The fountain of youth has yet to be discovered, but a longer life is within your grasp. Following a healthy lifestyle can add years to your life. Getting plenty of physical activity and making good food choices, including fatty fish and plenty of vegetables, is just what the doctor ordered to live a long, healthy life.
A large Swedish study, recently published in the journal Circulation, looked at more than four thousand men and women aged 60 and older. Those with high levels of polyunsaturated fats in their blood – from eating fish and vegetables – were significantly less likely to die from heart disease than those with the low levels. Heart disease is a particular concern for people who have diabetes, as they are more than twice as likely to have heart disease as those without diabetes.
Types of Fat
There are two main types of fat found in food: good, or healthy, fat, and bad, or unhealthy fat. Unhealthy fats include saturated fats, found in butter, shortening, lard and red meat, and trans fats, found in some processed foods, fast foods and certain brands of stick margarine. These fats are called “unhealthy” because they can raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is thought to increase the risk of heart disease.
Good, or healthy fats, are either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated, both of which are liquid at room temperature. These good fats can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL, or good cholesterol, possibly protecting against heart disease.
Food Sources of Healthy Fats
We now know that simply eating a low fat diet isn’t the key to health we once thought; what’s most important is the type of fat that we eat. The Swedish study tells us that eating the right fats may actually help to promote a longer life. These healthy fats are found in:
- Vegetables oils: corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, canola, olive
More Foods to Eat
So eating healthy fats might help older adults live longer. Other foods that can increase your lifespan include:
- Fruits and vegetables: Full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and low in calories, fruits and vegetables can help fight weight gain and heart disease.
- Whole grains: Brown rice, barley, quinoa and other whole grains contain nutrients that can fight heart disease and keep your mind sharp.
- Dark chocolate: Polyphenols in dark chocolate help lower blood pressure and keep blood vessels flexible.
- Yogurt: Yogurt is full of friendly bacteria that support a healthy immune system, help boost good health and possibly protect against some types of cancer and other conditions, such as urinary tract infections and irritable bowel syndrome.
While other factors are important for a healthy lifestyle, such as physical activity, weight control and not smoking, making the right food choices as you get older may increase your chances of enjoying a healthy life well into your golden years.