Research: How to slow the signs of ageing and feel healthier in your later years

American researchers have discovered eight habits that could slow the signs of ageing by up to six years. These measures all promote good heart health, which they found keeps your body biologically younger than your actual age.

The scientists measured research participants’ metabolism, organ function, and inflammation to see how these lifestyle changes affected their phenotypic – or biological – age. They concluded that as your heart health increases, the speed of your biological ageing goes down.

If you want to live an active life for longer, keep reading to discover how these eight habits could help you feel healthier in your later years.

1. Eat healthy

A balanced diet is a crucial part of keeping your body feeling young. Eating healthy doesn’t restrict you to only fruits and vegetables; it just means you should eat everything in moderation.

The NHS’s Eatwell Guide suggests that the average adult should:

  • Drink at least six glasses of water a day
  • Eat protein such as beans, fish, or meat
  • Limit foods that are high in fat, salt, or sugar
  • Eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Base meals on high-fibre foods such as potatoes or pasta.

Even if you struggle to stick to these rules every day, keeping them in mind while you’re preparing meals can help you to improve your diet.

2. Exercise regularly

Exercising raises your heart rate, which reduces your risk of health problems, such as heart disease and strokes, and keeps you feeling fit and ready to tackle the day.

The NHS recommends that adults should do some kind of physical activity every day. But this doesn’t mean you need to spend money on a gym membership. Moderate exercise includes brisk walking, pushing a lawnmower, or even dancing around your kitchen. 

It’s also recommended that you strengthen your muscles every day. This is especially important later in life, as it helps to prevent frailty by stimulating the growth of muscle tissue and bones.

3. Quit smoking

Smoking can cause a myriad of health problems, including an increased risk of a heart attack. Although it can be hard to muster the courage to quit, you will start to see the health benefits immediately.

After only 48 hours of quitting, all of the harmful carbon monoxide has been flushed from your body and your sense of taste and smell will have improved. After 72 hours, you will notice that it’s easier to breathe and your energy levels have increased. And after a year, your risk of a heart attack will have halved compared with a smoker’s.

4. Get the right amount of sleep

The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Sleeping for more or less than this can increase your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Prioritising sleep isn’t as hard as you may think. Fixing your sleep schedule by waking up and going to bed at the same time every day – including weekends – will train your circadian rhythm to follow your new routine, and you could find yourself falling asleep faster and waking up well-rested.

5. Maintain a healthy weight

Being over- or underweight can cause strain on your heart, which can affect your phenotypic age.

Eating healthier and exercising regularly are the main factors affecting weight loss. Being active for 150 minutes a week and swapping sugary snacks or drinks for lower-calorie foods and water can help you achieve a healthy weight.

If you need to gain weight, try adding calories to your meals by including extras, such as cheese or nuts. You can also build muscle through activities such as strength training or yoga.

6. Control cholesterol

High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Keeping an eye on your cholesterol levels can help you slow the signs of ageing.

What you eat has a huge impact on your cholesterol. Foods with high saturated fat will increase your levels. In contrast, eating more soluble fibre can reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed into your blood.

7. Monitor your blood sugar

Having unbalanced blood sugar levels can cause plenty of health hazards. High blood sugar can cause blurred vision and weight loss, while low blood sugar can lead to heart palpitations and even seizures.

Although it’s hard to watch your blood sugar at home without a glucose monitor, eating regular meals and reducing the amount of stress in your life can help to keep it at a healthy level.

8. Manage your blood pressure

High blood pressure significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease, strokes, and kidney failure. It’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly – either at your GP or by using a blood pressure monitor at home – as it can be hard to notice the symptoms if something is wrong.

The high sodium content in salt and processed foods can raise your blood pressure, so cutting them out of your diet will help. Drinking in moderation and taking your medication as prescribed can also help to ensure your blood pressure stays even.

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