During this time of COVID-19, why are we talking about living to 100 years old? Is it even important to talk about extending our lifespan while so many of us are just trying to stay healthy, manage through the experience, and get back on our feet?
The answer is… yes! Numerous research studies have proven there are correlations between longevity, immunity and diet. Of the major factors that determine how long we live, food is definitely important. The food you consume becomes your body. Food provides the nutrients you need to survive and ensure that your body operates as optimally as possible.
People who choose a lifestyle that includes nutritious food, exercise and stress-reducing habits have a better chance of fighting Covid-19 and extending their life expectancy. On the contrary, those who eat and drink unhealthy, exercise too little, and experience long-term stress can actually reduce their life expectancy.
Scientists have cracked the secret of why some people live a healthy life over the age of 100. To live to 100 and beyond, people must keep inflammation down in the body. Severe inflammation is part of many illnesses and diseases, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, stroke, cancer, diabetes and COPD. Lifestyle factors and foods that strengthen the immune system will directly contribute to longevity by reducing the amount of inflammation in the body.
9 Things you can do to live longer and eat healthier starting now
- Focus on healthspan, not just lifespan
In 1919, the average life expectancy for people born in the U.S. was about 56 years. Today, that has risen to almost 79 years.
As progress on many fronts has made it possible for people to live longer, interest has grown in how to age well to maximize quality of life throughout our lifespan. “The aim should be to help patients die young as late as possible,” stated Harvard Medical School alumna Tenley Albright during a 2019 symposium.
Healthspan has become a recent focus with growing attention. Where lifespan measures the number of years a person is alive, healthspan is defined as the number of years of life that a person is healthy. Since being healthy can mean different things, a better definition might include being free of a chronic disease that is a leading cause of death. If a person is past their healthspan they are chronically sick usually with a degenerating condition. The World Health Organization developed HALE, an indicator for healthy life expectancy at birth. According to WHO, on average we live up to 20% of our lives with a serious illness. That is a long time.
- Review your health goals and priorities
While you’re thinking about your wellbeing during quarantine, it’s a perfect time for a health reset. Are you 100% satisfied with your current state of health and wellbeing? If not, what areas of your health – physical and mental – would you like to improve for now and the long-term?
Once you’ve identified areas for improvement, make a choice to set new health goals. If you picked a large goal, it can feel overwhelming. Break down large goals into smaller goals, and add deadlines in order to measure your progress. Then decide on the next step and commit to starting today. To stay motivated and on track, creating visual reminders like posting a photo or note on a mirror or the fridge can be just what you need.
- Reframe this period from isolation to “me time”
For many, self-isolation and physical distancing can feel like lockdown or prison. It is helpful to re-label this experience in a more positive light. For instance, instead of “lockdown” think of it as “focus time” for wellness and self-care. Spend time journaling or feeling gratitude for all that is good in your life for at least ten minutes every day. These can not only uplift your mood and lower your anxiety, but they can also contribute to your longevity and fulfillment in your life.
If you have spouses, partners, parents or children at home, it may be challenging to carve out time to focus on you. Consider making an agreement or setting boundaries that will allow you some time and space to focus on your wellbeing. As the flight attendant always instructs on airplanes, put your oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others. If you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else.
- Partner up on your wellness goals
If you are the sole person in the household setting new nutrition goals and changing food habits, consider how you can enroll the others to join you. Discuss how the new habits could benefit them and their health and longevity goals. Even if they choose not to join, you can ask them to be your accountability partner to help you stay focused and share your journey. If you live alone, look for a family member or friend to join you or be your accountability partner. Set a schedule for checking in with each other regularly. Share your results, fears, doubts, frustrations, and all that you learn about you and your health along the way.
- Learn to love spending time in your kitchen
Most of us have more time now than before for meal planning and food preparation. We also have online access to numerous libraries of nutrition information and food recipes for just about anything we might be interested in. Take the time to search for recipes that will provide healthy nourishment and you would enjoy making. Pick a few and try them out. Don’t worry if they don’t turn out as expected. You will gain confidence the more you practice. Also, increase the value of your time in the kitchen by cooking in large batches and freezing meals for later.
- Get your seven daily servings
A study of 65,000 people by the University College of London found that people who ate seven helpings of fruits and vegetables a day had a 42% lower risk of dying early than those who ate less than one. This includes a 33% reduction in death from heart disease and a 25% reduction in cancer death.
The Center for Disease Control reports that 90 percent of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Only about 13 percent of respondents met fruit intake recommendations and 9 percent met vegetable recommendations, and the numbers vary by geographic regions.
A simple way to fit in your seven helpings everyday is include three different vegetables with your evening meal and two at lunch. In addition, eat two different fruits during the day for breakfast, a snack or desert after dinner.
- Eat more wild fish and nuts
If you want to improve your healthspan and lifespan, add more nuts and fatty wild (not farmed) fish – tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines – to your diet. These foods contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, nutrients that have been proven to lower overall mortality risk by up to 27 percent and decrease the odds of dying from heart disease by about 35 percent.
Look for creative ways to add these foods to your diet like topping your salads, vegetables or cereal with nuts, or adding fish to omelets and salads.
- Eat less at each meal
Another way to extend your life expectancy is to eat until you’re only about 80 percent full. This originated in Okinawa, Japan where people use this approach to control their eating habits. Okinawans have one of the lowest rates of illness from heart disease, cancer and stroke.
Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who Live the Longest, interviewed hundreds of people aged 100 and up from around the world to figure out what they had in common. The majority of the people he met with said that they typically eat their smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening. Too many of us make our evening meal the largest meal of the day, and then go to sleep with a full stomach. Eating until lighter is less taxing on your digestive system and supports lengthening your healthspan.
- Choosing healthy food when ordering in or eating out
Whether during quarantine or after, when you decide to take a break from the kitchen and eat out of the house, look for healthy meals on the menu. Food that is grilled, steamed or braised and served with extra vegetables or salad is preferable. Ask for sauces and salad dressings to be left separate and on the side to reduce the amount of fat and additives you consume. Also, since restaurant portions can be large, when you get the food you may want to split it and save the extra portion to enjoy tomorrow.
Another option is to subscribe to a healthy online food delivery company. Nutrition for Longevity provides farm-to-table, chef-crafted meals based on the longevity diet. These nutrient-rich meals are made from clean, pesticide and preservative-free food ingredients picked ripe on their own farms. Meals are delivered to your doorstep weekly within 48 hours of harvesting. Or stay home and healthy with home-delivered, ready-to-eat plant-based smoothies, soups and grain bowls made by Splendid Spoon. Click here to get $10 off your first order. Cooked fresh with all clean ingredients, these meals are designed to help you boost your nutritional intake and metabolism, and reach your health goals.
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