NONE of us know how long we shall live.
But if we can help it, a long and healthy life is the goal.
There is no way to escape the inevitability of an ageing body – the wrinkles, the creaky joints and so on.
But there are ways to prevent ageing faster than our chronological age.
No one wants to look haggard "before their time".
But actually, a lot of the ageing the body goes through is invisible while detemining our risk of disease and therefore, death.
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The daily habits we have, and choices we make each day, build up and determine our health.
Some factors linked to our risk of death are unchangeable, or even just bad luck.
Others that are adjustable are outlined below…
Drinking does nothing for health – that’s no secret – contributing to the development of hundreds of diseases.
One study by the University of Oxford found that alcohol does damage DNA, specifically telomeres, which cap the end of chromosomes.
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Telomeres protect the chromosomes from fraying, like the plastic tip of a shoelace, and affects how cells age.
Shorter telomere lengths have been associated with several age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and coronary artery disease.
Oxford Population Health scientists found that drinking more than 10 beers or wines per week aged a person’s DNA by up to two years compared to someone who had two.
The findings published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry said telomere damage only happens once a threshold of 17 units per week is met.
However, it is worth noting that the NHS recommends sticking to 14 units (over four glasses) or less per week.
The most obvious ageing is that which is visible – to the skin.
Premature ageing of the skin, including wrinkling, pigmentation and sagging, is caused by sun exposure.
It’s estimated by a Japanese study that UVA and UVB rays account for 80 per cent of all extrinsic ageing, which is ageing that is a result of lifestyle or environmental factors, as opposed to genetics.
UV rays are also behind the development of skin cancer.
Therefore, experts advice to use SPF (especially on the face) every day, even when it’s cloudy, to prevent the face ageing.
3. Too much sitting
Sitting around all day has been linked with being overweight and obese, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and early death, the NHS says.
One study in 2017 found that of 1,500 older women, those who sat most in their day had cells that were biologically eight years older than their actual age.
But the researchers said the harms can be offset by as little as half an hour of exercise each day.
The average UK adult spends nine hours sitting a day, watching TV, working and travelling, for example – and this doesn’t include when we sleep.
You can reduce the time you spend sitting by standing on public transport, setting reminders to walk around every 30 minutes or walking over to a colleague, rather than emailing them.
The effects of smoking on ageing are some of the most obvious.
Tobacco smoke contains thousands of toxic chemicals that can damage the cells of your skin. This leads to deeper wrinkles, particularly around the mouth and eyes.
Smoking plays a role in many age-related diseases, such as dementia, osteoporosis, erectile dysfunction and hearing and vision.
Deadly conditions such as heart attack and stroke are several times more common in smokers than non-smokers.
On average, smoking reduces your life expectancy by 10 years, according to Bupa.
After you reach 40, each additional year you smoke reduces your life expectancy by another three months.
Often smoking goes hand-in-hand with excessive alcohol drinking or use of other health damaging habits.
5. Bad diet
Eating a healthy diet controls a number of age-related diseases: High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes to name a few, all of which can lead to death.
A nutritious and balanced diet is one of the key prevention tools for Alzheimer’s, experts say, with dozens of studies showing beneficial links.
A recent study, published in the American Academy of Neurology, found that snacking on ultra-processed food can shorten your life by putting you at higher risk for top killer dementia.
Ultra-processed foods are high in added sugar, fat and salt, and low in protein and fibre. Some examples of ultra processed food include biscuits, soft drinks and crisps.
Dr Noel Young, clinical innovations associate for the at-home blood testing company Thriva (thriva.co), highly recommends eating enough fibre – which Brits fall short of.
He told The Independent that fibre-rich foods like vegetables, beans, grains and fruits are linked with longer telomeres and improved lifespan.
While fibre helps regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy gut biome, the foods are bursting with essential nutrients.
A study published in Translational Psychiatry found that chronic stress may contribute to faster ageing.
Over the past decade scientists have developed “epigenetic clocks” that can measure the biological age of an organism based on its DNA.
One of those is the GrimAge model, which was tested on blood samples of 444 people by Yale researchers.
Participants who scored highly on cumulative stress showed signs of accelerated genetic ageing speeds and increased biological markers such as insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes.
However, those who were able to regulate their stress better showed the opposite – they were less likely to age fast or have insulin resistance.
7. Vitamin deficiency
Supplements can seem like a faff. But one that you should take particularly seriously is vitamin D, or the so-called sunshine vitamin.
A King’s College study conducted on over 2,000 women found that low levels of vitamin D were associated with shorter telomeres.
Telomeres are the tips of your chromosomes and shield against DNA damage. Your telomeres shorten as you age, so telomere length is often used as a marker of biological ageing.
Women with an ideal level of vitamin D had longer telomeres.
Another study of 586 women found that those who take a multivitamin had longer telomeres, by around five per cent compared with non-users.
Government advice is that everyone should consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement during the autumn and winter.
8. Lack of sleep
Chronically bad sleepers are more likely to get health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Studies also show they are more likely to see an early grave.
Sleeping fewer than six hours has been linked to “high-risk” condition, such as high blood pressure and bad cholesterol, as well as being overweight.
But just as a lack of sleep is bad for you – too much is no better.
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Men who slept for fewer than six hours were 12 per cent more likely to have at least three of the "high-risk" conditions, but 28 per cent more likely if they snoozed for more than ten hours.
It suggests the seven to eight hour mark is golden because it shouldn’t often be surpassed, as well as missed.
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