Monthly Archives: July 2016
There are a number of things you can resolve to do in order to turn back your biological clock and live longer, whether you’re in your 20s or 30s, all the way to your 60s, 70s, and beyond. In fact, research has shown it’s never too late to start healthy habits.
But what about the things you might stop doing—in the name of your longevity.
One of the major dietary changes that’s taken place in many countries over the last 30 years has been a shift to consuming more processed foods. Along with processing comes an increase in added sodium, more saturated fat, more sugar, and less fiber. The result? More cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, and diabetes.
For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends consuming no more than 2,300 mg (less than 2.4g) of sodium each day—less for many seniors and other people with certain health conditions, like high blood pressure. Still, in a survey of more than 7,000 Americans, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found people consume an average of 3,300 mg of sodium per day. Most of the salt comes from restaurant and convenience foods, like baked goods, cured meats and soup.
Do your body a favor, and try to eat “clean” more often, including foods high in fiber (which are linked to greater longevity) and other ingredients you purchase and prepare yourself. If you’re short on time (and who isn’t?), cook ahead in big batches, or splurge on ready-made salads and other fresh or frozen vegetables, while watching the sodium and sugar contents on the label.
If you’re a smoker, you know how hard quitting can be, but here’s some inspiration: The NIH says tobacco use remains the most preventable cause of death. Some estimates suggest smoking can rob you of a decade of life.
Whether you quit cold-turkey or phase out your habit, your body is surprisingly forgiving; blood pressure and circulation improve soon after quitting, and your risk of getting cancer decreases every year thereafter. Keep in mind that your family members will also benefit from your staying tobacco-free because they’ll no longer be exposed to dangerous second-hand smoke. You’ll look younger, too.
Stop Sitting Still
If you don’t feel you have time to exercise, consider this: You may not need to hit theglobal minimum recommendations of 30 minutes a day, five or more times per week, to extend your life. A study published in 2011 in The Lancet, examining the activity habits of more than 416,000 men and women in Taiwan, found that gettingjust 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day helped subjects live three extra years. The longevity boost went up to four years of longer life for people achieving the threshold of 30 minutes a day. The results held true even for those with health problems like cardiovascular disease—and for overweight people who didn’t lose any pounds through their activity.
Brisk walking was one of the “moderate intensity” exercises cited in the Taiwanese research. You might have to make a conscious effort to work it into your daily routine, but 15 minutes of activity for an extra three years of life sounds like a longevity bargain.
When anxiety hits, it’s easy to point fingers at what might have triggered it: too many hours at work. A nasty breakup. Family pressures.
But what if the cause was a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck?
Your thyroid is responsible for sending out hormones that dictate your metabolism and growth, explains Dr. Amy Myers, the Austin, Texas-based author of “The Thyroid Connection” (Little, Brown and Company, out now). When it’s functioning normally, it keeps your body ticking along.
But if it’s thrown out of whack, either into overproduction (hyperthyroidism) or underproduction (hypothyroidism), it can leave you wracked with anxiety.
“If you have anxiety, checking your thyroid should be a routine part [of treatment],” Myers tells The Post. “The thyroid in and of itself can cause mood disturbances, particularly if you have an overactive thyroid.”
She says stress and anxiety can also trigger a thyroid disorder by creating a high-cortisol state. “It’s a Catch-22,” Myers says.
Luckily, blood tests offer a tangible way to diagnose and treat the hard-to-manage illness.
“There’s not one blood test that says, ‘You have anxiety!’ ” Myers says. “[But] there are very concrete tests … to find out if you have thyroid dysfunction.”
She suggests asking your doctor for a full thyroid work-up, which includes testing for antibodies. There are other symptoms you can ask your doctor about, including elevated temperature and high blood pressure.
“You know your body better than anyone else,” Myers says. “If you intuitively feel like this is more than anxiety, or if it’s just come out of the blue, you need to get it checked out.”
To prevent thyroid irregularities, Myers suggests incorporating stress-relieving activities into your daily routine. Start with taking long, deep breaths. “It’s very hard to be anxious if you take five counts in and five counts out,” she says. From there, try adding a hot bath or meditation.
You could also try restorative workouts, like yoga. Just be wary of over-exercising, which Myers says can worsen a thyroid condition — and anxiety.
“I see CrossFit people coming into my clinic and their adrenal [glands] and thyroids are burnt out,” she says. “Some people are built to handle it, but many of us are not.”