that enhance the aging process. Olive oil is one of the top age-fighting elixirs, known for its powerful heart-healthy fats that could improve memory and combat atherosclerosis.

Another healthy fat food is fish — try tuna or salmon. These varieties boast not only plenty of muscle-building protein, but their fatty acids aid brain and nervous system development. Eating one or two servings a week could decrease risk of dementia and lower cholesterol and ease inflammation. And be sure to enjoy red wine and dark chocolate. Happy eating can be healthy, too.