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Healthy longevity: is it possible?

Given the choice, most of us would like to live a longer life. At the same time, most would agree that the quality of life is more important than its quantity. I’ve noticed that as I approach ‘old age’ my body seems to be wearing out in some ways and I am facing new problems. The age I reach, and how much I enjoy my later life, will depend on slowing down that wear and dealing with the problems of ageing.

A healthy lifestyle is the key – and the sooner we start making healthy changes, the more effective they will be.

The obvious first steps are a sensible diet, maintenance of a healthy body weight and use of exercise, all of which will help us at any age. It goes without saying that we shouldn’t smoke. It’s never too late to give up. Even if you have smoked for most of your lifetime, you will still benefit hugely from stopping now. Alcohol can also damage your health and shorten your life if you abuse it.

One of our essential needs is sleep, and it’s something that can become a problem as we age. Poor sleeping makes us tired and unenthusiastic about life. It’s too big an issue to cover in detail here, but I’d just like to say that you should do everything possible to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends, and avoid naps in between. If you have trouble sleeping, seek advice on what else you should do – or avoid doing – to encourage it. I promise you, life will look and feel a lot better if you are sleeping well.

On the subject of taking advice, here’s another top tip from me: don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for help. As we get older, we are likely to need more of the doctor’s time – and having spent many years contributing to society we deserve it! There are many things a doctor can do to make our lives healthier and more comfortable. The doctor also has the power to save our lives by diagnosing serious illnesses before they become difficult or impossible to treat. I know from bitter experience, among my family and friends, that any delay in telling a doctor about symptoms we are experiencing can be fatal.

I try to combine a healthy body with a healthy mind, as these things have a huge effect on each other. Keeping mentally active is important, whether that’s through hobbies or tasks. Taking on some kind of voluntary work or project is one way of retaining the sense of purpose that some of us tend to lose when we retire. Remember, however, that you have the right to take things easy now, so avoid anything that causes you stress. If you do still worry about life, try yoga or some other relaxation therapy.

Above all, don’t be lonely. Spend time with family and friends, and look for fun and laughter. If you don’t have friends around you, make a big effort to join groups or activities that will increase your contact with people.