Turn back the clock
Getting older doesn’t have to mean feeling, well, old. Charmaine Yabsley shares expert tips and tricks that make you look and feel better with age.
1. Tune in A recent study shows that older people who played a musical instrument throughout their lives perform better on cognitive tests. “Musical activity may make your brain more capable of accommodating the challenges of ageing by growing new brain connections,” says study author Brenda Hanna-Pladdy.
2. Use it or lose it A New England Journal of Medicine study says that mentally stimulating activities, like doing puzzles, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. One caveat: Brain teasers should be fun, not assaults on your self-esteem. Train – don’t strain – your brain.
3. Check his birth certificate A man with a younger wife is likely to live 11 percent longer, but when the husband is much younger than his wife, she is likely to die earlier. It’s thought that this ‘cougar effect’ means the woman is ostracised socially.
4. Keep working According to a Health Psychology study, the social structure and support in the workplace has a positive effect on your life span. Bonus: people who felt they had control and authority at work also experienced a "protective effect".
5. P.S .Phosphatidyl serine (PS) is a phospholipid that exists naturally in the brain. The results of studies into its effects on age-related mental decline have been good enough for the exacting US Food and Drug Administration to allow a health claim that PS “may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly”.
6. Restrict calories Over 2,000 papers have shown that eating at least 20 per cent fewer calories daily adds years to your life. In one of the most recent, author Edward Weiss says, “There is plenty of evidence that calorie restriction reduces your risks for cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Plus, you may live to be substantially older.”
7. Take out nutritional insurance “Ideally, we should all take a multivitamin,” says Professor David Kennedy, Director of the Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre at Northumbria University, UK. “Multivitamins reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and all neurogenerative diseases.”
8. Put the (green) kettle on People who drink green tea live longer and have fewer strokes and less lung cancer, say Japanese researchers. European studies add that the polyphenols in green tea lower blood pressure and HDL (‘bad’) cholesterol.
9. Up the ante Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine, protects against degenerative brain diseases, enhances memory, counters inflammation, fights cancer, and, according to a PLoS report, keeps your heart young. “Drink two glasses a day,” says Kennedy.
10. Think Mediterranean Eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, pulses and olive oil, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, and cutting back on red meat are solidly linked to a longer lifespan.
11. Take a stroll Older adults who exercise live longer, says an Archives of Internal Medicine report. It’s never too late to start. The study showed benefits associated with exercise – such as better heart health - were seen not only in those who maintained existing physical activity, but in those who began exercising between ages 70 and 85.
12. Be happy A review of over 160 studies has found "clear and compelling evidence" that happy people live longer. Conversely, anxiety, depression, pessimism, and a lack of enjoyment of daily activities are associated with a shorter lifespan.
13. Believe in something Finding a purpose in life helps you live longer. For some, that might mean religion; however any kind of passion will do the trick. Volunteer for a homeless shelter. Help something grow: a child, an animal, or a rosebush.
14. Have a wide circle of friends American researchers have found that the risk of early death is four times higher for people with few or weak significant relationships. See friends often. If people have drifted away, join a professional association, book group or craft class.
15. Relax to the max Meditation is a powerful way to reduce stress – just 15 minutes a day can lower cortisol levels. According to a Russian study, transcendental meditation (TM) produces a unique pattern of brain activity, creating “restful alertness”.
16. Breathe Caffeine, tight clothes and eating fast all make us hyperventilate. This can add years to your looks, as well as raise your blood pressure. Breathe in through your nose for a count of two, then out for three. With practice, the pause between the in- and out-breath will lengthen. Practise while commuting or waiting for the kettle to boil.
Q+A: Maryon Stewart
Maryon is a renowned women’s health expert and the author of The Natural Menopause Plan (Duncan Baird).
What’s the one thing every woman can do to improve her health? Make time for herself. If you’ve got time, then you can exercise, relax, eat properly, or meditate.
Can menopause be a positive experience? Being in the best possible shape is your best preparation. I have found that 50-80 percent of women are deficient in magnesium, calcium and essential fatty acids: this means their brain chemistry isn’t working correctly, which has a knock-on effect to the body.
What should we be eating? Take a look at Asian communities. They’ve consumed soya since birth, and they have less oestrogen-led cancers and heart disease. Avoid GM soya – choose natural soya instead. Include flaxseed and red clover in your diet.
Any other supplements? Phyto soya capsules reduce hot flushes and menopausal symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, mood problems and low libido. Take omega 7 fatty acids for vaginal dryness, ArginMax to increase your sex drive; valerian for insomnia, and St John’s wort if you’re depressed. Women should also take a high-strength multivitamin, and ensure it contains calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.
What always puts pep in your step? Every morning I do my stretching and aerobics, plus a meditation and relaxation session. I like to exercise before the day begins: you always get the time back, because you feel so energised.