The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has millions of members 50 years and older. And I don’t think there’s a government program AARP doesn’t like. But it does offer some valuable, science-based recommendations to it members. For example, a recent AARP report shared 50 common sense, “anti-aging” approaches to improve your longevity. I found it particularly insightful.
It’s no surprise that getting more vitamin D landed way up at the top of the AARP list. As much as 80 percent of the U.S. population is vitamin D deficient or insufficient. And research links inadequate levels of vitamin D to most chronic, debilitating — even deadly — conditions, such as osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancers (just to name a few). Getting some healthy sun exposure outdoors can help boost your vitamin D levels, but most older people should consider supplementation. (Your doctor can measure your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test.)
Cutting back on pain pills came in on AARP’s list as the No. 2 way to increase your longevity. Of course, we now have an ironic situation when it comes to prescription and illegal opiate painkillers. Politicians across the country are finally raising the alarm about opiate abuse, a leading cause of the unprecedented increase in death rates in middle-aged, middle-class, white Americans. Unfortunately, these same politicians seem to favor legalizing marijuana, which law enforcement insists is a gateway drug that leads to more serious drugs, like opiate pain killers.
And remember, OTC painkillers aren’t completely benign either. In fact, according to a recent study published in BMJ, men and women who took NSAIDs (such as naproxen and ibuprofen) had a 20 to 50 percent increase in heart attack and stroke risk compared to those who didn’t use the painkillers. Even after just one week.
Getting enough sleep comes in at No. 3 on the AARP list. Again, another great suggestion. In fact, according to a recent review of 15 studies published in the European Heart Journal, getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night can double your risk of heart attack and stroke. (Side note: why didn’t the American Heart Journal pick up this review?) In another, 25-year study, sleep-deprived people were 12 percent more likely to die. I often write about sleep hygiene in my Daily Dispatch and Insiders’ Cures newsletter. For more tips about improving sleep, visit my website at www.drmicozzi.com.
Coming in at No. 4 on the AARP list was their recommendation to have regular sex. (So — apparently — you have to go to bed earlier, but don’t have to go to sleep right away, to live longer.) A 25-year-long Duke University study found that having regular sex was a “significant predictor of longevity” in men. Probably, in part, because it’s the single best thing men can do to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
No. 5 on the AARP list is to get married and stay married. The prestigious, long-term Framingham Heart Study found a 46 percent lower risk of death in married men compared to never-married men.
Why I leave fruits and vegetables on the counter at room temperature
Eating more fruit — the riper the better — came in at No. 6 on their list. As I often remind my readers, there’s no such thing as eating too much fruit. Natural fructose found in fruit doesn’t have the metabolic hazards of table sugar. Plus, a century’s worth of studies consistently links both fruits and vegetables with significantly reduced risks of chronic disease.
Let your fruits and vegetables ripen at room temperature (not in the refrigerator). This placement allows the produce to develop higher levels of disease-fighting nutrients and other constituents. Plus, keeping produce out where you can see it reminds you to eat it!
AARP also recommends drinking more coffee to increase your longevity. As I often report, coffee reduces cancer, dementia, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Overall, coffee’s health benefits are so strong, researchers have begun to study its different effects on different organs in the body, as I’ll explain on Friday.
Plus, a 2015 study led by my colleague Dr. Walter Willet found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had a 15 percent lower risk of dying. Remember, one cup of coffee is 8 ounces. So — when you order a “grande,” you get 16 ounces or two cups. (Though I prefer to make my coffee at home and save the time, money and aggravation.)
Of course, never add sugar to your coffee. Maybe just a bit a cream. In fact, avoiding sugar came in at No. 7 on the AARP list. I would put it at the top of my list! But AARP also considers the recommendations of the American Heart Association, which fall woefully short of the real science.
Spices like hot chili peppers make a prominent appearance on the AARP list. I often report on the health and longevity benefits of spices. So try to add more of them to your cooking.
The AARP list also recognized the importance of drinking whole milk, as opposed to low-fat or skim milk. According to a recent study, those who consume more dairy fat had a 50 percent lower risk of developing Type II diabetes, which can reduce your longevity by eight to 10 years on average.
Staying adequately hydrated also made the top-20 of AARP’s list. Again, I would put it higher, as there’s nothing more fundamental. Of course, hydration “experts” don’t have the whole story (is their glass half full or half empty?) on how to stay hydrated, as I have been reporting for five years now.
Remember, genetics account for just about 25 percent of a person’s longevity. So — there is a lot you can do to improve it. Keep reading my Daily Dispatch and Insiders’ Cures for all the latest research on health and longevity from the front lines of science.
In fact, I will give you the full details on all 50 of the AARP recommendations and exactly what you can do about them in next month’s September 2017 Insiders’ Cures newsletter. If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one.
“50 Ways to Live a Longer, Healthier Life,” AARP (www.aarp.org) March 2017
“Risk of acute myocardial infarction with NSAIDs in real world use: bayesian meta-analysis of individual patient data,” BMJ 2017;357:j1909