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LIVE LONG AND PROSPER

I’m a doctor and you CAN feel young well into your 90s – with simple lifestyle tweaks

PEOPLE are hitting their nineties in much better shape than previously.

So much so in fact, Dr Norman Swan, author of new book So You Think You Know What’s Good For You? (£14.99, Aster), is convinced that, biologically speaking, “90 is the new 70”.

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90 is the new 70 according to Dr Norman Swan - and that sounds good to usCredit: Getty

And ageing beyond 90, into your hundreds even, and without your body totally falling apart on you, isn’t the remote possibility it once was.

“It used to be a nice genetic abnormality to reach 100. It was all about your genes,” says Dr Norman.

“Now, it's not about your genes. It's how you've lived your life. 

“People with really good ageing genes are now living to 105 or 110 - extreme old age. And a lot of people are reaching 100 in not bad shape. 

“Nobody knows what the limit is. People say, ‘Well, maybe it's 120’. But we actually don't know.”

Obviously, we aren’t all going to start living forever - we’re not vampires.

And for those that do stride into their nineties in style, they’ll still likely “need some maintenance along the way”, says Dr Norman. “Your hips wear out and you need hip replacements.”

However, he's adamant that it’s never too late to tweak your lifestyle to live better for longer.

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“You can change your lifestyle quite late in life and it makes a difference,” says Dr Norman. 

“There's research which shows that if you reduce your blood pressure or reduce your cholesterol, you actually get an immediate effect. 

“And the effect is there, even if you're older.”

So what are you waiting for? 

Here are Dr Norman’s top rules to follow for a better, longer life - whatever your age…

7-MINUTE WORKOUTS

Dr Norman’s number one thing to prioritise is exercise. 

“You're supposed to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week,” he explains, however, he’s got a nifty trick for getting round that if you’re short on time.

“If you haven't got time to do that, and this is what I do - I don’t go to the gym, I do seven minute workouts.”

He says you can find lots of apps that offer seven minute workouts, like the 7 Minute Workout: Fitness App.

“Do a seven minute hard workout - all it's got to be is hard for you,” he explains. 

“If you've never done it before, just getting through the seven minutes will feel hard, you might not get through all the reps. 

“But after three weeks goes by, you'll find you’re actually able to get through more reps, and what's harder is, you're doing more. 

“And those seven minute high intensity sessions, if you do them every day, are probably just as good for you - as long as they're high intensity - as doing your 40 minutes a day of moderate exercise. 

“Every day, get into a routine. When I get up, I do the exercise.”

And what’s good for your body is good for your mind. 

A new study by researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine recently found that on the days the physical activity of their 50- to 74-year-old study participants increased, they performed more effectively on an executive function task.

On the days when their physical activity decreased, so did their cognitive performance.

BUILD MUSCLE

You don’t have to get bodybuilder ripped, but strong muscles are vital for longevity says Dr Norman.

“It’s really important to build your muscles early in life, but also late in life as well, because one of the things that actually speeds up our process of ageing, and makes us frail, is that we've not looked after our muscles,” he explains.

The key to strong muscles he says is exercise, but also diet. 

“As we get older, it's important to have a diverse diet. It's important to eat lots of different, interesting things. 

“But as people get older, they can't be bothered.

"They just eat bread and butter or cereal in the evening and then your microbiome - the bugs in your bowel - become less diverse. 

“They take on an ageing profile. So they actually speed up ageing when you're eating less diverse foods. 

“Eat an interesting diet each day, even if you're living alone, make it interesting; try and cook at least one meal a day.”

KEEP WORKING

We might all dream of the day we’ll finally get to retire and have a rest, but Dr Norman says pottering around might not be all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to living and feeling younger for longer.

“Work for as long as you can,” he says. “First of all, when you're young, get as much education as you can, because the more education you've got, the later you get heart disease and the later you get dementia - if indeed you get dementia at all; education is really important. 

“And when you're older, keep working. Keep doing complicated stuff.

"It's not enough to do a sudoku puzzle. Sudoku puzzles just make you good at Sudoku - it doesn't actually keep your brain young.

"That's not a difficult combination of things.” 

You’ve got to keep testing, pushing and expanding your brain power.

HOLD ON TO YOUR FRIENDS

Loneliness kills.

It’s associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure and its impact on mortality is on a par with obesity and smoking.

Having your mates and loved ones around you can genuinely help you live longer - but Dr Noman says finding time for friendships can be trickier than fitting in exercise or eating better, especially if you’re busy with work and kids.

“Maintain your friendships, because social support, having people around you, actually makes a difference to your brain and mind,” says Dr Norman. 

It’s vital to make the time. 

DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

Feeling stressed can seem like a normal part of everyday life, but Dr Norman says we need to reframe this. 

“Don't sweat the small stuff, don't get anxious about things you don't need to be anxious about - sweat the big stuff,” he says.

“And the big stuff is not as hard as you think.”

“It starts with the mind, your brain and being interested in the world, and doing old fashioned stuff, like cooking food, and eating it with friends,” he says. 

“Those are the things that you should do, and not get so worried about your sleep [and] how much water you're drinking.”

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You don’t have to throw yourself into an extreme diet or start running ultramarathons.

Any small changes that get you towards these key rules “will get you further down the track than not” says Dr Norman.

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Dr Norman Swan says holding on to your friendships as you age is vital - but often more difficult than eating healthilyCredit: Aster
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So You Think You Know What's Good For You? by Dr Norman Swan is out nowCredit: Aster
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