Youthfulness is often tied to attractiveness and bears massive social rewards
  • Attractive people, regardless of their gender, are often assumed to be more intelligent
  • Youthfulness is often tied to attractiveness and bears massive social rewards
  • The world’s oldest person credited singlehood to be the reason she stayed alive that long

At the core of human nature lies the desire to live as long as possible, look as young as possible and keeping disease firmly at bay.  

So passionate are these desires that people throughout the ages have been willing to spare no cost to achieve each, if not all of them.

In the Victorian era, for instance, women were known to remove their lower ribs in search of a wasp like waistline.

 This same desire is the wind beneath the global billion dollar cosmetic industry consisting of diet pills, health clubs, skin care, hair products, make up, fragrances and not to forget cosmetic surgery.

 In cultures across the world, youthfulness is often tied to attractiveness and bears massive social rewards.

Attractive people, regardless of their gender, are often assumed to be more intelligent, more sought after, and even higher paid. Similarly, skin creams bank on the deeply ingrained assumption that lighter skin represents both youth and vitality.

Globally the life expectancy for children born in 2015 was estimated at around 71.4 years. Japanese women can expect to live longest at 86.8 years while Switzerland achieves the world’s longest average survival for men at 81.3 years.

The 2015 World Health Organisation (WHO) study further revealed that women in Kenya are likely to live nearly five years longer than men with at 65.8 years compared to 61.1 years for men. 

Conversely, the Global Burden of Disease Report released late September this year shows that a Kenyan male child born in 2016 will live approximately 57 years in good health while a female only expects wellness for 60 years before disease or disability assails them.

Lessons from ten years of research:

In their book The Longevity Project, Psychologists Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin embarked on a research project to extract life-extending advice in a study that followed 1,500 boys and girls for almost eight decades tracking their habits and personalities to see which are ultimately best for health in the long term. 

Among others, the study revealed a few traits that seem to stretch that clock against time such as:

Conscientiousness

This is a fundamental personality trait seen in people who set and keep long-term goals, and are quite deliberate over their life choices and impulses.

They take obligations to others quite seriously.

Conscientiousness has been seen as is a key ingredient for success, and according to the book, people who were dependable, responsible adults ended up living longer than their reckless counterparts.

 Stress gets a pass from this study. People who were the most involved and dedicated to accomplishing things stayed healthiest and lived longest.

They thrived simply because they were the ones who didn’t try to relax or retire early but took on challenges and were persistent.

Happy people tend to be healthier

However, the emphasis is on happiness as a result, rather than a cause, which is where most people get mixed up.

Happiness does not lead to healthier lives on a whim; being in stable relationships, being connected and accepted within social groups, being in jobs and careers that make people feel engaged, productive and appreciated leads to feelings of happiness, which results in good health.

Your friends matter

To make yourself healthier, you have to run with the right crowd. Think about the people you spend the most time with.

 If you’re involved with the kind of people who are helping and positive towards other people, you tend to get more dependable yourself —you have a purpose that gets you up in the morning, so you’re not engaged in self destructive habits such as late night alcoholic binging.

One of the secrets of longevity from this book is to join social groups and choose hobbies or jobs that lead you naturally to choose healthier patterns and activities.

Lessons from those who walked the mile:

Watch your plate

Jiroemon Kimura was a Japanese man who lived to 116. He retired at the age of 65, and became a farmer until he turned 90.

His answer, when asked what the key to such a long life was his answer was  to eat food in smaller portions. Nothing else.

Stay single

Emma Morano, an Italian woman believed to be the world’s oldest person as of last year at 117 years, credited singlehood to be the reason she stayed alive that long. She did however mention that her diet also played a part.

Diagnosed with anaemia at the age of 20, she started eating two raw eggs and one cooked egg every day.

 She only added cookies to her food list, citing the fact that she had no teeth. She passed away early this year.

Jessie Gallan, who lived to 109, ate lots of porridge, never got married and and she spent her life getting plenty of exercise, surrounding herself with nice people, and working hard from the age of 13.

Faith

Violet Brown, Jamaica’s oldest living person at 117 years second behind Emma Morano eats smaller meals, and never eats pork or chicken.

Her diet also contains plenty of locally-grown produce like sweet potatoes, breadfruit, oranges and mangoes. She told a local newspaper that another secret to her long life was following the Ten Commandments.

Rest and Restore

Misao Okawa was also 117 until her death in April 2015.  In her interview, she attributed her long life to her diet consisting of sushi, eight hours of sleep each night and relaxing.

Japan is currently believed to have over 50,000 people who have lived to be over 100 years old. This is often attributed to the country’s low-fat diet, which is rich in sushi and fish. 

Lessons from science:       

According to science, 25 per cent of a person’s longevity comes from genetics. These are just a few pointers towards giving the gene pool a slight boost:

Sleep, sleep, sleep

Your risk of heart attack and stroke significantly goes higher the more you consistently sleep less than six hours per night, say studies published in the European Heart Journal.

Similarly, a second study found that consistently sleep-deprived people were 12 per cent more likely to die over the 25-year study period than those who got six to eight hours of sleep a night.

Put the sugar down

Science recommends that women ingest no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams).

A high-sugar diet boosts blood sugar, which increases levels of LDL cholesterol while lowering heart-friendly HDL cholesterol, and tripling your risk for fatal cardiovascular disease.

Some more water

If your urine is a light yellow colour, you are doing a good job of staying adequately hydrated and thus helping prolong your chances of a healthy life.

This is because you are reducing the risk of bladder and colon cancer and keeping your kidneys in working shape.

Drinking more water can even help you lose weight. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that those who did this ended up eating 68 to 205 fewer calories per day. 

Get a pet

Studies looking into health and pet ownership have found that having a furry companion, particularly a dog, can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and even improve the odds of surviving a heart attack.

Dog owners are more likely to be physically active and are also less vulnerable to the effects of stress.

Find your purpose

Research has found that those with the highest sense of purpose are at least 30 percent less likely to die than those who don’t.  

In fact, doing something that matters to you-be it a hobby, a dream, your career, being a caregiver, or positive community member-is directly correlated with up to seven more years of life.

Get social even on the phone

Loneliness increases the risk of early death by 45 per cent, according to studies. Consequently, it weakens the immune system and raises blood pressure thus increasing the risk for heart attacks and stroke.

People with strong ties to friends and family in comparison, have as much as a 50 per cent lower risk of dying.

 Online interaction is not excluded: A 2016 study by researchers at the University of California, San Diego found that those who use Facebook also live longer, but only when online interactions don’t completely supplant face-to-face social interaction.

Believe in something

More than 1,000 studies have found a link between faith and living longer. It has been found that having strong beliefs helps people deal with stress and emotional problems, and also seems to offer protection against heart, respiratory and digestive problems.