9 small life changes that will make you live longer

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Follow these simple steps and future proof your health. Old age you will be grateful.

Woman eating a slice of watermelon
No one wants to think about getting older, and those creaking knees might be a way off yet, but are there things you are doing now to sabotage your future health?

Dr Sally Norton, consultant weight-loss expert and founder of Vavista.com has researched 9 ways to ensure that we are as prepared as we can be for older age and have as much chance as possible of enjoying it in the best of health...

Laugh a lot


Woman laughing after a workout

© Getty - Handbag



It seems that laughter really is the best medicine.

Not only has a recent study confirmed that it cuts down on stress by reducing the stress hormone cortisol, but it seemed that it also improved memory and the ability to perform mental tasks.

Keep active


Bar Refaeli doing yoga

© Instagram/Bar Refaeli



OK- pretty obvious. But do you know how many ways exercise can help?

Exercise keeps bones strong which reduces the risks of fractures. Physical activity also seems to protect from dementia in old age, according to a study carried out at the University of Eastern Finland. Those who engaged in physical activity at least twice a week had a lower risk of dementia than those who were less active, even when accounting for other factors.

Be optimistic


Jourdan Dunn happy in Jamaica

© Instagram / Jourdan Dunn



No-one wants to spend time with a grumbling old woman. Being a glass half-full sort of person not only makes it more likely that you won't be lonely in your dotage, but studies also show, surprisingly, that you are likely to be at lower risk of heart failure, even when accounting for chronic diseases and other reasons to be pessimistic.

Keep a healthy weight


woman standing on scales


With two-thirds of Brits overweight and ¼ frankly obese, being fat is almost the norm now. There used to be a feeling that you could be obese but still healthy – however, recent research has put paid to that as it shows that even people who seem to be healthy have changes in their blood vessels which can lead to heart disease and stroke in later life.

Obesity is also increasingly linked to other serious illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, many types of cancer and is more of a risk than alcohol for liver disease.

Stop smoking


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© Getty - Handbag



There's no escaping the fact that smoking is harmful – smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers as shown in a study of a million UK women published last year.

If you can stop smoking before you are 40, you are 10 times less likely to have health problems than if you continue! If you stop smoking you will see rapid improvements in your breathing, heart function, fertility, mood and reduce your risk of stroke, diabetes, cancer, circulation problems and numerous other problems.

Reduce salt


Jessie J pie and chips

© Jessie J Instagram



The British Heart Foundation is clear that too much salt can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease later in life.

Adults should have less than 6 grams (1 tsp) a day. Cutting back on salt doesn't just mean keeping your hands away from the salt cellar when you are eating…there is also a lot of hidden salt in processed food. Check the labels and cook from scratch wherever possible – then you are in control.

Cut out sugar as far as possible


Sweets

© Flickr/clrcmck



Sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever….and what's more, it may be damaging our health and be more of a culprit than fat when it comes to obesity.

The recent World Health Organisation recommendations are that we should be trying to restrict our sugar intake to around 6-12 teaspoons a day. Try to get your sugar fix from fruit, as the fibre it contains gives some protective effect.

Reduce alcohol


Rihanna's thirsty, apparently, chugging wine straight from the bottle

© Instagram / badgalriri



Another obvious one – but check out the increasingly large glasses of wine we are offered now. Do you really still kid yourself that a glass of wine is one unit?

The amount of liver disease we are seeing in middle-aged women is worrying the health profession. We're not talking about the classic drunk here…just normal women who are putting away just a bit too much, a bit too regularly.

Eat chocolate


Woman eating chocolate - woman baking a cake - melted chocolate - cooking - diet - day bag - handbag.com

© Getty - Handbag



Yep. that's right. Eat chocolate! Well, good quality, high cocoa chocolate anyway – the stuff that isn't laden with sugar.

There are numerous benefits due to the antioxidants contained in cocoa that can help memory loss, reduce cancer risk, lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes, and even, counter-intuitively, help weight-loss. So, ditch the guilt and enjoy. However, please note… we are talking here about a small amount of dark, high cocoa chocolate not a family-size bar of Dairy Milk.

Got some healthy advice to share? Tweet us @handbagcom

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