Dr. Willie T. Ong (Internist-Cardiologist)
Have you wondered how some people who are in their fifties can look like they’re just 40? And how some who are only 35 can look like they’re 50 already?
Of course, genetics plays a big role in how we age. Whether our parents lived to a ripe age of 80 or more (that’s a good thing), and what inherited diseases (like heart disease, diabetes and cancer) do we have in the family.
In addition to the usual healthy lifestyle advice, there are several things we can do to delay ageing and become younger than our calendar age. Let’s check these out:
- Eat breakfast daily.
Eating breakfast gives you more energy, improves your concentration and may help you live longer. Dr. Michael Roizen, internist and author, agrees, “Non-breakfast eaters have a mortality rate that is 1.3 to 1.5 times higher per year than those who eat breakfast regularly… Eating breakfast can make you 1.1 years younger.”
According to Los Angeles registered dietitian Gail Frank, “Breakfast is really the most important meal of the day. Breakfast skippers often feel tired, restless or irritable in the morning.” The problem with not eating breakfast is that you’ll get very hungry later in the day. This results in overeating and bad food choices for your next meal.
The healthiest breakfast would, of course, include some fruit on the side, like a banana, an apple or a slice of mango. Other excellent food choices are eggs, cereals, oatmeal, vegetables, yogurt and skim milk. For our protein needs, our local fare of fish (sardines, tuyo and bangus) are healthy, too.
- Take tomato sauce and green tea.
A scientific study shows that eating tomato sauce (rich in lycopene) leads to longer survival for men with prostate cancer. But in order to release its lycopene, tomatoes should be cooked with a little oil. Ideally, we should consume at least 10 tablespoons of tomato sauce a week or approximately 150 ml a week. So remember to choose red over white spaghetti sauce to get your lycopene needs.
Considered a superfood, green tea contains catechins, which may help retard cancer growth and spread. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps kill off cancer cells. According to Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer: A New Way of Life, green tea should be steeped for at least 5-8 minutes to release the catechins. Drink 2 cups of green tea a day and drink within two hours of preparation. Choose the non-caffeinated variety to lessen any side effects, like heart palpitation.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits (and less fatty foods).
Every day, we should eat two and a half cups of veggies and one and a half cup of assorted fruits. If you want to stay younger, eat more of nature’s healthiest fruits like bananas, carrots, tomatoes and citrus fruits. Bananas are rich in potassium, vitamin B6 and folic acid. Carrots and tomatoes have high amounts of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and lycopene, respectively. Citrus fruits like calamansi, suha (pomelo) and dalandan are teeming with healthy vitamin C.
Green leafy vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and fibers known to provide health benefits. Moreover, vegetables are beneficial for people with heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, bowel problems and various cancers. Vegetables are also excellent diet foods because they’re low in fat and high in fiber. Locally, we have cabbage, pechay, kangkong and camote tops (talbos) and spinach.
- Regarding food, everything in moderation.
Whether we are talking about protein, fats, eggs or alcohol, take everything in moderation. Excessive alcohol intake leads to a multitude of diseases like liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, stomach ulcers, brain damage, abusive behavior and vehicular accidents. Incidentally, the benefits of red wine come from the flavonoids in the grapes, and not the alcohol content. A balanced diet of carbohydrates, protein, fruits and vegetables is healthier than a high-protein or a high-fat diet.
- Love is the answer.
Gerontology professor Dr. David Demko believes that being in love can prolong one’s life by as much as seven years. Married people or those with close relationships are generally happier compared to single people living alone. Being in love releases endorphins (happy hormones) that strengthen our immune system. If you don’t have a partner, then having a close friend, a pet or a hobby can be a substitute.
- Laugh a lot.
Laughter is indeed good medicine. Laugh often and laugh out loud. A study at the University of California Irvine College of Medicine reports that after watching a funny video, the viewers’ mood improved dramatically. Depression and anger dropped by 98%, fatigue fell by 87%, and tension was reduced by 61%. When we laugh, the level of stress hormones, called cortisol, decreases, and the good hormones, called endorphins, increases. Endorphins are natural substances in the body that make us happy.
- Nurture a group of supportive friends.
One study shows that talking to a supportive friend for an hour is as effective as taking a tablet of pain reliever. They take the stress away. Good friends, like having a caring doctor, can reduce your stress level by 50% to 90%. Invest your time in building close relationships. They are as good as money in the bank.
Another tip is to interact with people younger than you. This is because some of the positive energy of young people will get passed on to you and you’ll feel younger, too.
- Have (safe) sex more often.
Studies show that healthy men who have sex two or more times a week can decrease their risk for a heart attack or stroke. Women who enjoy sex also tend to live longer than those who don’t. Data show that increasing one’s sexual activity from once a month to once a week increases one’s general happiness. It’s also good exercise for the heart. How does a person know if he or she is strong enough for sex? One simple test is to climb two flights of stairs. If you can do this without being short of breath, then you are probably healthy enough to have sex. Consult a doctor to be sure.
- Take safety precautions.
Follow common-sense rules our moms taught us. Be careful when driving at night. Wear a seatbelt. Don’t drink and drive. Young people should be educated on the dangers of practicing unsafe sex and taking illicit drugs. Stay away from danger and you’ll live longer.
- Sleep 7 to 8 hours a day.
Resting and sleeping are the best ways to heal and strengthen your body. Try using mind-body techniques like meditation, visualization and biofeedback. Have 10 to 15 minute mini-breaks during the day. Whatever relaxes you is also good for your heart and body. According to sleep experts, the best time to sleep is at night. Try to be asleep from 11 PM to 3 AM, because this is the time when the body exerts its regenerating powers.
In the next article, we’ll give you more tips on how to stay healthier and younger.