News and Tribune

February 4, 2013

Simple things you can do to live longer

By Daryl Nelson
ConsumerAffairs.com

— Living a long life is what many people want, but they also want to live it healthfully, so in order to do that some people follow a long list of regimens and medical suggestions that oftentimes entail a major life change or some sort of difficult upheaval.   

But not everything you need to do in order to live longer requires a drastic change.

You don’t always have to search for the newest vitamin supplement or switch your daily routine to include a new workout to live longer, because there are many things you can do that require either no change or very little of it, say experts, and getting just a little bit more sleep is one of those things.

Enough sleep

Researchers at Pennsylvania University College of Medicine say that getting eight hours of sleep is a must for proper health and has a direct impact on living longer. This was discovered after scientists observed two groups of participants. One group slept for six hours or more most nights and the other group slept for less than six hours.

Researchers first followed up with the women of both groups after a 10-year period and then with the men after 14 years, and it was discovered that the women who got more hours of sleep or didn’t have issues with insomnia had a lower mortality rate.

And men who battled chronic insomnia or slept for under eight hours for a number of years had a significant risk of dying earlier compared to those who got the correct amount of sleep.

In a separate study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40 million working Americans get less than six hours of sleep, which is 30 percent of the workforce, which suggests that many of us may be robbing ourselves of days here on earth, simply by not getting to bed early enough.

Stand more, sit less

Another way to add days to your life, say experts,  is by standing more and sitting less, as numerous studies have shown that sitting down for extended periods of time on a continuous basis — which most of us do — can shorten your life significantly.

In a report released by the American Heart Association and conducted by researchers from the University of California, San Diego, it was learned that too much sitting can add an increasing amount of unhealthy fat around the heart.

“We wanted to see if sitting was related to the distribution of fat, because different types of fat are worse than others,” said lead study of the author Britta Larsen in a statement.

After studying more than 500 participants in the 65-year-old range, Larsen said that even if you do get enough exercise, but sit for long periods of time each day, you could be undoing a big portion of the health benefits associated with exercising, so people should really be conscious of coupling their workouts with standing more during the course of the day.

“In order to really be healthy you need to focus on both. Get enough exercise but also not sit for 10 hours per day like most of us do,” said Larsen. “Sitting really is bad for your heart, so we are hoping that the workplace, especially, becomes more standup-friendly.”

Which means it might be a good idea to look into in some standup work stations for your home office or workplace if you can.

Dental destiny

Very few people look forward to visiting the dentist and most times it has everything to do with a fear of pain, which is rarely as bad as most people anticipate, but avoiding the dentist, not flossing, and not brushing your teeth regularly, could lead to a bunch of potential health problems like heart disease and diabetes, a study shows.

Choosing not to stay on top of your dental hygiene can cause bacteria build-up that could eventually spill into the blood stream, said Walter Bretz, an oral microbiologist in an interview with Live Science.

“Certain bacteria present in the mouth may be related to clogging up the arteries by contributing to the plaque that builds on the walls of the arteries,” he said.

Internist Dr. Michael F. Roizen, who authored several books including Real Age: Are You as Young as You Can Be? Says having the proper periodontal treatment is important to living a longer and healthier life.

“These studies show that the presence of periodontal diseases, diseases most common in people with tooth loss, actually affects longevity,” he wrote.

“The best of these studies done at Emory University with the Centers for Disease Control, indicated that people with gingivitis and periodontitis have a mortality rate that is 23 percent to 46 percent higher than those who don’t, why? They are linked to increased rates of cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as to an increase in mortality from other causes, such as infections,” he said.

Get out and about

Another way to add days to your life, that shouldn’t shake up your world too much, is by volunteering and helping out a particular social cause or project.

In a recent study published by Health Psychology, researchers said it’s not only volunteering that adds days to your life, it’s the reason why you volunteer that does the trick, meaning if your volunteer efforts come from a place of sincerity as opposed to coming from a place of “Hey, look at me I’m a person of the people,” it could allow for a longer life.

Researchers reported these findings after studying a group of participants since their high school graduation year of 1957, and in 2004 they questioned the study group about how much they’ve volunteered since that time.

After taking into account other lifestyle factors, the researchers found 4.3 percent of those who didn't volunteer died within four years of 2004, compared to 1.6 percent of those people who died who did volunteer.

Among other factors, the study authors contributed volunteering to living longer, especially the reasons why people volunteered.

“It is reasonable for people to volunteer in part because of benefits to the self; however, our research implies that, ironically, should these benefits to the self become the main motive for volunteering, they may not see those benefits," said Andrea Fuhrel-Forbis, one of the study authors.

So when it comes adding days to your life, there are definitely some things you can do that will be harder for you to start than others, but fortunately, by just tweaking a few of your ways and sticking to those tweaks, you can increase the chances of sticking around a little longer, because healthy living doesn’t always require a total life shift and monk-like discipline, which is good because if it did a lot of us would be in a lot of trouble.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.