The Path to Vibrant Health and Longevity

By Janet Stone

The Path to Vibrant Health and Longevity
From drinking coffee to practising persistence, researchers unlock other golden keys to longevity.

The Longevity Project

In a 20-year study of personality as a predictor of longevity – known as The Longevity Project – University of California Riverside researchers found that prudence and persistence is key.

Led by Professor Howard S. Friedman, the study followed 1,500 people through their lives. “One of the findings that really astounds people, including us, is that the Longevity Project participants who were the most cheerful and had the best sense of humour as kids lived shorter lives, on average, than those who were less cheerful and joking. It was the most prudent and persistent individuals who stayed healthiest and lived the longest,” said fellow researcher Leslie R. Martin.

Part of the explanation lies in health behaviours – the happy-go-lucky people tended to take more risks with their health across the years, Friedman noted. While an optimistic approach can be helpful in a crisis, “we found that as a general life-orientation, too much of a sense that ‘everything will be just fine’ can be dangerous because it can lead one to be careless about things that are important to health and long life. Prudence and persistence, however, led to a lot of important benefits for many years. It turns out that happiness is not a root cause of good health. Instead, happiness and health go together because they have common roots.”

Life is too short without coffee

Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day is linked with a longer lifespan and lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with avoiding coffee, according to research by the European Society of Cardiology. The findings applied to ground, instant and decaffeinated varieties.

Keep it balanced

Women who maintain their body weight after age 60 are more likely to reach exceptional longevity according to research by scientists at the University of California San Diego. The researchers investigated the associations of weight changes later in life with exceptional longevity among 54,437 women who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative. Throughout the follow-up period, 56 per cent of the participants survived to the age of 90 or beyond. Women who lost or gained more than 5% of their weight were less likely to achieve longevity compared to those who achieved stable weight.

Go hard and fast

‘Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity’, or VILPA for short, was coined by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre to describe the very short bursts of incidental activity we do with gusto each day. This includes activities like vigorous housework, carrying heavy shopping around the grocery store, running for the bus or playing high-energy games with the kids. The researchers have found that these short burst of vigorous activity – of just 1-2 minutes, done 4 to 5 times a day– can reduce the risk of some cancers by up to 32 per cent.


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