The secrets to living a long and healthy life have been studied for years.
While there is no surefire way of turning back the clock, there are simple habits that can help slow the aging processes and extend life.
Here, Dr Nirusa Kumaran, medical director at London longevity clinic HUM2N, tells MailOnline five simple ways to live longer and healthier.
The anti-inflammatory properties of plants can cut your risk of cardiovascular disease
Eat more plants and oily fish (and cut out processed meat)
Eating less meat and more plants has been linked with a whole host of health benefits, from reducing risk of cardiovascular disease — one of the country’s top killers — to improving gut health.
One reason for this is that plants contain a range of polyphenols, which contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, says Dr Kumaran.
Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of ageing that is thought to be responsible for a swathe of age-related illnesses and shortened lifespan.
‘To improve longevity, addressing issues such as inflammatory processes in the body and oxidative stress is crucial,’ she says.
Polyphenols, micronutrients that occur naturally in plants, are also though to protect against the build-up of fatty plaques in the arteries and blood clots.
Additionally, eating plenty of plants boosts the diversity of the gut microbiome — the term for the trillions of bugs living inside of us.
A diverse microbiome has been linked to boosting the body’s ability to breakdown food, strengthening the immune system, bettering brain function and even lowering the risk of cancer.
‘Optimal gut health is also critical for improving one’s systemic health and longevity,’ says Dr Kumaran.
‘Dysbiosis, or an imbalanced microbiome, can directly contribute to inflammation in the body.’
Fruit and vegetables are also naturally low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Packing them into your diet instead of junk food and processed meat can help lower the risk cardiovascular disease risk, says Dr Kumaran.
She recommended buying good quality meat and not eating too much, as over-indulging in red and processed varieties may fuel inflammation and can increase the risk of cancer.
Oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, is also ‘extremely beneficial’ for boosting lifespan, according to Dr Kumaran.
Studies have linked it to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation, as well as better hormonal health, vitamin absorption and brain function, she says.
Everyone knows exercise is crucial for good health, whether it’s a brisk walk, swim or game of tennis.
Keeping fit is also vital for longevity, as it can help with maintaining a healthy weight, boosting metabolism and increasing muscle mass, says Dr Kumaran.
Being too fat increases the risk of a swathe of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, while being frail can see minor ailments become severe.
Working out also boosts cardiovascular health, muscle and bone strength and reduces inflammation. It also improves insulin sensitivity, which is vital to protect against type 2 diabetes.
As well as these physical benefits, exercising supports mental health by boosting mood and lowering stress and anxiety levels.
Exercise not only helps you to maintain a healthy weight, but it can also improve cardiovascular health, muscle and bone health and reduces inflammation
‘When it comes to the type and intensity of exercise, the key is finding a balance that suits your fitness levels, preferences, and health conditions,’ says Dr Kumaran.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or run a marathon, but doing both aerobic exercises, such as jogging or riding a bike, as well as strength training are important.
But there are certain exercises that can maintain quality of life, argues Dr Kumaran.
These including strengthening the proximal muscles — the upper legs and arms, as well as the hips, shoulders and core — and the pelvic floor muscles, which support the bowel and bladder.
Additionally, high-intensity training (HIIT), made popular by the Body Coach Joe Wicks, boosts the health of the mitochondria, the powerhouse of cells, which decline with age, she says.
Smoking is one of the biggest causes of illness in Britain, linked to around 76,000 deaths a year, including from lung cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
So quitting is vital for boosting the chances of living healthier and for longer.
‘Quitting smoking at any stage can provide significant health benefits and increase life expectancy,’ says Dr Kumaran.
‘The sooner someone quits, the sooner they can start reaping the rewards of improved health.’
One year after quitting, the risk of an ex-smoker having a heart attack is half that of a smoker. And 10 years later, their risk of dying from lung cancer is half of that of smokers’.
Dr Kumaran adds: ‘Seeking support from healthcare professionals, support groups, or smoking cessation programmes can enhance the chances of successfully quitting and maintaining a smoke-free lifestyle.
‘Regardless of how long someone has been smoking, quitting remains one of the most impactful decisions for their health and longevity.’
Living a healthier life isn’t just about going to the gym and eating vegetables — it’s also important to stay connected to others.
Socialising is vital for your physical and mental health, according to Dr Kumaran.
It has been shown to ease depression, anxiety and stress and improve mood.
Spending time with others is also linked with better cognitive health and physical health, as social people are more are more likely to engage in other healthy habits.
A lack of social contact has been shown to increase stress, reduce immune function and even increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, according to Dr Kumaran
A lack of social contact has been shown to increase stress, reduce immune function and even increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, says Dr Kumaran.
The exact mechanisms of how social connection influences longevity are not fully understood, Dr Kumaran says.
‘But if you look at evidence from the blue zones across the world, they have shown that social connections are a major driver for improved longevity,’ says Dr Kumaran.
Blue zones are the parts of the world’s where people live longer than average. Residents in these areas have been extensively studied in bid to understand how their good health can be replicated elsewhere.
‘Building and maintaining social connections, participating in community activities, and nurturing relationships with family and friends are valuable strategies for promoting overall well-being and longevity,’ she adds.
Sleep enough and reduce stress
Getting sufficient sleep and managing stress levels are vital for living longer.
That’s because sleep is vital for repair.
During the third of the four sleep cycles (deep sleep), the body physically mends itself — boosting the immune system and restoring the bones, muscles and tissues.
Studies have repeatedly shown that those who don’t get enough sleep face a higher risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and depression.
Additionally, stress can be a major contributor to all health problems and act as a ‘silent killer’, warns Dr Kumaran.
‘The mind and body are intricately connected. How we feel, the stress we are under, our mental health can all affect physical health problems and vice versa,’ she says.
Meditation, breath work, exercise and spending time in nature are all ways of helping yourself de-stress, she says.