Body & Fitness

Health updates

Sara Bunny looks at ways to help us stay healthy now and into our advanced years.

The key to longevity

If you want to live to a ripe old age, scientists at Sweden’s Linköping University have this advice: maintain the weight you were at 20 throughout your life. Having a waist measurement of less than 80cm for women and 94cm for men can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and ward off metabolic illnesses such as diabetes. If, like most of us, your days as a slip of a 20-year-old are a distant memory, don’t despair – experts say even small changes to diet and exercise can enhance overall wellbeing.

Friends for life

For a significant health boost, keep your friends close. A study in the American Journal of Health Behavior says socialising with friends can have an impact that is just as positive on health as quitting smoking, working out or eating more veges. And in a 10-year Australian study, researchers found those who have a tight-knit, reliable group of friends are 22 per cent less likely to die earlier than those with few pals to depend on.

Love avocado

Forget botox, avocados are an all-natural skin-saver. High in vitamins A, B, D and E, they are also richer in potassium than a banana and packed with healthy fats. If you can bear to go without your avo on toast, slather it on your skin instead for a moisture that can help minimise fine lines.

Wayward weekends

If you tend to swap healthy food for treats at the weekend, you’re not alone. However, pigging out two days a week can be the reason many struggle to lose weight, despite eating healthily from Monday to Friday. In a recent study in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists examined the effects of saturated fat on leptin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. They found that within three days, high amounts of saturated fat can blunt the ability of leptin to control food intake, meaning those pizzas, burgers and fries you ate from Friday to Sunday could prime the brain to overeat on Monday.

Not to be sneezed at

Probiotics may help relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies, according to a new study published in International Forum For Allergy and Rhinology. Researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville reviewed and analysed results from 23 trial studies testing the effectiveness of probiotics – either from a supplement or probiotic-rich foods – in allergy treatment. Of the 23 studies analysed, 17 documented improvement in the allergy symptoms experienced by patients.

More sleep please

Getting seven to nine hours of quality shut-eye is vital for our health and happiness, regardless of age. Aside from the tell-tale heavy eyelids and yawning at work, here are some of the more subtle ways your body may be asking for more sleep:

FEELING PECKISH: Lack of sleep has been linked to an increase in ghrelin, the hormone that triggers hunger, especially cravings for high-carb, high-fat foods.

OVERREACTING: If you’re tearing up over the plot of your favourite TV soap, tiredness may be sending your emotions into overdrive. A recent study by the University of California, Berkeley found sleep-deprived brains are 60 per cent more reactive to negative images.

CLUMSINESS: If you are more accident-prone than usual, sleepless nights could be the culprit. Experts at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences say tired people have slower and less precise motor skills, dulled reflexes and less accurate depth perception.

Photographs by Getty Images.

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