Listening to relaxing music before surgery was more effective at reducing anxiety than a sedative medication, a French study showed.
Grip strength was the best predictor of how well a group of more than 6000 men aged 45 to 68 would avoid being incapacitated later in life, a 25-year study found. The weakest-gripping men suffered twice the disabilities of men with hands of steel. In another study of nearly 140,000 men and women, poor grip strength correlated with a higher incidence of death, especially from cardiovascular disease.
Dancing reduces the risk of dementia more than any other type of physical activity, according to a study by New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Why? Learning new steps improves intellectual fitness, and if you dance with a group or a partner, you’re being social.
Harvard University scientists tracked more than 367,000 older adults for an average of 14 years and found that those who ate the most cereal fibre had a 19 per cent lower risk of death from any cause than those who ate the least. Most notably, people who ate the most cereal fibre were 34 per cent less likely to die from diabetes. Cereal fibre is found in cereal, wholegrain bread, barley and bran.
Those who carried out a series of web searches showed increased activity in regions of the brain that control reading, language, memory and visual ability, a small study of people aged 55 to 76 revealed. Regular web surfers showed a significant boost in the areas that deal with decision making and complex reasoning.
Researchers in Britain asked participants who were feeling stressed to engage in various activities, including reading, listening to music, having a cup of tea and taking a walk. Reading reduced stress levels and heart rates by 68 per cent, the highest score of any item on the list. The least effective was playing video games.
One lesson from Hamlet: learn to weather “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” if you want to live to a ripe old age. A Harvard study came to the same conclusion: fewer than two per cent of men who were observed exhibiting ‘psychological hardiness’ – mental resilience in the face of stress, anxiety and depression – died before they were 53. In the less resilient group, 37 per cent died by that age.
Lonely people have a 14 per cent greater risk of dying than the average person, and twice the death risk associated with obesity. A University of North Carolina study specifically found that social isolation increases hypertension even more than diabetes does. Related research links loneliness to a weakened immune system and higher risk of heart attack, stroke and depression.
Older women who ate onions every day had five per cent greater bone density than those who ate them once a month or less, according to researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina. They also decreased their risk of a hip fracture by more than 20 per cent.
It may sound illogical, but if you have a less-than-flat tummy, your best tactic is to have a belt cut across it – not too high (looks old), not too low (sloppy), but smack through the middle. “It creates a shorter torso and a longer leg line,” explains Stacy London, who co-hosted US make-over show What Not to Wear, “which makes you look taller and leaner.”
Recalling good memories for just 20 minutes a day can make people feel more cheerful than they did the week before, according to researchers at Loyola University Chicago, whose study was reported in Psychology Today. “There’s a magic and mystery in positive events,” psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky reported.
Experts from the University of California, Los Angeles, Brain Mapping Center found in a small study that the brains of people who meditate had larger volumes of grey matter – the area responsible for memory, emotions, seeing, hearing, speech, impulse control and decision making.
When you want dessert, take a bite or two of the good stuff. People who manage their weight best happily succumb at times, says Susan B. Roberts, co-author of a Tufts University study on cravings.
With laughter, that is. Dr Michael Miller wrote in his book Heal Your Heart that when 20 people were asked to watch a clip from Saving Private Ryan, Kingpin, Shallow Hal or There’s Something About Mary, participants’ blood vessels narrowed by up to 50 per cent during the stress-inducing clips, while vessel dilation in people who watched a funny clip increased by 22 per cent. “After just 15 minutes of laughing, volunteers got the same benefit as they would from spending 15 to 30 minutes at the gym or taking a daily statin,” wrote Miller.
Running just five to ten minutes every day reduces the risk of death from heart disease by 50 per cent and overall mortality risk by 29 per cent, a Journal of the American College of Cardiology study found.
An Oxford University review found that people with bigger behinds (pear shape) generally had lower levels of cholesterol and blood glucose and may be less likely to develop diabetes or heart disease than those who carried their weight around the stomach (apple shape). More research needs to be done to prove a protective effect, but scientists have observed that fat on the lower body secretes fewer inflammatory substances than abdominal fat does.
