You know what gets me? All those friends and ex-colleagues who are off to India, planning on following courses (such as cooking and gardening), going to the theatre every week — and they are all the same age (or even older) than me! They look younger too. Not only that, it also seems I am aging faster than they are. So, what is their secret? I was determined to find out.
I wanted to go a bit deeper than the usual lifestyle hints about obesity, smoking, and getting exercise. Here are 5 surprising facts which will help you to slow down the aging process.
1. Anxiety and phobias raise their ugly heads
Did you know that 8% of Americans (mostly women) suffer from some sort of anxiety disorder or phobia? When it comes to social phobias, they feel very uneasy when they are with company. Then there are lots of other phobias which are really interfering with their enjoyment of life. The bad news is that these phobias cause faster aging. A research team from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed over 5,000 women between the ages of 42 and 69 and found those who were suffering from phobic anxiety were not aging well at all. The best way to solve the problem is to get help through cognitive behavior therapy to try and keep your anxiety under control so you can live a longer and happier life.
2. Mediterranean diet will help you age better
As our cells age, the DNA telomeres get shorter and shorter. If we are to halt the advance of aging, the secret is to keep those telomeres as long as possible, thus helping us live to a ripe old age. You may be wondering how a Mediterranean diet can help with this?
The British Medical Journal has published a very interesting study showing that the Mediterranean diet helps the most with longevity, when compared to other cultural diets. This study followed 23,000 men and women who had no major illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. Those who were on the Mediterranean diet had a significantly longer life. Just in case you have forgotten what this diet is all about and want to catch up on those friends, try changing your diet to include more olive oil, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Cut down on meat and fish.
The best news of all is that you need not worry obsessively about putting on a few extra pounds. This diet will also help smooth out wrinkles, making you look younger. Chocolate was once the number one fat enemy. It is now the doyen of anti-aging foods!
3. Don’t be lonely
With advancing years, you are always tempted to do less because you simply have not got enough energy. This sort of decline in activity often means your social contacts start to wither and die. You give fewer dinner parties. To put it simply, you are just alone a lot of the time. You may like being alone; however, when that turns to loneliness, then you may be shortening your life. Loneliness is the number one enemy for aging faster. There are lots of studies to prove just that. One research study found that the lonelier people who were studied experienced a 40% percent more rapid decline in movement and agility. This sort of decline in motor activity is also linked to a 50% increased risk of death. The only solution to reduce both loneliness and inactivity is to get moving again, preferably in the company of others.
“Social contact is a fundamental aspect of human existence. The scientific evidence is that being socially isolated is probably bad for your health, and may lead to the development of serious illness and a reduced life span.” – Andrew Steptoe – University College, London.
4. Antidepressants may reduce your lifespan
I bet you that any 90 or 100 year old person you know was never on antidepressants, nor had them prescribed for even a very short period of time. How can I make such a bold claim? Does this really mean that antidepressants can shorten your life?
Let’s look first at how many people are on these drugs. A CDC report from 2011 shows that 11% of the American population are on antidepressants. The bad news is that these meds have long term negative side effects. The worst news of all is that they can shorten your life. Lots of studies show that there is an increased risk of death in the over 50s. One study shows that critically ill patients who are on these meds were more likely to die when admitted to intensive care units.
When depressed patients were asked about taking all those meds, they said that would have liked more choices in treatment. They also said that more attention could have been given to counselling, dieting, and the importance of physical exercise.
5. Reduce your sun exposure
Nobody can claim that the sun will directly shorten your life. However, too much sun exposure will age your skin and increase your chances of getting skin cancer. This could mess up your plans for living longer and looking great. The key is to get sunshine in moderation and sufficient protection because it can really benefit you. The Vitamin D from sunshine has enormous health potential.
“If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of life would be my god.”- Napoleon Bonaparte
Now that you know what those friends never told you, take a long hard look at your lifestyle and see what you can change. You might as well start to overtake them in the age race!
Featured photo credit: Ageing – 1979 and 2008. I feel old!/ Roger Blackwell via flickr.com