6 Tips to Age Better, According to Science
The research: Adults 65 and older who strength-trained twice a week were 46 percent less likely to die over the course of a 15-year study compared with those who didn't work their muscles that often. Previous research in The American Journal of Medicine found that muscle mass was actually a better predictor of longevity than individuals' body mass index (BMI). These studies show association, not causation, so experts aren't sure how muscle mass might translate to a longer life, but the results are a pretty persuasive reason to pick up some dumbbells or drop and give yourself 20 (or—who are we kidding?—10).
What you can do: Incorporate more resistance moves into your workouts. You don't need equipment to do them—try these 3 no-equipment workouts you can do anywhere.
The research: You know that processed meat is not the healthiest thing you can eat, but here's another reason to eat it less it often. A large review of studies by the Mayo Clinic found that daily red-meat consumption was linked to a higher risk of death—particularly processed meats, like bacon, sausage and salami. Specifically, eating lots of these meats was linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer among Western populations.
What you can do: There are benefits to simply eating less meat—one study in the review found that the risk of death was 25 to 50 percent lower for people with very low meat intake compared to those with very high intakes. In addition, long-term vegetarians (defined in the review as people who'd been meat-free for 17 years or more) lived an average of 3.6 years longer than other study participants.
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The research: Out of 65 different risk factors linked to early death, people's thoughts on how healthy they felt (also known as subjective health) was one of the strongest predictors of their actual risk of death, according to a study in Psychological Science. The healthier they felt, the longer they lived. Of course, actually being healthy was also important, but the researchers say they were surprised by how big of an effect subjective health had.
What you can do: This study is all the more reason to make choices that make you feel healthier, whether that's going for a midday walk, choosing seltzer over soda or getting to bed at a reasonable hour. They could help motivate you to continue making good choices.
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The research: Exercising regularly, year after year, helps protect your brain from the effects of aging by helping to create new neurons, increasing blood flow to areas that control memory and helping maintain overall brain volume, which naturally shrinks with age. A mouse study suggests that even starting a regular exercise regimen in middle age can prevent brain deterioration in older age. Other researchers found that exercise helped protect against brain changes linked to dementia in people who were 75 years and older.
Here's why it's important to limit extended breaks from the gym: After just 10 days of inactivity, blood flow to the brains of formerly regular exercisers had seriously decreased, found a recent study, which suggests that you have to keep up with your workouts if you want to continue seeing the brain-boosting benefits.
What you can do: Schedule your workouts like you would work meetings or dinners out, since many experts say you're more likely to follow through if it's built into your schedule. Once they're scheduled, stick to them.
The research: People who ate 4 servings of whole grains per day were 22 percent less likely to die prematurely than those whose diets included little to no whole grains, according to a recent study in Circulation. Whole grains are a top source of fiber, which the researchers say may help control cholesterol levels, and it's known to help with weight management too, which can lower your risk of chronic illnesses linked to obesity.
What you can do: Aim for those 4 servings per day, but remember that you'll still get benefits from 2 or 3 servings. You can also follow the advice of the study researchers and aim for foods that give you the most grams of whole grains per serving, like oatmeal and quinoa.
The research: Past studies have shown that strong social ties boost your health, but a recent review helps explain just how your circle of friends affects the quality and length of your life. A lack of social ties and support was associated with higher inflammation levels, higher blood pressure and larger waistlines, according to the research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In addition, the kind of socializing we need for our health changes throughout our lifespan: When we're very young and very old, the number of friends we have matters most, while the closeness of those friendships and the support they provide is more important in midlife.
What you can do: You're likely at an age where quality of friends matters more than quantity. So make time for the supportive friends and think about whether you really want to spend energy on the rest. (Being able to spot toxic friends is important too, and we can help with that.)