I was absolutely fascinated by the BBC documentary How to Stay Young with Angela Rippon and Dr Chris van Tulleken and would recommend everyone looking it up.
One fascinating aspect showed Angela looking at an exercise that is currently being used to determine how long we are going to live. In the exercise you take off your shoes, cross your legs and lower yourself to the ground without using hands or any other body part. After this, you have to stand up again in the same way. The purpose of this exercise is to determine your muscle strength and balance.
You are scored by starting at 10 and losing a point for each body part used to help you, with half a point if you wobble. It has apparently been found that these scores indicate how long you're going to live. Scoring 8-10, indicates a long, healthy life, 6-7.5 indicates a much shorter life, and 3.5-5.5 shows your lifespan quite dramatically decreased. The good news however is that this score can be increased with exercise. I tried the experiment myself and found it surprisingly hard. I managed to get down and stayed there for a while stuck, before using my knee to get up. We’d been on a really long walk the day before and I used that as my excuse, but it definitely gave me cause for thought. Apparently my kids have been shown this in school and completed it without any effort. Not funny!
The documentary also showed an experiment with German pensioners which was carried out over six months. This compared muscle strength of two groups who were either going to the gym or dancing. The dancers won hands down which made sense because so many muscles are used but the interesting fact was that the dancers saw an increase in muscle strength by 15%. Muscle wastage (sarcopenia) starts in the body around the age of 30-40 and from here in, if you don’t use it you lose it. I used to think that as I got older I’d really slow down with exercise and this was a huge wake up call, that you can’t ever stop.
Another really important and interesting area concerned stress. Dr Chris Van Tulleken and his identical twin were tested to see their chronological age compared to their biological age. His twin had previously had a diet consisting of fatty and sugary foods and had been over weight, whereas Chris on the other hand had been much healthier with regards to nutrition but had a much more stressful lifestyle. Interestingly both twins had the same biological age but both were shown to be years older than their actual age. Both nutrition and stress had obviously had an impact on their bodies.
Another set of identical twins were also assessed and again the twin with the highest stress levels, despite a healthier diet, had the higher biological age. It’s known that excess cortisol in the body, due to ongoing stress has a really damaging effect on the ageing process and can shorten your life by up to five years and in fact can be fatal. It’s really worth taking a look at your lifestyle and making any changes possible. Dealing with stress is easier said than done as life can be so tough at times but when possible adding yoga, meditation, a walk in nature ordeep breathing exercises can be extremely effective in reducing cortisol levels and improving general health.
My favourite part of the programme involved the lifestyle of the inhabitants on Loma Linda, who live 60 miles from California. You may recall I wrote about the blue zones a few weeks ago and Loma Linda is one of these regions. The inhabitants are Seventh Day Adventists, and their faith encourages vegetarianism. These inhabitants live on average 10 years longer than the average Californian, with vegans living even longer. A retired doctor of 100 (nearly 101), who had been vegan for 50 years was still very active, had no pain in his body and had in fact completed his last heart surgery on a patient at the age of 95. Amazing!! Now I’m not saying that we should all become vegan and join a church, but cutting down on meat and increasing fruit, vegetable and nut intake can have a tremendous effect on health, reducing the risks of cancer, heart attacks and strokes.
I would urge you all to watch this captivating programme and also the second part which involves brain health.
Keep healthy, happy and stress free.
Love Rachel x