How old are you really? We all have a "real age" that can be much lower—or higher—than our chronological years. A 50-year-old man, for example, could have the immune system of someone 20 years younger.
More than a decade ago, I introduced the RealAge concept—a scientific way of calculating a number that reflects the overall state of your health rather than your calendar age. We are constantly updating our data to reflect new research. The lower your RealAge, the longer you are likely to live.
We discovered that some changes can be hard to achieve—such as losing 25 pounds or quitting smoking—but others are relatively easy and can have a big impact on your life span.
Latest findings: Recent research pinpoints 10 simple changes that can lower your RealAge by almost 15 years...
TAKE ASPIRIN DAILY
RealAge benefit: 2.2 years.
In men over age 35 and women over age 40, 162 milligrams (mg) of aspirin daily (the equivalent of two baby aspirins) reduces the risk of heart attack by 36% and the risk of colon, esophageal, throat and stomach cancers by about 40%. We don't know how aspirin reduces cancer risk-we just know that it does.
Check with your doctor about taking aspirin. Some people can't take it because of stomach discomfort and/or bleeding. Ibuprofen may be an appropriate substitute.
Caution: Taking both aspirin and ibuprofen in the same 24-hour period blocks the protective effects. Also, don't take aspirin in combination with blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin). It increases the risk of internal bleeding.
SUPPLEMENT WITH FOLATE
RealAge benefit: 1,.2 years.
The B vitamin folate helps prevent errors in DNA duplication, an underlying cause of cancer. Taking 600 micrograms (mcg) to 800 mcg of folate daily could decrease breast cancer risk by 25% to 50%...colon cancer risk by 20% to 50%...and risk of childhood cancers by about 60% when taken by the mother during pregnancy. Folate also lowers levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to stroke, heart disease and other cardiovascular disorders.
Take a B-complex or multi supplement that includes 100% of the recommended daily amount of the vitamins B-6 and B-12...and add a folate supplement to get a total of 600 mcg to 800 mcg daily. You need all three to lower homocysteine—and the ability of the body to absorb B-12 declines with age.
DON'T SUPPLEMENT UNNECESSARILY
RealAge benefit: 1.7 years.
Millions of Americans take iron or vitamin A supplements daily. With the exception of some people who, for specific reasons, are advised by their doctors to take extra vitamin A or extra iron, the use of these nutrients (except in a multivitamin) can take years off your life.
The average vitamin A supplement contains more than 5,000 international units (IU), an amount that causes bone demineralization and increases the risk of liver and lung cancers.
Taking iron is dangerous because as many as one in 200 Americans has hemochromatosis, a condition that causes excess iron to accumulate in tissues, increasing the risk of heart or liver failure.
I advise taking a daily multivitamin that contains all the essential vitamins and minerals but no iron unless told to by your doctor. The multivitamin should contain less than 2,500 IU of vitamin A.
EAT SPAGHETTI SAUCE
RealAge benefit: 1.9years for men, 0.8 years for women.
Tomatoes contain the carotenoid lycopene, which is believed to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancers by 30% to 50%. Try to get 10 tablespoons (a little more than one-half cup) of tomato sauce weekly. Processed tomatoes, such as those in spaghetti sauce, confer more benefits than fresh tomatoes because processing releases the lycopene. Eat canned tomatoes or tomato sauce with a little oil—for example, by cooking the sauce with olive oil—to improve absorption of lycopene.
CONSUME FAT FIRST AT MEALS
RealAge benefit: 1.8 years.
Starting meals with a little fat increases feelings of satiety and reduces overall calorie intake by about 7%. lf you are overweight, you can lose about 10 pounds in a year if you do this at every meal.
Make sure that the fat is a healthy one—olive oil, nuts, etc. To get the benefits, you need about 70 calories of fat, which is about one-half tablespoon of olive oil, six walnuts or 12 almonds. One great way to start a meal is with a salad that has olive oil in the dressing and a few chopped nuts sprinkled on top.
WASH PRODUCE AND YOUR HANDS
RealAge benefit: 0.4 years.
More than 40 million Americans suffer from food poisoning annually, and several thousand die from foodborne illness. Washing your hands frequently—and always before meals—is a key way to prevent this.
It's also crucial to wash produce thoroughly. Even organic fruits and vegetables require washing because they contain fertilizer residue that can cause illness. Wash produce twice in lukewarm water with a little dish soap, then rinse twice in regular water. You can put greens in a salad spinner and give them three cycles of rinsing/spinning.
RealAge benefit: 1.9 years.
Alcohol reduces the tendency of blood platelets to clump together and form clots in the arteries, the cause of most heart attacks. It also inhibits the oxidation of fat that contributes to the development of plaque on artery walls.
The extensive Harvard Nurses’ Health Study found that women who had three or more alcoholic drinks weekly had a 40% lower rate of heart attacks and arterial disease than those who did not. Studies in men show similar results.
Caution: Moderation is the key—one-half to one drink daily for women, and one to two drinks daily for men. Don't drink alcohol if you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse.
WEAR A HELMET
Real Age benefit: 1 year.
Wearing a helmet when riding a bike or a horse or when skiing can reduce your risk of head injury and related aging by as much as 80%. The RealAge benefit of one year assumes that you engage in the activity five times a month.
GET ENOUGH SUN
Real Age benefit: 1.7 years.
Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption and bone strength. It also helps reduce the risk of breast, colon, prostate and lung cancers. Only a few foods (mainly fatty fish) contain vitamin D in a form that can be used by the body. Sunshine is required to convert fats in the body into a usable form of vitamin D.
I advise getting 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen daily. Use sunscreen when you're in the sun longer than 20 minutes to prevent premature skin aging and skin cancer.
EAT FIBER EARLY IN THE DAY
RealAge benefit: 0.6 years.
Starting the day with a high-fiber cereal or fresh fruits or vegetables helps you feel full longer and reduces calorie intake. It prevents spikes in glucose that can damage arteries and increase the risk of heart disease.
Bonus: People who get at least 25 grams of fiber a day have a RealAge up to three years younger than those who get the national average of 12 grams.
Example: In a study at Northwestern University, a 10-gram-a-day increase in cereal fiber consumption decreased the risk of heart attack by 29%.