Good Housekeeping readers may recall a fabulous article in last year’s September edition entitled “Why 60 is the new 40” and in it, Good Housekeeping Science Editor, Vivienne Parry listed a great number of ‘wins’ for women in that age bracket – whilst offering a great deal of optimism and cheer for those of us headed in that direction.
She pointed out that today’s 60 year olds:-
* are the first generation to have antibiotics as well as vaccines available to them their whole lives.
* have been spared the long-term health complications of childhood infections or infectious diseases like rheumatic fever and TB
* have better health than their mothers did at the same age with many looking comparatively younger
* enjoy better dental health due to reduced tooth loss from tooth decay – largely thanks to fluoride toothpaste, which became available from the late 1950s.
* enjoy better heart health. Heart attacks in women halved between 2002 and 2010 with the greatest decline seen in 65-74 year olds.
A reduction in smoking, improvements in air quality, better food and the use of statins are likely contributory factors to this.
*are living longer with diseases such as breast cancer. Nearly 8 out of 10 women survive 10 years or more compared with the 1970s. Stomach cancer cases have fallen 62% in the last 40 years and ovarian cancer in the over 60 age group has fallen by nearly 25% (use of the contraceptive pill has contributed to this). Cervical screening has seen an 81% reduction in the incidence of cervical cancer in women aged 50-64.
*are included in clinical trials where as in years gone by, these trials only involved men.
Incredible isn’t it? Despite the gloom that we may naturally feel as our birthdays start to stack up, there is so much to be positive and hopeful about.
None of this, however, is an excuse to rest on our laurels and in order to continue to enjoy vibrant health long term, there are some simple changes we can all make to our lifestyle.
Here’s your later life health primer.
The popularity of the 5:2 Diet seems to back up American research that fasting on alternative days boosts the genes related to anti- ageing. A two year study found that cutting calories to 75% of your normal intake lowered blood pressure cholesterol and insulin resistance.
Choose healthy fats
Eating monounsaturated fats (for example those found in avocado and olive oil), has been shown to raise levels of ‘good’ cholesterol – HDL whilst lowering levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL. We know we should avoid saturated fats.
Eat less refined sugar
Did you know that if you eat too much refined sugar, it can attach itself to your skin’s collagen and elastin fibres. This affects their ability to regenerate and can eventually cause deep wrinkles.
Drink more water
Our ageing bodies don’t retain water the way they should. An easy way to up your water intake is to make sure you have a sports bottle of water with you at all times to keep you cool, mentally alert and, studies show, to prevent heart disease.
Cut back on alcohol
Some of the heaviest drinkers are, surprisingly, in my age group but we know that our health will improve if we don’t exceed the Government’s guidelines of 14 units a week on a regular basis. The current medical advice is that we should also make sure that we have two days off a week from alcohol.
Take a daily walk
Just a 30 minute walk a day will show benefits in blood flow strength, balance and stamina. Exercise will also help prevent diabetes and keep your bones strong, thus reducing your risk of a fall.
Get enough sleep
The growth hormones promoting cell repair peak at the deepest stage of the sleep cycle so you need to make sure you are getting your full 8 hours to give your skin’s repair systems a chance to recover.
Check your Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D levels
Did you know that low levels of vitamin B12 can cause hair to grey prematurely? Lack of B12 is also indicated in muscle weakness, fatigue and memory problems. Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to a range of health conditions such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis and lots of us are deficient in Vitamin D, especially during the winter. Try to top up your levels daily by 15 minutes in the sun and when you can’t do that, take a supplement instead.
It will come as no surprise to learn that chronic stress is incredibly ageing. Research has discovered that a high stress lifestyle increases your risk of diseases such as Parkinsons, Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease so try to find something that calms and destresses.
I have written before about the benefits of meditation and mindfulness which have been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and those who practise these disciplines regularly have been found to have longer telomeres. These are the protective caps on the end of chromosomes and having longer telomeres have been linked to longer life.
Have more sex
Studies into the sex lives of middle aged men and women have discovered that regular sex can make you look seven years younger. That’s better than any face cream!
I turned 53 at the end of May this year and I’m heartened that, with a bit of positivity, and positive action, there is no reason why the forthcoming decades need mean a decline or any kind of lessening of looks, strength and joie de vivre.