Stay healthy and sharp well into your 90s by tapping into the strategies used by the folks who enjoy the longest lives in the world.
1. Raise a glass for a sharper mind.
Residents of “Blue Zones” — the five regions of the world where people live the longest — win twice when they sip vino with dinner. In addition to being delicious, wine has been shown to shield the mind against aging. Drinking just 5 oz. a day lowers Alzheimer’s risk by as much as 42 percent, according to a German study. The sip works by boosting nutrient-rich blood flow to the brain and improving the body’s system for flushing memory-hampering plaque buildup from the brain.
And get your java fix. Savor your morning joe: Research in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that folks who drink two cups of caffeinated coffee a day have the lowest risk of Alzheimer’s disease and memory impairment as they age. Credit goes to the caffeine and antioxidants in coffee, which help shield against unhealthy brain plaques.
2. De-stress by taking happy notes.
People who live healthily into their 90s and beyond are masters of the art of what the experts call “downshifting” — practicing a relaxation ritual to shake off the accumulated stress of the day. One easy to way to let go of your worries: Jot down three things you’re grateful for each day, no matter how small. This simple task tames longevity-hampering stress and could add up to 12 years to your life, report University of Kentucky researchers. That’s because the practice keeps your blood pressure in check and bolsters the immune system. For even bigger positivity benefits, try naming three new things every day.
Or read just one chapter. Short on time? No problem! A University of Sussex study found as little as six minutes of reading dials down stress by an impressive 68 percent by refocusing your mind away from anxieties.
3. Slim down by not exercising.
Go ahead and skip the gym: Folks in Blue Zones, like Okinawa, Japan, practice “invisible exercise ” — that is, moving a little bit all day, every day. Walk to the library instead of driving or park a little farther away from the grocery store entrance. For a surefire way to stay motivated to move, slip on a pedometer. UCLA scientists say wearing a step counter makes you more mindful of your movement and helps you walk an extra seven miles per week and shed 60 percent more weight!
Or water your plants. Minor moves can make a big impact. Harvard scientists say being active for just two minutes each hour reduces your risk of early aging by 30 percent by releasing anti-aging hormones.
4. Boost your joy with a girls’ night.
Get in the habit of inviting friends over for a potluck dinner each week, and you’ll extend your life by up to six years! Research shows that just an hour of socializing triggers the release of mood-boosting oxytocin, which slows the aging of vital powerhouses in your body’s cells (mitochondria). In fact, a Brigham Young University study found that weekly get-togethers up your life expectancy as effectively as dropping 50 pounds, quitting cigarettes or exercising daily.
Or log on to Facebook. Can’t catch up in person? Connect on social media! Interacting online strengthens bonds, which Harvard scientists say fosters happiness to lengthen your life.
5. Be heart smart with pesto sauce.
One of the most delicious ways to add two years to your life: Swap red sauce for pesto! Enjoying 2 tbsp. of olive oil — a star ingredient in pesto — per day lowers your risk of heart disease by 44 percent, University of Connecticut researchers report. The healthy fats and antioxidants in the oil raise “good” HDL cholesterol while lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol to protect against hardened arteries. Tip: If you’re not a fan of pesto, try drizzling olive oil over a salad or onto a slice of crusty bread.
And go nuts for nuts. Brigham Young University scientists say that snacking on nuts can ward off heart disease and add an extra year and a half to your life.
6. Try this smile secret that adds seven years.
Laughing with a friend, watching a sitcom, playing with your pup… whatever puts a smile on your face, make time for it! Longevity researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit say those with the most genuine smiles live seven years longer than those who fake their grins. That’s because a true smile releases brain chemicals that tame harmful cortisol.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.