To uncover the secrets of living to 100, researchers from the University of Chicago compiled data on more than 1500 centenarians born between 1880 and 1895 and compared their backgrounds with those of nearly 12,000 of their siblings and spouses. They found that if you were born in the autumn months, you have an above-average chance of living an extra- long life, perhaps because milder autumn weather places less stress on babies and causes fewer seasonal infections.
Fifty-five grams of cheese a day (about two slices) reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by about 12 per cent, compared with eating no cheese, according to findings reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers speculate that the probiotic bacteria in cheese and yoghurt may lower cholesterol and produce certain vitamins that shield against diabetes. Keep to the recommended portion, as cheese can be high in fat.
Men who shopped daily had a 28 per cent lower risk of dying early than those who shopped less often, showed a ten-year study of 2000 people over the age of 65 in Taiwan; among women, the risk reduction was 23 per cent. Healthier people may be more likely to go to the shops in the first place, but shopping every day could help you live longer by increasing your social contact, physical fitness and mental agility.
In Australia’s largest ongoing study of healthy ageing, researchers analysed the daily routines of more than 230,000 people and found that sleeping too much (more than nine hours per night), sitting too much (more than seven hours a day) and not exercising enough (less than 150 minutes a week) correlate to quadrupl ing the risk of dying prematurely.
Throwing a party – deciding whom to invite, what to serve and who sits where – forces your brain to make complex social decisions and strengthens your social contacts, both of which reduce your risk of developing dementia, writes Dr Kenneth S Kosik in his book Outsmarting Alzheimer’s.
In a study in the Oxford academic journal Behavioral Ecology, Caucasian men who took a supplement of beta-carotene, the substance that makes carrots orange, were rated by women as looking more healthy and attractive than men who had not.
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension and cancer. It gets worse: according to new research, adults who don’t get enough of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ are 26 per cent more likely to die early. A 12-year study of 13,000 men and women didn’t identify any one cause of death, “because vitamin D’s impact on health is so widespread,” says researcher Dr Michal Melamed, an associate professor of medicine, epidemiology and population health at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In addition to taking a supplement, you should aim to get ten to 15 minutes of midday sunshine (11am to 3pm) several days a week.
“Wearing darker shades tends to read more conservative and has more of a polished feel, which is not bad,” says Dina Scherer, a wardrobe stylist and the owner of Modnitsa Styling in New York. “But it can age you because it takes away from your approachability.” Brighter shades make you seem more open and fun, which in turn makes you look younger. Wearing brightly coloured accessories such as scarves, necklaces and brooches near your face is a particularly good way to highlight your features, Scherer says.
Hand strength, flexibility and coordination are essential for everyday tasks such as opening jars and carrying packages. And gardening is the perfect way to hone those fine motor skills and muscles, according to a small study published by the American Society for Horticultural Science in its monthly journal HortScience. It may even help offset some of the strain caused by repetitive motions such as typing or phone swiping, especially if you alternate gardening tasks.
Turns out carrots are not the best food for your vision. The nutrients in eggs – lutein, vitamin E, and omega-3s – are especially good for your eyes and may help prevent age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and other chronic diseases
Those who joined a choir were in better health, used less medication, were less lonely and had fewer falls after a year than a similar group of non-singers, revealed a US study of 166 older adults. This could be due to the effect that singing has on breathing, as well as the emotional benefits of creating harmony with a group.
According to an attention-grabbing report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that pooled data on nearly three million people from all over the world, while extreme obesity shortened lives, people who were slightly overweight (having a body mass index between 25 and 30) were actually less likely to die early than those who were at a normal weight. This doesn’t mean that being overweight is healthy – but if you have normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose, slimming down may not confer a significant health advantage.
Dab lip gloss on the middle of your lower lip. This gives the appearance of a fuller mouth, which makes you look younger. Whenever possible, avoid darker lipstick colours, which make lips look smaller.
