The most recent life expectancy data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (from 2009, the last year which statistics are fully available) say that if you’re an average American, you’ll live 78.5 years.
If you want to live another 20 years beyond that, you’ll need to address the more obvious lifestyle factors first: don’t smoke, do exercise regularly and eat a diet rich in whole foods, especially vegetables. Also avoid fried foods, trans-fats and hydrogenated oils and foods loaded with added sugar.
After that, consider these not-so-obvious anti-aging behaviors:
1. Floss: Periodontal disease might be directly related to systemic inflammation and cardiovascular risk, according to an article in The Lancet. The strength of association between tooth-brushing, flossing and heart disease has not been 100 percent clinically proven, but according to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart disease. What’s the connection? There are a few theories, including that inflammation of the gums can cause the arteries to accumulate plaque.
2. Eat Indian food: Curcuminoids are the active ingredient compounds in the yellow spice called turmeric, which is found in Indian curry. For more than a few thousand years, curcumin has been used as a healing agent in Eastern medicine. Western medicine has recently caught on, with a plethora of scientific studies backing curcumin’s anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and liver-cleansing properties. Dr. Johnny Bowden, author of the anti-aging book, “The Most Effective Ways to Live Longer,” and a speaker at the first annual anti-aging conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2010, advises, “Put turmeric on as much food as you can, but because it’s not super-absorbable in food, you should buy a curcumin supplement as well.”
A study in Clinical Cancer Research advocated for curcumin being evaluated for the prevention or treatment of cancers. Another study in Phytotherapy Research magazine presented the first evidence for the “safety and superiority of curcumin treatment in patients with active rheumatoid arthritis (RA).”
3. Take an aspirin: If you’ve previously had a heart attack or stroke, popping an aspirin a day may extend your life. Though daily aspirin consumption remains controversial — some doctors recommend it across the board, while others prescribe aspirin only for those with a heart condition — one study published in The Lancet concluded that taking an aspirin a day could significantly reduce the risk of dying prematurely from cancer. After five years, the group taking aspirin had developed almost a 40 percent lower chance of developing cancer than the control group, which did not take any aspirin. Take caution with aspirin, though, as it may promote gastro-intestinal bleeding, and always speak with your doctor before starting a new regimen.
4. Eat omega-9 fatty acids: Almost everybody has heard about the heart-healthy and other myriad benefits derived from eating essential omega-3 fatty acids. Lesser known are the omega-9’s. Though they are not essential because our bodies make them naturally, eating foods, specifically monounsaturated oils like olive oil may extend your life. A study in Neurology suggests that high olive oil consumption plays a protective role by reducing the risk of stroke in older subjects. “Inflammation is the root cause of every degenerative disease and omega-9 oils are extremely anti-inflammatory. They do a great job penetrating the cells and getting cells and neurotransmitters to communicate with the brain faster,” says Bowden.
5. Eat dark chocolate: According to a study of more than 2,000 people published in the British Medical Journal, the blood-pressure lowering effects of dark chocolate consumption are beneficial in the prevention of cardiovascular problems in a population with metabolic syndrome. Another study in Nutrition concluded that flavonoid-rich cocoa consumption significantly improves blood pressure, insulin resistance and lipid profiles. Flavonoids are the antioxidants found in chocolate.
6. Check your hormone levels: Dr. Gary London, who practices the relatively new Western medicine concept of anti-aging in Hollywood, Calif., suggests that those over 40 who want to live out the second half of their lives with vigor should consider getting their hormone levels tested. “If your energy levels and sex-drive are low, if your muscle tone is deteriorating, bio-identical hormones may help,” says London. “Hormones are chemical messengers that are critical for making healthy cells. Our peak hormone level occurs at ages 25-30; afterwards, our hormone levels drop,” adds London.
7. Don’t have low cholesterol: A study published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science concludes that low cholesterol is associated with mortality from cardiovascular diseases. UCLA researchers concluded in a study published in 2009 in the American Heart Journal, that more than 75 percent of 136,905 heart attack patients had healthy cholesterol levels, suggesting that cholesterol levels do not have a direct correlation with developing heart disease; don’t worry yourself sick about cholesterol.
Have any other anti-aging tips? Let us know in the comments section below.
Judd Handler is a health writer in Encinitas, Calif.
MNN tease photo of women: Shutterstock