Obvious news, first: You’re getting older. But the great news? You have a huge role in how gracefully you age. Astoundingly, you can control 70 percent of how well and how long you live.
Where to start? To keep it simple, here are three things you can do every day, (starting today!) to help ensure your feeling and looking your best well into old age.
1. Exercise 30 minutes per day.
In a study of thousands of healthy people over 26 years, those who had the highest fitness level in midlife had the lowest rates of chronic conditions in their elder years. Researchers saw significant reductions in heart failure, Alzheimer’s Disease and certain cancers. Saving yourself from these draining health issues saves your bank account, too—it can cut medicare expenses over 33 percent.
If it’s hard sticking to a regimen for benefits so far down the line, think of the more instant results you’ll see: a more toned physique, and even more instant—those naturally flushed cheeks that give you a gorgeous glow.
Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day, in whatever form you love most (biking, yoga, you name it). If shopping is your exercise of choice, bring a pedometer and try for 10,000 steps, each day, no excuses!
Eight out of 10 people don’t floss, which means it’s likely your teeth aren’t getting the cleaning they need (you’re neglecting 40 percent of your teeth, to be exact). When you skip flossing, you invite bacteria to have a field day, and build up plaque that inflames your gums. Worst scenario is periodontitis, an infection where the tissue and bone supporting your teeth wear away. That seriously ages your smile and has a sneaky link to artery aging (think wrinkles and impotence, too) and heart problems!
People with periodontitis are 114 percent more likely to develop coronary heart disease, according to a meta-analysis. Just chewing and brushing releases bacteria into the bloodstream—but it also sets up an immune response that inflames arteries. While we do not know which of these two mechanisms causes the problems—bacteria release or immune reaction, species of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the atherosclerotic plaque in arteries in the heart and elsewhere. This plaque can lead to a heart attack.
(And the disease is not only caused by bacteria, but our immune system destroying healthy gum and bone tissue while trying to kill bacteria. It gets ugly.)
So what can you do? Floss every day with a thick or waxed variety. Rather than jam the floss between your teeth, barely pass it through and gently touch the gums to each side. If you’re frustrated by floss breaking, your dentist can file the “contact points” between your teeth, or you can use an ultrasonic flosser.
3) Eat raw fruits, veggies and nuts.
The future of epigenetics may sound like sci-fi: your doc gives specific lifestyle suggestions based on your genetic risks. But in a lot of ways it’s a simple concept of maintaining healthy habits that won’t set off triggers for your bad genes.
Someday, docs may use epigenetics in your unique diet plans. In the meantime, try for five handfuls of vegetables (green ‘n’ leafy, raw—or both!) and four handfuls of fresh fruit a day. “Prudent diets” with plenty of fresh fruits and raw vegetables can lower your genetic heart risk—down to to the level of someone without genetic risk factors.
Prudent diets also include protein that packs a punch. A handful of nuts a day (like walnuts!) ups your good fats and can lower your risk of high blood pressure.
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