Snoozing on your side could be associated with a lower risk of neurological diseases such as Al zheimer ’s and Parkinson’s, according to animal studies. A group of scientists led by researchers at New York’s Stony Brook University observed that when rats slept on their sides, a pathway that removes waste chemicals from the brain worked more efficiently. Research on humans is needed.
Walking barefoot reduces the load on knee joints by 12 per cent compared with walking in comfortable shoes, and it may also minimise pain and disability from osteoarthritis. That’s the finding of a study from Rush University Medical Center of 75 people with osteoarthritis. A later study found that ‘mobility shoes’, which are flat and flexible to mimic bare feet, reduced the load even more (by 18 per cent) when worn for six months or more.
Even if you’re too selfconscious to show your whole calf, don’t hide your ankles. “As we age, we’re consumed with how many parts of our body we feel like we have to cover up, but a few don’t need to be covered,” says Lauren Rothman, a fashion stylist and the author of Style Bible. “Elongating the leg with a cropped pant is flattering and sexy, and the ankle doesn’t tend to show age.”
People who ate curry at least twice a year scored better on cognitive tests than people who ate it once a year or less, a 2003-4 study of 1000 adults aged 60 to 93 in Singapore found. Turmeric, the yellow spice used in most curries, contains the plant chemical curcumin, which has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol-lowering properties.
Psychology professor Howard S. Friedman, co-author of a landmark study that followed 1500 boys and girls for as long as eight decades, observed that “the key personality predictor of a long life was one that we never expected: conscientiousness. It wasn’t always the cheerful kids who went on to have the longest lives – it was the ones who did their homework, whose parents would say, ‘She has a good head on her shoulders.’ They developed healthy patterns and maintained them. People who weren’t dependable as kids but became more responsible as adults did well, too.”
The fruit can benefit your skin; its essential oil, produced inside the kernel, is rich in gammalinolenic acid, which encourages regeneration of skin cells. The light oil is also chock-full of vitamins A and E, making it a great skin hydrator. You can find it at health food stores or online.
Applying heavy face powder all over your face can make you look older as it settles into fine lines, wrinkles and pores. Instead, try a light foundation or translucent powder.
It’s good for what ails you, but did you know it’s also good for your hair? Before you shower, mix three tablespoons of flat beer at room temperature with half a cup of warm water. After you shampoo, rub in the beer solution, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then rinse with cool water. This will pump up the volume of your locks, which tend to get flatter as you age.
Researchers from Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, conducted a series of studies to demonstrate the differences between students who wrote out their notes and those who typed them. Both did well, though longhand note-takers had a stronger grasp of the overall concepts of the lectures and were able to remember and understand them after a week had passed.
Massages feel good, obviously, but the increased blood flow associated with regular gentle kneading might also keep your face looking healthy and radiant. Skincare expert Kimara Ahnert believes that massage plumps slack skin, encourages lymphatic drainage (moving toxins out and away from cells so that more nutrients can travel in) and adds vitality to a dull complexion.
Eating 250 milligrams of omega-3s each day could add 2.2 years to the lives of adults aged 65 and older. This is the finding of a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, in which researchers measured blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids in a group of 2692 healthy older American adults in 1992, then followed them through 2008. People with the highest omega-3 levels had decreased their risk of dying by 27 per cent – and decreased their risk of dying from heart disease by 35 per cent – compared with the group with the lowest levels. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids include flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, fatty fish, seafood, soybeans and spinach.
Seniors who took up painting, drawing, or sculpting during middle age and continued into their old age were 73 per cent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not participate in artistic activities. These pastimes encourage you to focus your attention, according to the findings of a four-year study.
Raising your voice a lot may lead to polyps – bumps on your vocal cords that can make you sound old and hoarse. Instead of yelling, move closer.
Want to look younger? Vitamin C in general seems to be associated with fewer wrinkles, according to a UK study. Hydration, of course, also keeps skin healthier. So drinking lemon water, which combines both, is the perfect recipe for great skin, says US author and nutrition expert Erin Palinski-Wade.