From anti-ageing creams to rejuvenating juices – people try all manner of things to cling to their youth.
But according to an expert in the field of ageing, the true secrets are far more simple – and they’ve been around for years.
Dr Dawn Carr, an assistant professor at Florida State University, is a leading consultant on policies to improve quality of life across the country as nation ages.
‘The ultimate goal is to set people up for having a good life for as long as possible in ways that are meaningful and productive,’ Dr Carr told.
‘What my research has done is to try and understand the shifts in the way we live as we get older.
‘I’m trying to understand what we can do to keep health and cognitive performance up for as long as possible.’
1. GET A COLLEGE DEGREE
Job opportunities aside, Dr Carr insists education can open up countless new ways of enjoying your life and having meaningful, fruitful experiences.
Numerous studies show studying stimulates the mind in a way that keeps your brain strong, and betters your mental health, inspiring you to take care of yourself and enjoy your life.
‘Education has been the biggest predictor of aging outcomes for a very long time,’ Dr Carr explains.
‘You just can’t hold a candle to number of years of education and its relationship to any outcome related to aging. It’s hard for me to ever imagine that education wouldn’t be beneficial to health, well-being and aging well.’
2. PLAN FINANCIALLY
This move has two major benefits: easing stress, and making life easier later.
As humans are living longer, there is an incredible amount of pressure placed on our finances.
And with a generally ageing population, the healthcare system will struggle to support ageing millennials.
Saving money now – even a few dollars a month – will start to set you up for a more comfortable experience when you are older. This will prevent stress, which can age you physically and mentally.
It will also allow you to afford a healthy lifestyle – and perhaps a holiday or two – to keep your mind and body fresh and healthy.
‘Being poor in later life is not good for your health,’ Carr said.
‘A lot of people don’t have control over that, which is a huge deal. But one thing we know to be true is that if you have a sufficient income, that’s pretty critical in improving outcomes. You have a lot working against you if you don’t have the money to maintain your well-being over time.’
3. MAKE GOOD FRIENDS – AND KEEP THEM
Friends are just as important as exercise, food, and healthcare for keeping you young, Dr Carr insists. Meaningul social relationships can offer scores of health benefits. Good friends provide emotional support, alleviating stress. They may also challenge you, make you laugh, and get you out the house.
Some friends exchange healthy recipes, or start health kicks together.
In fact, research shows that older people who regularly interact with others tend to have less inflammation in their arteries, lowering their risk of heart disease and diabetes.
And in Dr Carr’s own research, published in 2013, she analyzed why life expectancy in Okinawa, Japan, is the highest in the world.
One of the most pivotal factors, she found, was the unique Japanese philosophy of ikigai (‘life purpose’) which emphasizes having an active, social lifestyle.
Writing in Psychology Today on the topic, Dr Carr said: ‘I like to ask people this question to help them consider their own life: Outside of your family, how many people would you be willing to call in the middle of the night if you needed help, and how many would be willing to get out of bed and come rescue you? And: What if you met one of your important life goals? Who would you call?
If you don’t have at least two people on both of your lists, perhaps you should take more seriously the role of social relationships in your life.’
She concluded: ‘If you pick the right friends, they could play a crucial role in your longevity.’
This is no surprise – exercise is good for you.
But Dr Carr insists many do not realize how crucial exercise is for maintaining one’s youthfulness.
‘Exercise is crucial over the long term,’ Dr Carr said.
‘You can start at anytime throughout your life but it’s important to continue as much as possible.
‘There’s no evidence that you can do too much, and exercise seems to be one of the few things that, for the average person with normal brain matter, keeps cognitive performance up later in life.’
5. EAT WELL
Again, not an earth-shattering suggestion.
But one that many often neglect.
A better diet, free of processed foods and excess sugar, can dramatically cut one’s risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many other illnesses that lead to an early death.
‘There are a lot of diets that work well, but none of them involve eating a ton of fast food,’ Dr Carr said. ‘It’s important to use nutrition in a way that doesn’t result in bad outcomes like heart disease and diabetes, but that can vary from person to person.’