25 ways to live longer
Life expectancy is rising steadily every year, with women living up to 79.9, on average, and men 75. Set your expectations higher with our guide to holding back the year.
A good laugh is like a mini-workout - 100 to 200 laughs are equivalent to ten minutes of jogging or rowing, says US cardiologist, Dr William Fry. Research also shows that it lowers levels of stress hormones, and heightens the activity of the body's natural defensive killer cells and antibodies.
Move to France
A report by the World Health Organisation found that the French outlive the British. They come third in the world rankings, compared to the UK at 14th. And better diet appears to be the deciding factor. French people tend to eat more fresh food, shop every day at local markets and rely less on convenience food than we do.
Go to bed later
Sleeping more than eight hours a night may reduce your life expectancy. A study in the Archives of General Psychiatry, US, found that people who get only six to seven hours sleep a night live longer. People who sleep eight hours or more, or less than four hours, a night were shown to have a significantly higher death rate.
Make your marriage work
Being happily married for a long time leads to greater life expectancy for men and women. However, divorcing then remarrying actually increases the risk of dying prematurely, says a study in Health Psychology Journal.
Walk, run, jump
Fit women have a 40 per cent less chance of developing coronary heart disease than those who don't exercise regularly, says Dr Ken Cooper of the Cooper Institute of Aerobic Research, US. He also found that people in the lower 20 per cent of fitness were three times more likely to die prematurely than the fittest group.
Couples with a healthy sex life can look up to seven years younger than those who don't, according to a study by Dr David Weeks at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. This is because sex reduces stress, leads to greater contentment and better sleep.
Live in the country
People living in rural areas have a higher life expectancy than those living in cities. Women living in west Somerset, for instance, live an average of 84 years, while those in Manchester live only 76, according to the Office for National Statistics. And a study from the Tokyo Medical and Dental School found that pensioners in cities who live near green open spaces tend to live much longer than those stuck in the concrete jungle.
Watch your weight
Overeating is one of the main causes of ageing and increases the risk of heart disease and cancers of the colon, womb, gall bladder, ovaries and breast. The British Heart Foundation says, coronary heart disease causes 270,000 heart attacks each year, and of these 28,000 are attributable to obesity.
Have lots of children
A study in Psychology of Ageing found that the more children women have, the greater their life expectancy. This could be because of the increased contact with and support from their children and grandchildren, as they get older.
Learn to play piano
Brain cells work together, so learning new skills improves your brain function generally. 'Whatever your age, ongoing mental stimulation will keep your brain building new spines on the dendrites of your brain cells,' says Dr Thomas Crook, author of The Memory Cure, (Thorsons, £9.99)
Look on the bright side
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in the US found that optimistic people live about 12 years longer than pessimistic ones. Pessimists are more prone to viral illnesses, such as colds and flu. They are also less likely to carry out the essential self-examinations that detect breast or skin cancer, while positive thinkers are more likely to take health advice, say the researchers.
Never smoke again
The earlier you give up the better. Because the damage caused by smoking is cumulative, the longer a person smokes the greater the risk of developing a smoking-related disease, such as lung cancer, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Some 120,000 deaths a year are attributable to smoking, says anti-smoking lobby group, Ash.
Get on with your mother
A study by the Harvard Medical School found that 91 per cent of people who weren't close to their mothers developed a serious disease - high blood pressure, alcoholism and heart disease - by midlife. Only 45 per cent of participants who said they had close relationships with their mothers developed these serious illnesses.
Keep taking exams
The more qualifications you have, the higher your life expectancy, according to research at the University of Arkansas. The less well-educated are more likely to smoke, which increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, and they are more likely to work in jobs with a high risk of injury, say the researchers.
Examine your breasts
Get to know how your breasts normally feel and look, and report any changes, such as a lump, dimpling, unusual pain or discharge to your GP. The best time to do it is a week after your period. Remember that over nine out of ten lumps are benign, and many breast cancers are curable if they're caught early enough.
Have regular smears
You'll usually be called once every three or five years for a smear test, but if you've moved house you may slip through the net, so make sure your GP has your latest address. Cervical screening probably prevents 2,500 deaths a year in the UK, says The Institute of Public Health.
Research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who eat a moderate amount of chocolate live longer than those who eat sweets three or more times a week, and those who never touch sweets. Chocolate contains chemicals called phenols, which are thought to protect against heart disease and cancer.
Going to church increases life expectancy, according to a study in the International Journal for Psychiatry and Medicine. It's particularly good at helping people's stress and emotional problems, and seems to protect against diseases such as heart, respiratory or digestive problems.
Join a bridge club
As you get older, playing games or going shopping could be just as good for your health as physical exercise, according to a Harvard University study. The key to good health, conclude the researchers, is doing what you enjoy and feeling good about yourself.
Cancer-proof your diet
About 40 per cent of cancers are diet related, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day to reduce your risk of cancer of the lung, digestive tract, bowel, bladder and breast.
Enjoy a cuppa
Green and ordinary black tea pack the same amount of antioxidants and have equal benefits. Harvard researchers found that drinking one cup of black tea a day cuts heart disease risk dramatically. And scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre found that drinking tea boosts the survival rate, following a heart attack, by 28 per cent.
Don't take work home
This can be a sign that you feel unable to cope, which can raise stress. According to research from Johns Hopkins University, in the US, stressed people are 20 times more likely to develop heart disease. Prolonged tension also depletes the immune system and robs the body of its antioxidant store, thought to help prevent premature ageing.
Learn to relax
Try a relaxation technique such as yoga or meditation, both of which are proven to help alleviate stress. Relaxation reduces blood pressure and helps reduce stress-related conditions such as depression.
Check your bowels
If you experience any dramatic change in bowel habits - such as an unexplained increase in constipation, or increased looseness or passing blood - you should see a doctor immediately. At worst it could be bowel cancer, which is often discovered too late, after it's already spread.
Get a pet
Families who own a dog or cat are less stressed and visit their doctors less often than those who don't, say scientists from Cambridge University. Pets make you feel optimistic and relaxed, which lowers your blood pressure. Dogs give best results, but even a goldfish in a bowl works.